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    chickens scratching in grass

    Polyface Logic

    By Joel Salatin

    September 6, 2016

    Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm includes one thousand acres of pasture as well as woodland in Swoope, Virginia.

    The Salad Bar

    grass blowing in the wind under a blue sky

    The foundation for everything at Polyface Farm is the “salad bar”: the pasture’s biodiverse mix of grasses and perennial broadleaves. A rich mix of species utilizes more of the soil’s nutrients than a monoculture can, allowing herbivores to always fill their stomachs with quality food. It also boosts productivity and soil health.


    Pastured Beef

    two gray cows grazing

    Just as wild herds graze an area intensively and then move to greener pastures, Polyface’s eight hundred head of beef cattle are moved onto a new grass paddock every day, using movable electric fencing. According to Salatin, this model “heals the land, thickens the forage, reduces weeds, stimulates earthworms, reduces pathogens, and increases nutritional qualities in the meat.”


    Topsoil Care

    cow pie

    In the United States, topsoil has been badly depleted by two centuries of tillage. The soil is a vibrant ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates that needs nurture. Cow dung recycles nutrients back into the ground, adding organic matter and boosting microbial life. Similarly, all other fertility sources from the farm, even entrails from slaughtering, are recycled back into the topsoil.


    Hens and Turkeys

    a chicken outside a henhouse

    Following the cows come the laying hens and turkeys, which eat the larvae in the cow dung. Housed in an “Eggmobile” (portable henhouse), the hens are free to range across the pasture, eating bugs and parasites and sanitizing the pasture while providing thousands of eggs. The turkeys, based out of their “Gobbledygo” portable hoop house, grow fat for Thanksgiving.


    Pigaerator Pork

    pig rooting in grass

    The pigs at Polyface Farm have two vital tasks: building compost and creating new pastures. They burrow through the cows’ winter bedding – a tasty mix of hay, woodchips, dung, and fermented grain kernels – aerating it and turning it into compost. During summer the pigs, kept in herds of around forty, help create new pastureland by rotationally grazing recently cleared forest.


    People-Centric Farming

    crowd of people walking

    At Polyface, four generations live and work together. “People-centric” means avoiding chemical poisons and dangerous machinery so the farm is safe for kids, and also ensuring meaningful work for everyone. Since there are no noxious odors or pollution, visitors, students and interns can be welcomed. All produce is sold locally in order to build strong community ties.


    Don’t miss Plough’s interview with Joel Salatin, and his article, Behold the Glory of Pigs.

    For more information, visit the farm’s website at

    All photographs courtesy of the author.






    Contributed By JoelSalatin Joel Salatin

    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.

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