Monday, May 13, 2013

Polyface Farm and a Burning Question Answered

We visited Polyface Farm in April for a lunatic tour.  I highly recommend the experience if you are within a reasonable distance from Southern Virginia.  We're reading everything we can from Polyface (see my previous post with the stack of books we're working through!) as we want to model our farm using many of these principles.  Polyface prides itself in farming in a way that it heals the land and respects the design of each animal and how it works, each creature on the farm providing an important job for the whole.

Here are a couple of photos from our trip:

The "Eggmobile" which follows three days behind the cows as the sanitation crew

Joel Salatin talking about his "Pigerator Pork"

It was a crucial trip for us as we came armed with questions.  We were able to chat with Daniel Salatin, Joel's son, for a few minutes after the tour and he graciously took time to speak with us and answer some of our burning questions.

Our top concern was how much land we would need to find in order to start our farm.  In order to truly live off the land for our livelihood following this basic model, how many acres do we need? Is it possible to do it on less than 100, or even less than 50 acres?  We want to farm, but we also want to avoid the trap of accumulating massive debt and then not being able to sustain our farm later on.  We have been constantly tossing around scenarios about how we can get started in the most financially responsible way.

Daniel thoughtfully told us that really, the acreage doesn't matter as much as what type of land it was.  Is there diversity on the property? Woods?  Water?  Hills? Working with the land you find and stacking your resources and projects to match it is more important the amount.  He said that just like the rabbits and chickens work together at Polyface, the layers that follow the cows, and the pigs that compost the winter cow manure, if we stack our resources so that no project or enterprise is alone and you plan things to work together you can do it on a lot less acreage than Polyface Farm does.

We left so encouraged.  While there's so much to do in the next season to get us ready, we're one step closer and know better what type of land to look for, regardless of how large it is.  That was a huge confidence booster for us, and we so appreciate Daniel taking the time to chat with us.

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