Tallarook resident Adam Knight reports on a recent visit to Polyface Farm in Virginia, USA.
After leaving the interstate and driving for a good 30 minutes on narrow and winding roads I arrived at Polyface Farm. Polyface is the home of Joel Salatin, New York Times best-selling author and Time Magazines “World’s Most Innovative Farmer”. Joel is an advocate for local food systems and is widely regarded as one of the best farmers in the world!
The road to Polyface
My first impressions were that this was a normal country farm with abundant sheds and the usual farming gear scattered around. The farm has an open door policy so you can wander anywhere you wish and what made this farm different was at every turn there was another farming enterprise: including pigs, chickens, eggs, turkeys, beef and rabbits. All looked happy and healthy and I was able to observe the efficient processing of approximately 50 Turkeys. The farm is also active in forestry, vegetable gardening and farm tours.
Polyface Farm is approximately 500 acres and located in the lush, rich soil of the Shenandoah Valley. This part of Virginia has a warm humid temperate climate with hot summers and no dry season. The area is beautiful and spoilt with humid summers, good rainfall and snow-covered winters, which work symbiotically to create a very fertile environment. I visited in the middle of the Virginian summer and whilst walking through the paddocks on a 35 degree day I could still feel the moisture in the air and my feet were getting wet even though there had been no rain for some time. There was an abundance of wild flowers and insect life, which you rarely see here on productive farms.
The basis of Joel’s farming philosophy is the rejuvenation of the soil through a synergic cycle of feeding. Cows are cell grazed in small areas and moved regularly and then chickens in portable coops or ‘chicken tractors’ follow behind the cows. The chickens dig through the cow poo and receive nutrients whilst further fertilizing the paddocks with their own manure.
The Salatins will not send food anywhere. They are dedicated to supplying the local area and operate through established buying clubs and their on farm store which turns over more than 2.5 million dollars annually. The farm employs over 20 people and utilizes a system of internships and apprentices which are oversubscribed by budding young farmers from all over the world.
Joel Salatin, his family and Polyface Farm feature prominently in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films Fresh and Academy Award-nominated Food, Inc. Joel is a regular visitor to Australia and especially our region so there are numerous opportunities to hear his philosophies and methods.
There are many Australian farmers either contemplating or trying to implement the Salatin methods and after visiting Polyface Farm I can understand why!
For further information, head to their website
The closing down of Keppel Prince’s (Portland, Vic) huge wind tower engineering operations and the laying off of 100 jobs is a cause for real concern to all who believe in an economy built on a renewable energy future. The company is the first direct casualty of the Abbott government’s affirmation on Wednesday that it was determined to slash the Renewable Energy Target by more than half, despite modelling commissioned by its own panel finding that such a move would lead to higher prices for consumers. (Giles Parkinson, ReNew Economy).
The procrastination on a decision about the RET, and sending frequent signals about renewable energy by the Abbott Government for nigh on 2 years has stalled the strong investment in solar and wind power installations built up in Victoria (in particular) over a good many years. Its sends really negative signals about the type of investment Tony Abbott wants- investments in high carbon industries that are the backbone of the problems of climate change and pollution that we have inherited. These are not the investments that will serve our future. It is stupid policy.
“The Spotted Quolls” are Mark South and Peter Lockyer
Local string band “the Spotted Quolls” are up and about over the next few weeks. Good vegetarian music that goes well with beer drinking, and Mark South and Peter Lockyer deliver the goods. Country and eastern songs of love and revolution can get your feet tapping and you simply tune in to the riveting harmonies on locally written and stolen material. From the East Kimberley to east Broadford, this is fun music, occasionally covers but generally not. Thats part of the appeal. The other part is the dulcet tones…… not heard in the Tallarook Hills often enough.
- Friday Oct 31st at Tapas night at Rocky Passes
- Sunday Nov 2nd at the Tallarook Market 9-1pm
- Sunday Nov 16th at the Lanes End Vineyard Willowmavin, for the Bud Burst Festival – afternoon of music with wine and BBQ and whatever and whoever you bring.
The new Vision and Principles have grown out of the BEAMing Future Workshop and planning day held back in July this year with around 30 members attending – which is detailed in this report. After much discussion, the BEAM Committee has agreed on the new Vision and Principles statements:
BEAM Mitchell Environment Group
A thriving community, locally active and globally aware
- Stand up on issues that impact our environment
- Take a collaborative approach and support one another
- Respect each other – everyone has something to offer
- Be accountable for what we say and do
We believe that these statements better reflect the BEAM of 2014, where we are interested in a broad range of community issues. These include the natural environment, but also local food production and distribution, resilience in community development in preparation of a world less dependent on fossil fuels and more reliant on renewables, of community energy systems, and effective engagement in our local systems of governance.
Peter Lockyer, BEAM president
Annemaree Docking explains the extend of global climate change.
Our world is undergoing a climate change at an unnaturally greater rate due to human impact on our planet from unsustainable rates of fossil fuel consumption, along with a litany of other disasters created by humanity (wars, famine, plundering of natural resources).
BEAM’s Annual General Meeting held at Gavan Hall, Broadford, on August 16th was treated to a passionate and well informed Annemaree Docking speaking about Climate Change and the predicted impacts on our planet, our ecosystems, our way of life and how a future might be if left unchecked.
Spring is a time of prolific growth and gardens end up with more vegetation than we want, particularly vegetation that could be a fire risk over summer. The first step is deciding how much vegetation to remove while maintaining a wildlife-friendly garden. The CFA and other organisations provide some guidance on balancing healthy garden ecosystems with “tidying up”. Check out the CFA website and Birds in backyards for more.
On Sunday 27th July, BEAM members gathered together to consider the future of the group.
The BEAMing Future Workshop was a time to reminisce on the past – the long history BEAM in the Mitchell region, the dedicated, long standing membership base and the maturing of the group as an influential and coordinated force in our community. It was a day to celebrate our successes, recognise our strengths and to acknowledge where we have opportunities for improvement.
But the key purpose of the day was to plan – to look to the future and consider the practicalities and possibilities for the group. The purpose of the day was framed as follows:
“To reaffirm what BEAM means for each of us and how we are practically going to work together to continue to do the great things we have achieved.”
The immediate task for the new committee is to act on thereport (linked below). The workshop held in July had a number of breakouts contributing to 4 areas of activity,
The Report poses an immediate challenge to create a new Vision and a Purpose statement that reflects BEAM in 2014. We have all acknowledged that the interests of the group are broader than the natural environment, and embrace issues of community resilience, climate change, local food promotion and bulk buying. We take stands on encouraging renewable energy development, and the winding down of our dependence on damaging fossil fuels. We react at times (consider Council policies as they develop) and we creatively act at other times, setting our own agenda. The Energy Futures workshop earlier this year was an example of this proactive role.
Download a copy of the BEAM Planning Day Report
The BEAM Annual general Meeting on Saturday August 16th at Gavan Hall in Broadford saw a change of faces on the BEAM Committee. Richard Telford (immediate past president) and Caro Morris (past president) have retired from active service on the committee. Caro was awarded Life membership of BEAM for her tireless service over the years.
L-R. Peter Lockyer (Pres), Marie Gerrard (Monument Hill rep), Roslyn Stewart, Irene Telford, Annemaree Docking (Vice-Pres), Robin Shiperd, Christine Cahusac and Simon Cocking. Not pictured (an apology for the meeting), Barbara Moss has taken on the role of Secretary, and Peter Mitchell (apology) becomes Treasurer. Simon Cocking has since resigned (October).
New President Peter Lockyer has a committee with a balance of both experience and also new faces to guide us through the coming 12 months.