October 2, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef
Joel Salatin, owner/founder of Polyface Farm, marked a special anniversary lately. Read below to understand how special this anniversary is to him, and to the scores of people who keep Polyface Farm going year after year. An amazing milestone-for Joel, for Polyface & for sustainable farming!
A note from Joel…
Sept. 24, 1982 marked my first day of full time farming. It was a Monday, just like today, and the Friday previous I had cleaned out my desk in the Staunton News Leader newsroom and waved goodbye to my fellow journalists. Everyone thought I was making a huge mistake. Farming? Anything but that.
Even farmers thought I was making a huge mistake. And then to know that I was not going to use chemicals. That I was going to pasture chickens and pigs. That I wasn’t going to build silos and plow the soil. How could anything be as ridiculous?
This morning I awakened to a farm festooned with balloons. I had mentioned the day and its 30-year importance in passing a couple of times during the summer, but frankly have been too covered up with responsibilities to plan any big celebration for myself. No worries. I’m surrounded by the most loyal, grateful, creative, dependable, conscientious team of young people you can imagine.
I’ve been crying all morning.
I think Eric and Brie led the plans. Overnight, they and accomplices decorated the farm with balloons, strategically placed to intercept my morning routine at every step. From the clothesline beside the backdoor to the equipment shed, balloons lined the path. The Massey Ferguson tractor they knew I would use to move the Eggmobile had balloons anchored to the wheels. As I approached the Eggmobile to hook it up, balloons cascaded off the front.
As is my routine, I went out to get the morning newspaper–once a news junkie, always a news junkie–and the farm entrance literally floated with balloons and our entrance sign had an explanatory addition in huge letters: Happy Anniversary Joel Full-time Farming 30 Years.
Tears welled up uncontrollably as the reality of the love and support of these young people overwhelmed me. To be this age, farming, surrounded by this kind of enthusiasm and honor–could it get any better than this? And then I had to chuckle: take that, friends, farmers, experts. All you folks that said I was throwing my life away, being foolish. Can you see me now? Ha!
I always check the cows in the morning. Yes, balloons on the 4-wheeler (my personal Japanese cow-pony). Streaming behind me, the balloons followed me up the three-quarter mile farm lane to the farm pasture. And as if that weren’t enough, all along that route, from the trees and bushes, balloons heralded the celebratory day. We’re here! We’ve made it this far! Touchdown! Hallelujah! Say it however you want to; scream it from the rooftops. We’re still here. And not only have a survived, we’ve thrived.
Tears streaming down my face, I topped the little knoll before coming to the cows and there, adorning every electric fence stake in the cross fence, were more balloons. The cows, mostly lying down on this 38 degree morning (we actually had the first patchy frost of the season), simply burped up another wad of grass cud to chew on. They looked at me completely ordinarily. Nothing much upsets their routine. Nothing is as placid as a placid cow.
With gratitude and a deep sense of blessing welling in my heart, tears streaming down my cold cheeks, I headed back to the house for breakfast, the newspaper, morning emails, and desk work. My spirit is overflowing today.
Teresa and I had a dream. We worked at it. We prayed over it. We babysat it. We lived and loved it. Today it shines like a burning bush, attracting people from all over the world to come and see. Thank you, Lord, for 30 wonderful years.
And lest you’re wondering, we don’t think we’ve hardly started yet. Now we’re not just a couple of people standing on the shoulders of our parents, but we’re a tribe, with the next generation and the next and a whole team of players plugging the gaps where we’re weak and leveraging our expertise where we’re strong. Look out, world. Here we come.
Thank you, family. Thank you, Polyface team, staff, interns. Thank you, patrons who have stood by us monetarily, supporting us with your smiles, your eating, and yes, your dollars. Polyface Farm is charitable, but not a charity. It is a business, but not only a business. So raise your glasses, folks. Here’s to another 30 years. Thank you.