Following Our Farm Dreams—Digging into Week 2 of the Salatin Semester
Andrew Bennett, small-scale farmer and moderator of our Online You Can Farm Semester with Joel Salatin, reflects on the learnings of the first few weeks of “E-School”.
The first week of the Joel Salatin’s You Can Farm E-School has flown by and it’s shaping up to be a real mind-expanding journey! For me, besides the obvious—soaking up Joel’s awesomeness in the seminar videos—it’s been amazing to feel this large, worldwide community of farmers grow from out of thin air. It really fills me with optimism and new drive that all of us in this course are really motivated to make changes in our lives and in our communities to follow our farm dreams, however those dreams may look…
So what does the course look like, and what have we learned so far?
Beyond the 3 hours of video classroom time with Joel so far, the student forum has filled up fast and furious with discussions on all kinds of topics from the “Choreography Calendar” of a year-long dance through the seasons with so many interactions between livestock, pastures, gardens, soils, weather and more, to growing our own animal feed, fermenting the commercial stuff, pasturing to avoid parasites, processing to keep the meat juicy and tender.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, both what’s already there and what’s yet to come. I mean, this is only week one and things are going off! It’s crazy, really amazingly, inspirationally crazy…
And we won’t even touch those topics with Joel until a month from now, in Part 2 of the course. Part 1 of this Salatin Semester is where we’re hitting up the “big picture” stuff, topics that have already received lots of interesting input like finding land to lease, how to set prices, developing apprenticeship-partnerships instead of the standard models of employees or volunteers, marketing approaches and record keeping when you have products, customers, and sales coming out your ears. And we haven’t lost sight of the fundamental fundamentals, reminding ourselves why we want to farm in the first place and what we want to get out of this journey we’re dreaming…
Itching to get started on your own farm dream?
It’s not too late to sign up for the Salatin Semester.
Check out some clips from the video classroom!
Perhaps most fun of all, we’re getting set as a group—a big group now, more than 160 farmers and dreamers—for our Nov. 6 90-minute teleclass with Joel Salatin. We’re putting together our questions now for what’s guaranteed to be a great time getting charged on the onlandish wisdom, humour, and experience of Joel.
Wow, I still have to pinch myself that it’s only week one, there is so, so much more to come. In fact, my favourite part of this week is just getting to know everyone reading people’s introductions.
There are a huge range of experiences out there. We’ve got former Salatin interns and people with decades of farming under their belts, to self-described “newbies” and town dwellers itching for something completely different in a new life, like Fernando in Brazil. And no doubt we’re all here because we love good, wholesome food, like Chef Cari who wants her carrots “actually tasting like real live carrots, not sticks of orange water!”
The principles and ideas we’ll be learning about are applicable anywhere and everywhere. Rickey and Nancy live in the city but have managed to squeeze in a garden of veggies and medicinals, plus an orchard, and are holding firm to the homesteading dream. And we’ve got other folks with more than 10 acres with which to create, people like the “mother-daughter” team of Darlene and Stephanie in Tennessee. And some, like John and Marcy, grew up on farms and were driven away, but have been drawn right back to the countryside to try it all again…
It’s a huge bonus also to have some voices of experience weighing in strongly on the forum, farmers like Lydia Carpenter and Paul Ewing among others who have spent years with lots of livestock.
Bringing us first-hand experience of the “skin in the game” apprentice-partner model, John and Betsie McAuley interned with Joel in 1996, and another, Brian, is an apprentice-partner on Dennis’s Florida farm right now, running his own 10 pigs, 200 chickens, and 1-acre garden independently. That’s a model to explore more, and it reminds me of Joel’s advice in the seminar for parents to give their kids the opportunity to run their own, separate enterprise.
We’re all here to make a better living by feeding our communities and healing the planet. That’s a beautiful thing. I won’t bash our conventional education system entirely—I got a lot out of mine—but Fabian’s comments rang true: After a childhood of dairy cows and meat sheep he went to agriculture college to follow his passion for ecological farming and healthy food. “I found that my education at school was very lacking on the unconventional side of farming and I want to learn more about raising livestock in a manner that not only protects the environment but also heals it.”
Hear, hear! And that’s why we’re here!
Some people have really focused hard on their “unconventional” education in ecological agriculture and permaculture, folks like Dig, a New Yorker originally from rural Russia, or Todd and Keri from Iowa. These students and others have traveled far and wide to get the good word from the likes of Mark Shepard, Sepp Holzer, Geoff Lawton, Elaine Ingham, and other great land healers out there besides Joel Salatin, of course!
Looking at all this experience out there can intimidate those of us who haven’t been there and done that… There are clearly many people in this course with much, much more experience farming than I have, with many more good ideas and plenty more background… so lucky me, I’m going to be able to use their experience to leap forward in my own farming path!
The best way to spring off this educational springboard is to get right in there with our growing community, to get involved, to tell people about where we’re at and where we want to go, to voice our opinions whether or not we may change them later, to throw out questions even if we’re sure it will betray our inexperience, and to relate our experiences even if they may feel pale in comparison to others coming from farms with thousands of animals and great tracts of land!
So join us on the forum! The farm of a thousand chickens begins with the first chick…This course is not just about soaking up every last bit of Salatin wisdom, but about building a worldwide network of beyond-organic farmers. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to be on this great journey together…
Here’s to learning from Joel Salatin, and each other, to the fullest in the coming months!