A self-described “Christian, libertarian, environmentalist, capitalist, lunatic farmer,” Joel Salatin raises pastured beef cows, pigs, turkeys, and laying hens on a family farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Plough’s Kevin Keiderling visited him to ask how his pro-life and pro-environment convictions fit together – and how to raise kids to love to work hard.
Plough: How did you get interested in alternative farming?
Joel Salatin: My grandfather was a charter subscriber to Rodale’s Organic Gardening and farming magazine in 1949. He was an early adherent to the non-chemical approach, so my dad got it from him, and I got it from Dad. We were always interested in how does nature work, how did God design this, and what is God’s pattern to make it work.
You describe your latest book as your “coming out” as a conservative Christian. How does your interest in sustainability and the environment intersect with your views on the sacredness of human life, which of course is a concern for conservative Christians?
When you are an organic and ecological farmer, it is assumed that you are also an abortionist, you are opposed to homeschooling, and you support higher taxes and more government social safety nets. As a result of that I created my own moniker: Christian libertarian, environmentalist, capitalist, lunatic farmer. So now I am free from that box.
Are Christians that you speak to coming to terms with that?
Very few. The book was sent to a hundred and fifty prominent pastors for a cover blurb, and nobody would touch it because they were afraid of their congregations. As Christians I think we take a pretty cavalier view toward our responsibilities. We need to actually come alongside God as his hands and his feet as we interact and care-take this gift of a beautiful blue planet.