Polyface Farm is a farm located in rural Swoope, Virginia, United States, run by Joel Salatin and his family. The farm is driven using unconventional methods with the goal of "emotionally, economically and environmentally enhancing agriculture". This farm is where Salatin developed and put into practice many of his most innovative and significant agricultural methods. These include direct-marketing of meats and produce to consumers, pastured-poultry, grass-fed beef and the rotation method which makes his farm more like an ecological system than conventional farming. Polyface Farm operates a place where consumers go to pick up their products.
Practices and background
Polyface maintains a “local” attitude towards their products. Salatin encourages people to buy locally to save small businesses. Salatin believes when you know your farmer and where your food comes from, you’re in a much better place. People will drive 100 miles (160 km) just to sample Polyface products.
Polyface Farms is also highly influenced through religion. Salatin is explicit about saying his Christian faith informs the way he raises and slaughters the animals on his 500-acre (2.0 km2) farm. He sees it as his responsibility to honor the animals as creatures that reflect God’s creative and abiding love. Salatin believes his method is to honor that of God. It is these values that separate Polyface Farm from the rest.
Salatin bases his farm's ecosystem on the principle of watching animals' activities in nature and emulating those conditions as closely as possible. Salatin grazes his cattle outdoors within small pastures enclosed by high-tech, electrified fencing that is easily and daily moved at 4pm to ensure that the animals always have fresh grass; grass has had time, about 100 days, to mature and grow tall, which increases levels of starch. Animal manure fertilizes the pastures and enables Polyface Farm to graze about four times as many cattle as on a conventional farm, thus also saving feed costs. The small size of the pastures forces the cattle to 'mob stock'-to eat all the grass.
In addition Polyface raises pastured meat chickens, eggs layers, pork, turkeys, and rabbits. The diversity in production better utilizes the grass, breaks pathogen cycles, creates multiple income streams, and makes daily life more dynamic and fun. The meat chickens are housed in portable field shelters that are moved daily to a fresh "salad bar" of new grass and away from yesterdays droppings. All manure is distributed by the chickens directly onto the field. His egg laying chickens are housed in mobile trailer stlye coops that follow 4 days after the cattle, when flies in the manure are pupating; the chickens get 15% of their feed from this. While scratching for pupae the chickens also distribute the cow manure across the field.
Salatin's pastures, barn, and farmhouse are located on land below a nearby pond that "feeds the farm" by using 15 miles (24 km) of piping. Salatin also harvests 450 acres (1.8 km2) of woodlands and uses the lumber to construct farm buildings. One of Salatin's principles is that "plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health."
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