Monday, November 24, 2008

Faith of our Farmers

November 11, 2008 - Brandon Fox with Style Weekly in Richmond published this article. (Click on the picture to see the article)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Zynodoah's Restaurant

Zynodoah's Restaurant started serving Polyface chicken and chicken livers this summer. They are a fairly new restaurant located right here in Staunton. If you are ever in the area, we would encourage you to try them out. They are the only restaurant in the Staunton area that serves Polyface meats for dinner. (Cranberries serves breakfast and lunch).

Check out this article that was featured today in The Hook - FOOD- THE EATER- Valley victory: for Polyface and for new Zynodoa. by Kate Malley.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cooking for the holidays...

Thanksgiving is coming up and I'm starting to think about all the yummy foods around the holidays. Many folks have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans etc. We do the same here. Although last year, we didn't have any turkey so we made a ham and had a Thanksgiving brunch instead. It was very enjoyable and much easier on us womenfolk. :o)
However, in honor of tradition, I thought that I would share my mashed potato recipe with you. I know that mashed potatoes really don't need a recipe, but these are not your everyday taters! They are just a little something special. (and easy too, if you find yourself cooking for a big group)
Extra Good Mashed Potatoes
taken from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook
You will need:
  • 5 lbs potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tsp onion or garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted

Combine all ingredients. Pour into your slow cooker. Cover. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Hint: These potatoes can be prepared 3-4 days in advance of serving and kept in the refrigerator until ready to warm! (Isn't that awesome?!) :o)

Sheri's tip: I like to peel and slice about 6 cloves of garlic and put them in the water with the potatoes while they are cooking, then I ommit the garlic/onion salt and just add a little more regular salt. I love my potatoes with lots of garlic!

Do you have any family traditions or recipes to share? Please do! I would love some new ideas!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 10


Finally, as we grow, we must never compromise quality. Plenty of great small business grow up to be ho-hum big businesses. Whatever growth occurs, it can never happen at the expense of quality. With clear conscience, I can honestly say that at 20,000 broilers they are better quality than when we did only 300. For sure, our beef at 500 head is better than it was at 20. That’s because our goals are not about sales; they are about quality.

One of our primary goals is that every year, we must have more happily copulating earthworms. Kind of the ultimate agronomic shindig. If the earthworms are happy, everything else falls into place. That goal drives how we handle manure, where we put animals, how we handle the landscape. It drives everything.

Is your business encouraging earthworms? Or a worthwhile counterpart? Change is inevitable. But change can be detrimental or positive, depending on what direction it heads. Too many great little businesses grow up to be bad big businesses. I desperately don’t want to be one of those.

As we grow, our suppliers should be happier. Our team members should be happier, more enthusiastic. Our customers should be more loyal. Our water should be purer. Our service should be better in every way. And our products should last longer, cause less pollution, stay out of landfills easier. At the end of the day, does any facet of our business require us to do some fancy talking? Maybe pull up a partition to hide something. Maybe keep us from full disclosure. Embarrassed? Require cleverspeak?

I’m reminded of Tyson claiming “Raised without antibiotics” on chickens when they figured out how to inject antibiotics in the chick before it hatched. Talk about cleverspeak. Same as those bucolic pastoral scenes on industrial organic eggs when the chickens are actually confined in a 10,000 bird house. Better is not cheaper. Better is not shortcuts. Better is not doctored reports. Better is just better.

As I close, let me confess that much of this wouldn’t fly very far on Wall Street. But if you look at it closely, none of this is anti-business. It just puts ethical and moral boundaries around human cleverness, or human capital. And ultimately, that has to be good for business.

As we consider what this level of philosophical innovation means, let’s be big enough to appreciate that western business thinking has not always been moral or ethical. A little easternism would do us all some good, realizing that the sum is bigger than the parts, it’s about holism, and everything is related. True innovative synergism occurs when we strike a balance between the parts-oriented western discovery and eastern moral, ethical thought. When we find the sweet spot, we’ll be able to SCALE UP WITHOUT SELLING OUR SOUL.

By Joel Salatin

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 9


At Polyface, we only raise meat chickens in the summer because that’s when they can be out on pasture. We work in the woods in the winter because that’s when the wood is better, since the sap is down. And the rattlesnakes aren’t around, either. This ebb and flow in the work cycle feeds our emotions with down times and sprint times. Enjoy this flow.

Industrial animal operations, in contrast, run full bore all the time. No breaks. Consequently workers get burned out, owners get burned out, and the children don’t want any part of it. In fact, most farm parents don’t want their kids to farm. That’s why the average American farmer is now almost 60 years old. The business axiom that puts age 35 as the median for any thriving economic sector is real.

In the winter we spend days just lounging around the fire reading books and playing board games. Yes, we sprint in the spring, summer, and fall, but we always have that light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. We’re excited to see the last broiler go into the freezer in the fall because we’re rich and tired. We’re just as excited to see the new chicks arrive in the spring because we’re rested and poor.

We have many customers who push us to defy the seasons, build a confinement poultry house, and go into year-round production. But that would not only compromise our pastured product integrity, it would put us on a treadmill. Are you on a treadmill?

I recently visited a large e-corporation and all the employees I talked with were frustrated that they could never get breathing room. The pace became faster each month; expectations higher. Schedule some downtime. Some R&R. And let the business enjoy cyclical movement. It will energize everyone’s batteries. The assumption that scaling up the corporate ladder requires us to sacrifice our families and marriages is an unrighteous, evil axiom in America. Our frenetic, work-aholic lifestyles, contrary to popular opinion, are highly abnormal in the continuum of human history. The times of our lives will always trump the paychecks of our lives.

To be Continued...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 8


This may seem nitpicky, but how many of you love talking to a robot? After being on the phone with a robot and starting over the fifth time, I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be more efficient to just hire an incentivized neighbor to answer the phone and deal efficiently with the transaction. I’m convinced that if businesses put their money in people instead of the latest techno-gadget, maybe they wouldn’t have to advertise. To be clear, I’m not talking about voice mail; I’m talking about robots.

I answered the phone the other day and a lady on the other end stuttered: “Oh, is this a real person? I didn’t expect to talk to a real person.” If I were king for a day, I would outlaw all robot phone machines. Be honest. Does anyone here enjoy hearing: “Press 1, press, 2, press 3?” We all hate it, and yet we succumb to some sales pitch and the seeming efficiency and buy into anti-human treatment. And most of us are in business to deal with humans.

If westerners are starved for appreciation, they are also starved for human contact. While I may be a farmer and technically in the food business, really I’m in the relationship business—and so is everyone in this room. Shame on me if I shortcut this human touch and force my patrons to talk to a robot.

A well trained, pleasant-voiced, empowered person can handle my frequent flyer miles redemption ten times faster than the robot. If the airlines would offer a human transaction instead of a robot, I’d gladly give an extra 5,000 miles a transaction for the efficiency and warm fuzzy. At Polyface, we’re committed to never having a robot answer the phone.
To be continued...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 7


Numerous people have encouraged Polyface to become the Tyson of pastured poultry. But one of the distinguishing characteristics of an environmentally friendly farm compared to one that doesn’t care about the environment is how it handles the waste stream. In Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), including large processing plants, the waste stream overpowers the surrounding ecology, the landscape. That’s why they stink to high heavens.

But beyond that, waste must be carted all over the countryside to get it spread out because the nearby land simply cannot metabolize all that waste. In many places, feedlots, hog factories, and chicken houses generate 10 times the waste that can be ecologically metabolized on the land where the CAFO is located. Manure, guts, blood, feathers and whatever enter the global trafficking channels rather than staying where they were generated. Imagine if every time you swept your house and emptied your trash, you had so much that it spilled out of your yard and cascaded into your neighbor’s yard? Now you see why the industrial-sized butcher, baker, and candlestick maker have been kicked out of the village and banished to highly rural, out-of-sight areas.

As we’ve expanded at Polyface, we’ve carefully defined the ecological carrying capacity and refuse to haul manure or waste anywhere. This forces us to decentralize, stay divested across the landscape, and remain aesthetically and aromatically attractive.

We provide a habitat that allows each plant and animals to fully express its physiological distinctiveness—i.e. the pigness of the pig. In our Graeco-Roman western linear reductionist compartmentalized fragmented individualistic systematized disconnected paradigm, plants and animals are just inanimate piles of protoplasmic structure to be manipulated however cleverly the human mind can conceive to manipulate them. I suggest that a society which disrespects and dishonors the pigness of the pig to that extent will also view its citizens with an equivalent egocentric manipulative mindset—and other cultures. It’s how we respect and honor the least of these that creates an ethical, moral foundation upon which we honor and respect the greatest of these.

The beginning of civilization is civil, or civility. The hog industry right now is using our tax dollars to figure out how to pull the stress gene out of pigs so that we can abuse them more aggressively but they won’t mind. Talk about being uncivilized.The local ecology includes the workforce. When industrial processing plants overpower a community with low paid foreign workers, it destroys the community ecology. A business that can’t or won’t hire its neighbors due to poor working conditions, low pay, repetitive motion sickness, or anything else, is not neighbor friendly. Redesigning the business to fit, to nest into the local ecology takes innovation, but anything less will create social, environmental, and pathogenic upheavals.

This principle is one of the reasons why those of us in the healing food movement say our food is the cheapest on the planet: because we don’t externalize costs to society. Ours may carry a higher sticker price, but all the costs are figured in. We’re not destroying groundwater, giving someone food borne illness, or stinking up the neighborhood. Appreciating our landscape and people resource ecology and staying within those parameters is simply foundational to being a good citizen.
To be continued...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 6


Amazingly, even the largest companies in the world still receive more than 50 percent of their business by word-of-mouth recommendation. That’s quite astounding when you think about $1 million 30-second Super Bowl ads.

At Polyface, we’ve built our customer base on rewarded customers. Whenever we get a new customer, our first question is not: “What would you like to buy?”, but rather: “Where did you hear about us?” We reward our evangelists with free product. Our culture is starved for appreciation. If we would shower our good customers with gratitude, they will hand pick our next patron base, prescreened and motivated.

Word of mouth may not be flash-in-the-pan patron building, but it always gets the best quality customer. Only good customers are good for business; bad customers are a drain. If new customers aren’t coming, I don’t assume advertising is the answer. I assume my product or service aren’t where they ought to be; they aren’t compelling another wave to join us. I assume if we’re in a slump, our marketing offense is probably poor quality and service, not an anemic advertising budget.

By now, some of you may be either livid with these ideas or taking on air in disbelief that somebody this radical would dare address you—especially if you run an ad agency. Not to worry. Only 1-3 percent of businesses are on the lunatic fringe—that’s me. And only 10 percent innovate, so your future is assured serving the 90 percent of businesses who will dismiss me as a lunatic. To those 90 percent, I simply say: thanks for giving me niche and value security.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 5


While this may sound like sacrilege and we all know how growing businesses are starved for cash, consider how many have lost the edge of their good qualities after suddenly becoming flush with cash. I’ll be honest that I haven’t figured out how all this looks yet in a capitalistic society, but I know the danger of huge cash infusions.

At Polyface, we’ve been starved for cash more years than not. And yet that is exactly what makes us innovative—we’re hungry. And when we’re hungry, we’re much more creative. When we need some capital, we appeal to our patrons to give us short-term no interest loans and they love to invest in something noble. It’s more satisfying than just writing a check to Nature Conservancy. We helped our little Amish feed mill get up and going with a two-year no-interest loan several years ago. Best investment we ever made. You can’t ask someone else to do something you’re not willing to do yourself, so this established a precedent of caring investment rather than just interest-return investment.

If your product or service is good enough and your mission noble enough and your cause life-changing enough, you can find other ways to raise capital besides an IPO. This slower, more relationally oriented, pay-as-you-go growth is inherently more organic. Growing from the inside out rather than the outside in follows the natural pattern. Plants and animals can’t grow beyond their ecological resource base. When we violate that principle in nature, we get lots of growth and no quality. Chemical-fertilized hybrid corn contains way less protein and 7 fewer enzymes than open pollinated, compost-fertilized varieties. You just get more bushels of junk.

Being satisfied with organic growth keeps us real. If this one principle were used across America’s business landscape, we would probably have fewer corporate scandals. Meteoric rises usually result in meteoric falls, so beware fast cash and the imbalance it usually creates. My dad had a saying for it: “Overrunning your headlights.” He also said to beware of people “born with a big auger.”

To be continued...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - part 4


We do everything possible to not have employees. I don’t mean we’re against help, or against teams. But I’m a fan of bonuses and commissions. I don’t even believe in child allowances—nobody should get paid for breathing.

Most farms going through a growth phase similar to ours would simply hire minimum wage workers. But we have attempted, and for the most part succeeded, in building in a commission-based package for every position. When our daughter-in-law took over restaurant sales, we put her on a commission. Our delivery driver receives a commission per pound delivered, above a guaranteed floor. Both of those positions, therefore, receive a reward for watching for new customers and taking care of existing ones.

We use independent growers who are on a per piece pay scale. That way they can work hard and or more conscientiously, and earn more. When we hired an apprentice manager, he also took on the tour guide role and we share 50/50 in that income. Yes, he gets a floor salary, but also enjoys building an independent business within this framework. The income earning potential is open ended.

Can you imagine what would happen in America’s public schools if graduates who had been out for, say, ten years, could rate their teachers and the top ten percent received a $50,000 bonus check? And the bottom ten percentile were fired?

I suggest that rather than spend a bunch of money on trendy advertising and catchy PR firms, why not redesign job descriptions to create such an enthusiastic workforce that we wouldn’t need to hire ad agencies or PR firms? We live in a culture that loves minimalism and just-get-by-ism. I think too often we create that spirit by being too timid to innovate our compensation packages so that eager beavers get more than a pat on the back. I have no wage or salary aspirations, and keep my remuneration just a few percentage points above the heavy lifters in our business. What would I do with all that money, anyway? I’d rather go the grave a pauper but loved by my people, than go wealthy and unloved. Perhaps if more CEOs were less materialistic, their workforce would also show more noble values.

To be continued...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 3


No difference really exists between an empire and an aspiring empire. A one salary sole proprietorship that aspires to be an empire will have the same attitude as the business that already has an empire. The bigger an outfit becomes, the less innovative it is, partly because it’s harder to turn an aircraft carrier than a speedboat.

I confess to being leery of empires because I haven’t seen one yet that seemed fair and honest. Empires tend to bully and abuse in my opinion. When does a business morph from integrity to scandalous? In my opinion, the day it decides to become an empire. If size never registers on your company radar screen, you can become pretty big without selling your soul. But the day you aspire to be the biggest player is the day you begin disrespecting the other players. How about aspiring to be the player that practices hardest? That gives other aspiring players the best hand up to join you in the winners’ circle?

Because local food is foundational to Polyface farm, we defined our market area as within four hours. That’s as far as someone can come, personally check us out, and return home in a comfortable day. Those of you familiar with Michael Pollan’s runaway New York Times bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma will recall that our farm is the hero. Lots of free advertising. Probably even the honor of speaking here. But it all came because I would not mail him a T-bone steak. That conviction so piqued his interest that he came, saw, and wrote.

Never underestimate the good things that can happen when you establish a business conviction and then stick with it. Believe it or not, people still appreciate outfits that believe in things. What do you believe in?

The emotional freedom that this parameter affords is palpable. Now when someone calls from Indianapolis or Boston, I’m not even tempted to service them. I have a standard answer: “Find your local land healing farmers and patronize them.” I wrote a book, Holy Cows and Hog Heaven, to help people find those good farmers. All my experiences with empires have been negative. And people who run them seem fairly unhappy. Why would anyone aspire to have an empire? In my opinion, if you aspire to have one, you’ve already forfeited a benevolent spirit. Be content to serve well a clearly defined patron group and the rest will take care of itself.

To be continued...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - Part 2


This idea comes directly from community building and transparency. I have personally invented several concepts and terms: salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobiles, pigaerators. Nothing makes me happier than when people use these words and duplicate the concepts. I hope they become household words.

“But what about competition or copycats?” you ask? I figure that if I can’t stay ahead of the copiers, then I don’t deserve to stay ahead. If you study innovation, the ones who are out in front have already gone through a learning curve. While copiers can shorten the curve or change its trajectory, they still have to go through it. This attitude keeps me lean and learning rather than bureaucratic and superficial. Imagine if everyone had to depend on their own cleverness to stay ahead of the competition. Talk about innovation immersion.

At Polyface, we have a 24/7/365 open door policy. Anyone can come anytime to see anything anywhere. We share our techniques, our models, everything. Is that foolish? By some counts, thousands of farms now copy what we do. Are we scared? No, because every business that copies our model will heal another few acres. We’re much more concerned about healing than competition. A business devoted to healing tends to preserve its patron base. And what a great story.

Yes, we’ve had numerous people misuse or abuse our concepts. But I’ve learned that what goes around comes around. And when a person begins taking credit for someone elses’ achievements, the market will eventually reward the innovator—unless the innovator becomes a graspy, paranoid, close-to-the-chest protectionist who tries to decapitate the competition.

Bottom line: the vulnerability that this notion creates also offers a magnanimous spirit that viscerally manifests Stephen Covey’s plenty vs. scarcity habit in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Most people tend to say they believe in openness but in actuality spend a lot of time protecting their stash.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Scaling up without selling your soul - part 1

Message from Joel and all of us here at Polyface:

Many successful entrepreneurial start-ups morph into Wall-Streetified empires that lose their distinctives. And in the process, the business chews up and spits out its workers and founders in a mad scramble to dominate something. Does middle ground exist between the calm talking-stick consensus circle of indigenous eastern tribal cultures and the mad scramble frenzy of western capitalism? Or perhaps more to the point in light of recent Wall Street and economic developments, what values are more important than growth? Especially since cancer is growth. At this juncture of our culture’s reality, I would like us to immerse ourselves for a few minutes in an alternative innovative business philosophy.


I am first and foremost a farmer, but not a very ordinary farmer. In fact, I’m known as a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic. Our family farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley now has four generations living on it. I’m second generation, but the day-to-day operations are handled by my son. Polyface Farm is a diversified, grass-based, beyond organic, direct marketing farm.

We produce salad bar beef, pigaerator pork, pastured poultry and eggs, forage based rabbits, and forestry products. Purchased by my mom and dad in 1961, the farm has gone from a worn out, gullied weedpatch that couldn’t even pay a salary to one that employs 10 people with more than a million dollars in sales. And it’s still experiencing exponential growth. Lush pastures supported by ecstatic copulating earthworms testify to the healing.

While many business folks would consider this a tiny business—and it is—it is considered quite a large farm by USDA sales criteria, which calls any farm with sales above $400,000 annually a large farm. Polyface direct markets everything it produces to a customer base that numbers 2,000 families, 25 restaurants, and 10 retail outlets.

For context, please understand that we don’t do anything conventionally. We haven’t bought a bag of chemical fertilizer in half a century, never planted a seed, own no plow or disk or silo—we call those bankruptcy tubes. We practice mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertlization with the cattle. The Eggmobiles follow them, mimicking egrets on the rhinos’ nose. The laying hens scratch through the dung, eat out the fly larvae, scatter the nutrients into the soil, and give thousands of dollars worth of eggs as a byproduct of pasture sanitation. Pastured broilers in floorless pasture schooners move every day to a fresh paddock salad bar. Pigs aerate compost and finish on acorns in forest glens. It’s all a symbiotic, multi-speciated synergistic relationship-dense production model that yields far more per acre than industrial models. And it’s all aromatically and aesthetically romantic.

As we’ve gone from a single-salary, cute artisanal operation to a multi-family, beyond family, multi-farm business, we’ve struggled to maintain our quality of life and the distinctives that drive sales. And we haven’t always done it well. I’ve seen way too many successful small businesses gobbled up by deep pockets with shallow values. As a result of wanting to stay with the soul of our business story, we’ve developed a list of directives. These would be different for every business, but let’s look at them and at least appreciate that they represent innovative thinking in a western capitalistic business climate. I call these ethics-based contrarian business ideas.

Setting sales or marketing targets makes a business look at its employees differently, its products differently, and its customers differently. It’s kind of like a church that sets membership goals: the message is no longer as important as getting sign-ups. What we’re willing to compromise to “make the sale” is much greater when a sales target beckons. And how we treat our employees is directly related to achieving that sales target.
Polyface has never had a sales target, marketing plan, or business plan. And yet we’ve seen steady progress over several decades. If the product and service are good enough, customers will come and sales will increase automatically.
Setting goals with soul may sound counterintuitive, but it follows directly the idea that the best things in life are free. Would anybody argue that financial success is better than a happy marriage? And yet where do you see happy marriage on a balance sheet? We all intuitively understand that salamanders with four legs are better than ones with three, and yet chemical companies selling pesticides or herbicides measure success only in terms of sales volume. Their accountants don’t ask for salamander legs.
In your business, set goals that are bigger, more noble, more sacred, than sales targets. How about eliminating employee turnover, or customer complaints? Or number of employee children failing school? What really are the most important things in business? I challenge us all to think bigger than sales. Big causes attract young people. Here’s the question I have to ask myself: “What goals are noble enough to justify my life?” It seems like when I really strive to be good, growth takes care of itself.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So if you're from Texas and he's from Virginia... did you two meet?

I think that is one of the number one questions that Daniel and I get. We are getting ready to celerate our 6th Anniversary on Sunday, November 2nd. So in honor of that, I thought I would share our story.

I'm from McDade, Texas - a little tiny town about 60 minutes east of Austin, Tx. My family owned a small farm (about 45 acres) there where we raised about 2,000 broilers, 15 pigs, 50 turkeys, 10 rabbits, 15 beef cows, and one milk cow. A friend had given us a copy of Pastured Poultry Profits in 1995 when it first came out and we were attempting to raise our broilers the "Salatin Method". We built our field shelters and used the feed ration in the book and started getting a really nice customer base consisting of friends and mere acquaintances. Our weak link was the processing! It took us forever to process the broilers. We were averaging around 50 broilers per day. (To give you a better idea of how sloooooooowww that is, Polyface averages 200 birds per hour) So, in August 1996, we packed up the car and took our family vacation to Swoope, VA (I was 16). We planned the trip to coincide with their butcher day. So it was here around the "oh-so-romantic" butcher table where Daniel and I first met. :o)

For me it was most definitely love-at-first-sight! Uh, that is, love for Daniel at first sight, not the chickens. Ha! Of course, I didn't tell him that when I met him. So it took Daniel just a bit longer (6 years) to realize that I was the girl of his dreams and we didn't actually officially start dating (if you will call it that considering we were 1,200 miles apart) until 2001. We did the whole long distance courtship thing - talked on the phone, cell phone on the weekends or after 9pm, email, letters, instant messaging, that sort of thing. At that time much like now, Daniel was very busy with the farm so we didn't really spend all that much time in each other's company. In fact, we counted the days: From the day that we met to the day that we got married, we had actually seen each other only 45 days. See? Long-distance friendships do work! :o)

Here we are 6 years and 3 kids later, still as in love as ever and living life to its fullest!

Now, isn't that romantic? :o)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Greenwood Store, Crozet, Va

This is one of my favorite places all year round...but especially in the fall! They have a fabulous selection of wine, coffee, sandwiches as well as other yummy prepared food to go and of course Polyface products! You won't want to leave!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old-time Innovator runs successful Polyface Farm

This article was just published to the web at on Wednesday, Oct 22nd. Click on the link to enjoy - Old-time Innovator runs Successful Polyface Farm


Thank you for your prayers for Travis. He came through the surgery great! He's in his hard cast now. They were able to set the bone without pins or cutting it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Well, it has been a while since I've posted anything! I only have a minute now, so this won't be very long.

Travis (5 yrs) broke his arm on Saturday. He was playing outside next to our brooder, fell and broke both bones on his right forearm - the radius and ulna. Poor guy was in a lot of pain.
We took him to the emergency room and they were able to splint it a little bit. However, it's not completely set right so he is going in for surgery tomorrow morning at UVA in Charlottesville.

Please pray that the doctors will be able to get it set without having to cut it open or put pins in it. They're aiming to just put him to sleep, set the arm, cast it and send him home. That is what we are hoping for too!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Autumn on the farm

The fall leaves are just so pretty that I just had to share some pictures with you. Although I must say, these pictures by no means do it justice! What a beautiful world God has created!

The above picture was taken this morning from my deck. For those of you who enjoy our pork, you might like to know that the pigs are in those trees, munching on those yummy acorns. Polyface land, consisting of about 550 acres, goes just over the top of the mountain. It's about 4 miles or so to the top.

Here's Travis, our oldest son, enjoying the fall leaves.
It's really been unseasonably warm this year. We use a woodstove to heat the house and haven't even needed to start a fire yet. Joel and Teresa use an outdoor wood furnace that heats both the farmhouse and Grandma Salatin's house. They have been running their stove, because Grandma likes it warm. :o)
On another note, today is our last day for butchering broilers for the year. We're really looking forward to the break. We'll start processing broilers again in May.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mother Earth News

This was just published on October 1st. Just thought that I would share it with you. The article is called Everything He Wants to do is Illegal by Mother Earth News.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Did you know? Fun Farm Trivia!

A list of common to little known farm animal facts:

  • Cows are herbivores

  • Cow and bull an have horns

  • Cows have 4 stomachs

  • A heifer is a cow who has not had a calf yet, once she gives birth she becomes a cow

  • Cows have no top teeth, only bottom teeth

  • When a rabbit gives birth, it is called kindling

  • Rabbits are herbivores

  • A rooster is not needed for hens to lay eggs

  • A young laying hen, before she is old enough to lay eggs, is called a pullet

  • Chicken are omnivores

  • A baby turkey is called a poult

  • Turkeys are omnivores

  • Pigs are omnivores

Leave a comment and tell me which ones you found the most interesting. Which ones did you already know?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday Dinner...

Tuesdays are always a bit hectic for me. It's the day that I call all of our chefs and get their orders for our restaurant deliveries on Thursdays. Chefs have their own personalities and if you don't catch them at the "right" time, they will not give you the time of day. Of course, they are also very, very busy and who has time to answer the phone when you have a restaurant full of 50 or more hungry customers? So I schedule my day around their day. :o) Joshua Wilton House gets called at 2 pm, call Keswick Hall before 10 am or after 2 pm, don't call Zynandoa until after 2 pm, cause the chef is sleeping. It's a bad idea to wake them up! Definitely NOT the way to get an order out of them! :o) I'm usually not on the phone with each restaurant for more than about 5 minutes each. So it works in fairly nicely with the kids. I only have to keep them "somewhat" quiet for 5 minute increments. Ha!
However, because Tuesdays are bit on the crazy side (or at least a little more crazy than normal), I don't usually get around to fixing a very nice meal those nights. It's usually a left-overs or grab what you can find kind of meal. But this Tuesday, I had some chicken that needed to be used up, so I had Daniel breast it out for me and decided to try a new recipe. (One of these days I'll take photos of each step on how to cut-up a chicken and post it on here for you.)
I don't know if you have had the opportunity to check out the Pioneer Woman Cooking site, but she has some awesome recipes. I was perusing it the other day and saw her recipe for the chicken/bacon sandwich thing and was inspired. In case you haven't gotten around to looking at it, here's how you make it:

You will need:
  • Polyface chicken breasts (1 per person)
  • Polyface Country cured bacon (don't soak it this time if you normally do)
  • lemon-pepper seasoning
  • cheese, sliced (I used colby, cause that's what I had)
  1. Put the chicken breasts between to pieces of plastic wrap and pound with either a meat mallet or a rolling pen until the breast is equal in thickness all the way around. Just don't pound it too thin. I think mine with just a little thicker than a 1/4 inch.
  2. Cut the bacon strips in half and fry them until they are chewy - don't crisp them. Set them aside and drain your pan, reserving about 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings in the pan
  3. Liberally sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with the lemon-pepper. And place in your frying pan on med to med-low heat. Let fry for about 4 minutes.
  4. Flip the chicken over and layer the pieces of bacon on top of each breast. I used about 4 slices per breast, but my broiler was really small.
  5. Next lay cheese slices all the way across the top of the bacon. Put the lid on the pan and let it continue to cook until all of the cheese is melted. This took just about 3-4 minutes for me.
  6. Serve it and enjoy!

The Pioneer Woman says to serve it with a bun, but I didn't have any, so we ate it plain. Next time, when it's not a Tuesday I want to make mashed potatoes or twice-baked potatoes to go with it. We just ate it straight and I served it with some of my home-canned peaches. It was fantastic.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Countryhome Rustics...

For those of you with little ones or grandchildren, my brother-in-law, Jordan Green builds absolutely beautiful cedar furniture. The wood is Eastern Red Cedar from Mt. Jackson, Virginia. His newest creation is a highchair! He gave one to Lauryn and we use it all the time. He can custom design them to fit perfectly with your table. I gave him the height of my table so now when she is older and doesn't need the tray anymore, she can use it for a toddler seat.

Not only does he build just high chairs, he builds bed frames, dressers, end tables, cedar chests, cabinets, and will custom build anything you want!
If you are interested in getting piece of furniture made for yourself or would just like a brochure with more information mailed to you, Jordan can be reached at 540-333-1468.
Just a note: Jordan was a Polyface apprentice in 2002 and is now married to my younger sister, Laura and they are expecting their first child in December. I can't wait! It's supposed to be a boy!
Pictures: #1 - Jordan and Laura Green
#2 - Lauryn in the highchair - taken this morning at breakfast. She's eating those fabulous Polyface Eggs scrambled!
#3 - Andrew sitting in the highchair to demonstrate how it can be used as a toddler chair.
Wouldn't it be great to have a piece of furniture where you know the carpenter and where the wood comes from?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Polyface Real Farm Experience

Now to introduce you to the Polyface Real Farm Experience Team. First, let me explain how this program works. We accept 6 individuals per season and they make a commitment to be with us from June 1st to September 30th. They work with us 5 days per week and take turns working one weekend per month.

They learn and do everything that we do. The slogan for this experience is "Spend a summer with us and leave years ahead" and it's true. Mostly we focus on the broilers with this group. They learn everything from staring the chicks, to building the pens, to processing the finished broiler and marketing to the customer. However, they do learn snatches of cow moves, pig operation, turkeys, rabbits, gardening and everything else that goes on around here.

For food: We provide meat out of the Polyface supply for their meals and once per week (usually it's been Saturday evenings) we grill out with everyone together. Right now they are taking turns one night per week eating dinner with the Salatin families - either at Joel & Teresa's or at Daniel & Sheri's, depending on where the apprentices and Matt are that evening).

This year we have 4 guys and 2 girls. This is the first year that we have been able to have girls - mostly do to lack of adequate housing in the past. This year we were able to secure an apartment in Middlebrook (about 5 minutes away) for the girls to stay in. The guys stay in a mobile-classroom-turned-bunkhouse which we all call "the Roost", complete with a small kitchen, bathroom and bunk beds.

Now to introduce the girls:
(Picture - Cutting up broilers - Katrina on the left, Amanda on the right)

Amanda Henderson is from Detroit area, Michigan. Before she came here, she was in the peace corps for 2 1/2 years working on a rural well drilling project in Bolivia. She came to us looking for a career change. When I asked her what her favorite job is here at the farm, she said that she loves it all. She likes the different variety of jobs that Polyface has to offer.

Katrina Fowler comes from Dallas, Texas. She just graduated from NYU with a degree in Nutrition. She loves to bake and read for fun. And the only job that she doesn't like here at the farm is cleaning the broiler totes after processing. :o)

Article: Fighting to keep food local...

As promised, here' s the article that goes to the video teaser that was posted on Friday. Hope you enjoy! Fighting to keep food local at Virginia's Polyface Farm.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Fight to keep food local...

This video was just published to the web from The Virginian-Pilot today - Fighting to keep food local at Polyface Farm The official story in print won't come out until Sunday. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick Breakfast...

Well, I was going to introduce you to the rest of the team today, but it has been a very busy day and I ran out of time. Today was restaurant deliveries to Charlottesville, the Charlottesville buying club, we butchered poultry this morning and put together the Takoma Park, Kensington and Potomac orders. Needless to say, things were hopping here at the farm and on the road! So, instead of the introductions, I thought that I would share my favorite on-the-go breakfast with you all - Homemade Eggnog. (No, it's not just for Christmas time)
Get out your blender and let's make some eggnog!
You will need:
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 wonderful Polyface eggs (I use medium or large, depends on what is in plenty)
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or honey or maple syrup or fresh fruit, we've used them all)

Pour all of this into your blender and mix. We like to add a couple of ice cubes at the end and then crush them in the blender to get it really cold and creamy. Then drink up and make another batch, because if you are like we are, one just won't be enough!

Some other options are to add a banana, or yogurt, or strawberries. Sometimes, I'll add a little nutmeg or cinnamon - just depends on the mood for the day. We love to mix and match things. Oh, and for those of you who are, I didn't leave anything out - I don't cook the eggs before I use them. If I were using eggs from the grocery store, you couldn't pay me enough to drink them raw, but the wonderful eggs from Polyface are great! We've been making this eggnog for years and never had any problems.

So, what do you think? Yummy?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Our Apprentice manager and tour guide is Matt Rales from Bethesda, Maryland. Last year, Matt was a full-time apprentice and came back this year to work on Polyface. He gives tours and is Daniel's right-hand man when it comes to managing daily tasks and apprentice instruction. Matt loves training and working with our guard dogs, Jack and Faith.

He is currently living in Daniel and Sheri's basement apartment and we hope to keep him on for a long time. He is a very conscientious, hard working man.

Andy Wendt comes from Idaho and is a one-year apprentice. He has now been with us for one full year as of September 15th. He is going to be staying on for another 6 months or so and then possibly looking at running one of our rental farms in the area. He has been a great addition to the Polyface team.

He keeps Teresa and Sheri busy just keeping him fed. A side note, we went out to an all-you-can-eat pizza place and he ate 70 pieces of pizza without even breaking a sweat. Atlanta City, here we come! :)

Ben Beichler is also from Maryland. He was here for one year as a full-time apprentice and just left us on Friday at the end of his year. However, this is not the last that we will see of him. Ben plans to come back to Polyface on October 1st and manage the training of Matt and Amanda Young at one of our new rental farms in Bath County, VA. He plans to stay on with them for one year, teaching them and training them the Polyface way. One day he hopes to start his own farm.

Once Matt and Amanda Young get here and are settled in, I hope to introduce you to them and let you know about their venture here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taste of Polyface.....

For those of you who are not lucky enough to experience a meal at Polyface with the very people that have not only prepared your food, but raised and cared for it, we offer a list on our website of some great restaurants that serve our products! Please visit our website to find a restaurant in your area. If you are coming to visit the farm you should plan on either eating lunch at Cranberry's Grocery, or dinner at Zynodoa's.

Cookout at Polyface....

These are a few of my favorite pictures from a cookout we had earlier in the summer. Our yummy dinner consisted of Polyface chicken, fresh veggies and salad from the Staunton Farmer's Market and Teresa's TO DIE FOR homemade salad dressing! I could have sat there all night eating all of that good food and listening to Joel's stories all while watching the sun set over the mountains!

Polyface Team Introduction

The Polyface Team conists of the Salatin families, one apprentice manager, 2 one-year apprentices, six summer Real Farm Experience interns, one phone representative and one delivery guy!

Today we will introduce you to the Salatin families:

Lucille - Grandma to everyone here originally bought the farm in 1961. At this time, she volunteers at many of the tourist locations in Staunton, including the Blackfriar Playhouse, and the Visitor Center.

Joel and Teresa - Joel is the innovator here at Polyface and keeps busy writing and speaking. You can check out his speaking schedule and see just how busy he stays.
Teresa is the farm bookkeeper, event coordinator and also cooks meals for our full-time team.

Daniel and Sheri - Daniel is in charge of the day-to-day workings of the farm. He handles the logistics of moving the cows, getting the animals fed, coordinating all of the interns, butchering days, buying club load up and delivery, Restaurant delivery, building projects and anything else that needs to be done.
Sheri is full-time mom to Travis (5), Andrew (3) and Lauryn (8 months) She handles all of the buying club orders, emails and website maintenance. She is also our restaurant and retail store contact and handles all of our on-farm orders.

Rachel - Rachel just graduated from the Art Institute of Charlotte, NC with a degree in Interior Design. She is the artistic one here at the farm and is currently working for a caterer in the area as well as looking for a job using her decorating skills.

The Salatins - Back row - Teresa, Lucille, Sheri,
Front row - Joel, Andrew, Daniel, Travis, Rachel
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...