Everything I Want to Do Is Racist

Chris Newman
8 min readSep 4, 2020

How America’s favorite farmer lost his way.

Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms (image from The Beef Site)

If you’re reading this, you probably know who Joel Salatin is. He’s the outspoken and vaunted founder of Polyface Farm — arguably the most famous farm in the world (as far as famous farms go) — a grazier, sustainable agriculture advocate, author of a number of books, the subject or feature of several food documentaries, and was made famous by Michael Pollan’s bestselling “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

Joel Salatin is also a world-class bigot. Let’s explain.

Whining and Entitlement

Some time ago, I published an essay about flaws in the systemic economics of small farming and its failure to pose a real challenge to conventional agriculture and traditional agribusiness. This is a subject I write about fairly extensively; while most of the farm-to-table movement focuses on blaming the consumer for problems in the food system and posing solutions accessible only to wealth and privilege, I and a growing (and decidedly diverse) cohort of practitioners in sustainable agriculture have begun to challenge the Generally Accepted Agrarian Principles (GAAP) of supposedly sustainable agriculture: 1.) small farms owned and operated by 2.) nuclear families that 3.) sell directly into their hyperlocal foodsheds. You can dive into some details about the problems with these principles with some resources I’ve posted at the end of this essay.

Salatin is one of the godfathers of GAAP, and he’s made quite a living for himself and his family (if not his employees) promoting it, so it’s not surprising that he’d take some exception to criticism of his model.

What is surprising is that Joel, regarded by many as one of the leading lights in sustainable agriculture, would have no substantive answer to the challenges posed in my essay, and would instead respond with a post in his personal blog that avoids the issue entirely by making it about my race.

Chris Newman

Building a new, accessible, open, and democratic food economy in the Chesapeake Bay region @ Sylvanaqua Farms