Thursday, June 18, 2009

Joel's visit to Washington

"If you just looked inside the USDA, you would find tremendous support
for local food," said Senator Mark
Udall to me yesterday, June 17. I responded: "I have looked, and it's
not a pretty picture . . . " then somebody cut
off my microphone and that was the end.

I think I have reached the nadir of my trust in government. Some
background: a couple of months ago, I received
an invitation from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to paticipate in
the Green Jobs Leadership Summit hosted by the
Senate Democratic Caucus in the Russell Senate Office Building. His
invitation read: "This half-day event will feature
discussions focused on creating clean energy jobs and supporting the
new green economy. Because of your company's
leadershi8p in the clean energy and green manufacturing industries,
Senator Webb [Va. Senator Jim Webb] has nominated
you to represent Virginia at the Green Jobs Leadership Summit." A
breakfast reception would begin at 8 a.m.

I received a duplicate invitation directly from Sen. Webb. Smelling a
rat (partisans backslapping and me a member of
a voiceless mob) I contacted Sen. Webb's office for clarification and
was assured that I might even have five minutes with
Vice President Joe Biden, but surely I would have plenty of face time
with senators. Each senator was allowed one nominee,
and I was Webb's representative. That was kind of cool, and with a
total potential of 100 people from across the U.S., this
sounded like indeed it might be something where I could get my message
to some high levels.

So yesterday morning I left the house a little after 3:30 a.m. and
traveled to Washington. I arrived and went immediately
to the breakfast, which was chalk milk, ice water, coffee, orange
juice, bagels, and hydrogenated pastries. Breakfast? Where
is the raw milk, local apple juice, bacon, sausage, pastured eggs? I
settled for ice water.

The room was surrounded by slick corporate poster advertisements for
for alternative energy manufacturers, supported
by a cadre of CEOs and their staffs. Hardly enough room to move
around. Soon we were told to find our seats and Sen. Debbie
Stabenow convened the meeting. The front table was cordoned off and
guarded by security until VP Joe Biden came. He
spoke about the wonderful things the stimulus package was doing, then
shook hands with about 8 senators in a reserved
section, then was quickly whisked away. So much for face time.

What followed were two panels, primarily senators, simply giddy over
how they were rescuing the country. The senators
would flow in for their 1 minute of clapping praise from the industry
audience, then gave 3 minutes of Democratic salvation
exuberance, then quickly left for more important matters. Once each
panel finished their preramble (Ha!) monologues, just
a few minutes were left for the lucky few who could navigate to the
microphone in a nearly unreachable corner to ask questions
and make comments to the panel.

Since we were out of time by the time this was allowed, three or more
people would give their comments and then
someone from the panel would respond--always about how we needed to do
more. I finally realized that this was all about
the Democrats (I'm sure Republicans do it all the time too) convening
industry people to become their political cloud to shove
through the Democratic agenda.

No face time. No interaction. I was just supposed to listen, catch
the euphoria bug, and leave elated and thankful that
the Democrats were finally in charge. Of course, I don't think the
Republicans would be any better, but the postulating and
self aggrandizement was both disgusting and palpable. Anyway, I
finally decided to leave at the end of the second panel.
As I walked out, I realized I had navigated to the end of the comment
line and since only 6 people were in front of me, I might
actually get to say something. So I waited.

`And they got to me. Here is the best I remember what I said:

I'm amazed that after half a day of talk about green jobs and energy,
I have not heard the word food, the word farm, or
the word agriculture. I represent the local food movement and the
pastured livestock movement, and we are tried of being
marginalized, criminalized, and demonized by the USDA and this
government. I'm a bioterrorist for letting my chickens
run in the pasture. What good is it to have the freedom to own a gun,
assemble, or worship if I can't choose the fuel to feed
my internal 3 trillion member community of bacteria to give me the
energy to go shoot, pray, or preach? I propose that we
have a Constitutional Amendment that allows every American citizen the
right to choose their food. Government bureaucrats
should not come between my mouth and my 3 trillion member internal

`Other speakers had waxed on about health care and all sorts of
things. I couldn't have talked more than one minute,
when Sen. Udall interrupted with: "If you just looked inside the USDA,
you would find tremendous support for local food."
I was the only speaker interrupted, the only one who mentioned food,
farming, or agriculture, and the only one who didn't
ask for more government money. And when I responded that I had looked
inside and it was not a pretty picutre . . . they
cut my microphone off. Enough of you, Salatin. We don't want your
type around here.

Thus endeth Mr. Salatin going to Washington. I think I'll write some
more books.

By Joel Salatin


Anonymous said...

Thanks Joel! Keep up the good work. Most stories I've read about prophets ended with their "microphone" getting cut off.

Rosemont Century Farm said...

Stick by your convictions...there are more of us out here reading your books and following your lead than you know.


Tim said...


It's great to see you continuing to carry the torch to Washington for everyone interested in the freedom to choose local food and directly support their communities and its farmers. That said, the real changes are likely going to happen from the bottom up when we all, as you have done, empower, encourage and inspire consumers to stand up, stick up and speak up about their rights. This is a free country, but only as long as citizens insist on preserving their freedoms.

Politicians are always the last to "get it". Keep up the great work.

Tim Young
Nature's Harmony Farm

Elberton, GA

Edible Chesapeake said...

At least you took the opportunity to get on the record for the farming community. Thanks for bearing the frustration of that experience, for whatever bit of difference it will make eventually. Maybe if more people keep talking, we won't need the microphone and they won't be able to shut it off!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

All I can say is Thanks - for at least trying. Write more books and don't stop, you have made a difference to many people, farmers and consumers alike.

Joel, thank you again.

Graf Century Farm

Laryssa Herbert said...

Thank you for speaking out for us. I am the mother of a family of four, living in middle Tennessee. We have just discovered the joy of drinking local raw milk. We also eat local grass raised and finished beef and have a small garden out back.

We homeschool and I was delighted to see your name on the list of speakers for the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp from Vision Forum. You had wonderful things to share.

I'm thankful for your all are a voice for Christians, like my family, who desire to be good stewards of the earth and feed our families in the best way possible.

Keep up the good work!

Phil Martin said...

Thanks for speaking up and not mincing your words.

I'm a chef here in Upstate NY and hate the 'food' that comes from the supermarket.

Thanks again for your pioneering work.

Jenny Skelonc said...


All I can say is thank you, thank you for never giving up, you are an inspiration!


Unknown said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. We will continue to vote with our dollar, speak up to the government, and spread the word about eating local, sustainable food! We appreciate farmers everywhere they are doing the right thing!

Cathy and Jon Payne

Anonymous said...

Joel/Polyface Farm,

You are our tribal leader. Thank you. Keep going.

Elderberry Farm, Wisconsin

amicus curiae said...

As always, what you say is what people need to hear! Those in power don't like the truth.
I refer many people to your Polyface web page and to ACRES, us and aust. Charles Walters ,Albrecht, and Salatin, names for history:-) and the present!

Anonymous said...


Many thanks to you, your family and the people who work beside you day after day. I am thankful for your fierceness about our food and for the bounty I receive from your farm every month.

I went first thing this morning to see Food Inc. I can imagine that there will be an impact to your business and to your home life as a result of this film. I just wanted you to know that you are all in my prayers as you ride this wave of media, new customers, dissenters... whatever it is that comes your way as a result. Your work is so important!

Take Care.

Warmly & Respectfully,

Kristy Powers

Linda said...

I would bet the water they gave you was chlorinated, fluoridated, de-mineralized, and probably not even real water. :)

Kim said...

Joel, thanks for being our voice. That's one hell of a commute to speak on our behalf. It must have been miserable sitting in that room drowning in all that smugness. Now we know for sure that the extent of this administration's local food support ends at the "organic garden" at the White House. We will get where we want to be soon enough - with or without their help. You rock.

Unknown said...

I do care about what my kids eat and what my patients and their families eat! Thanks for a being a beacon in a storm of misguided people.
God will continue to Bless you, your family and your work! Thanks for speaking for those of us who weren't invited!
Kayleen Clute, MSN, CRNP
Severna Park , MD

Cyndi Lewis said...

You should have left the minute, Stabenow opened the conference. She's from Michigan and we don't even have the freedom to buy raw milk here. Thanks for standing up for what is right and true. You may feel alone in a place like that but know that you aren't and that you inspire many.

Zoila Forgione said...


Keep up the hard work. I'm looking forward to my first Polyface order (which I'm picking up this afternoon). I will keep voting with my dollars and continue to spread the word about your farm and farms like yours.

Take care.

Kevin said...

"And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, 'Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.'"
1 Kings 22:13

As with Micaiah, we see what happens to prophets who don't toe the line these days.

Anonymous said...

im curios as to your stance on the NAIS. I have a VERY small 6 acre farm in se NC where I raise sheep.
I have to import grass. I wish I had the acerage to grow grass but dont yet. I sell most of my lambs every spring , and luckily have a clientelle who buys live lambs and they take them to a facility themselves. I wonder how more government like NAIS and deeper involvement could possibly help small farms.. are you activly protesting it ? I am the moderator of the group no nais in the us , so you can guess my stance.
I would love to know how you would improve the grass on a sandy, small acreage situation. would you overseed grasses? I will definatly be looking into some of your books ty for the peek into your farm that I recieved from the omnivores dilemma , I will be passing that book around to many of my friends.
thank you

Neen said...

Dear Joel,

Sorry to hear that you had such a stifling experience here in our nation's capital.

Fortunately, you do have many ears perked (evident from the many comments here on the blog). Keep fighting the good fight.

I am in graduate school working on a library science degree. You, along with several other writers/farmers/activists inspired me to create a pathfinder for locating resources on sustainable agriculture on the Arlington County Public Library network. It can be found at:

Thank you so much for all you have taught me so far through your work. I am excited to continue learning and support your efforts wholeheartedly.

Very best,

graceonline said...

Mr. Salatin, thank you for taking the time to go to Washington, even though you were cut off and returned home feeling unheard. It is important to so many of us out here that you and your family have made sufficient impact to be invited and that you got a moment at the microphone.

Although it may have seemed a waste of time to you, it means a lot that you were there. If you are ever invited again, please go, and please, please, try to get to that mike again.

Next time, I hope I'm paying enough attention prior to the event that I might write my reps and senators and ask them to heed your words.

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