The Ballet Of The Pasture

October 1, 2011

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Or…

polyface

Relay Foods organized a group tour down to Polyface Farm today, the farm famous from Michael Pollan’s books, the movie Food, Inc and general sustainable and humane practices.

I rounded up two of my own turkeys to join me for the tour – Krissy and Sara

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We drove via bus (yay carpooling!) through the mountains to Polyface

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Where we were greeted by Mr. Salatin himself…and a herd of cows!

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The landscape there was incredible, and just breathing in the air and grassy smells lifted my spirits for the whole day

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Joel told us about grass.

Last night at 5pm, this field looked as plentiful and overgrown as the one above it. The herbivores were hungry! He explained how cows are great at mobing (to protect them from predators) and mowing (eating grass down to its prime state to re-grow).

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Joel moved the thin wire keeping the cattle to a specified plot of land (aka paddock) and made a noise that sounded like a turkey call. The cows ran after him and into the neighboring tall grass – it was amazing! The began munching immediately and spread out into the field.

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We piled onto a massive hay wagon to continue to tour to see the chickens, turkeys and pigs. Polyface utilizes multispeciation to orchestrate symbiotic relationships between the sun, earth, grass and animals. I highly recommend reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma for more information on this – it’s fascinating. Also, Joel has a new book coming out in just a few days [and had just been interviewed for TIME magazine the day before!]

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And headed across the land to another beautiful field. Joel calls farming “The Ballet Of The Pasture”

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Here we saw chickens grazing under shelters.

What has always impressed me so much about Polyface Farm is its simplicity. Joel makes it seem to simple – he uses his brain to gently control the natural course of nature – cows, chickens, rest and sun to replenish. The entire farm is portable and made from very simple materials. This is especially important when considering the investment it takes to get a young farmer going in the industry as it is today. It takes half a million dollars to open a Tyson chicken coop. Joel said he had an intern who was given thousands of acres of land if he would just do something with it. The infrastructure used on Polyface are so simple, it means young people can get into farming with a minimal investment – and do it as nature intended at the same time.

Here is he demonstrating how easy the chicken shelters are to move 10 feet to fresh grass. One person asked what to look for or ask a farmer when you get to know them. He said to look for grass. If you see dirt, they aren’t moving their chickens enough. These chickens also had no odor – a sign they were being moved frequently.

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The ballet of the pasture continued with the turkeys, who were quite different than the chickens. They had a huge wooden [mobile] cart that they use for shelter and very basic electric netting that keeps out every predator you can imagine.

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Glad I wore my boots – things were about to get dirty

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Hanging out with the pigs

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They tried to eat him!

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More hayriding

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And then we saw the eggmobile

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Joel shared that a group of eggs were sent to a lab to be tested a year ago.

Polyface eggs came back as having over 1000 µg of folic acid

FDA eggs came back as having 47 µg of folic acid

The RDA is 400 µg. Let that sink in for a minute. This is why nature knows best.

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One chick-a-dee tried to peck my toes off!

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Perhaps he was telling me to buy his book – that’s him!

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I was thrilled to be able to say hi to Joel and shared my KERF business card with him. Today was such a great experience.

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After our tour, we sat down to a boxed lunch featuring Polyface eggs – in the form of egg salad! I was thrilled to find my box labeled with “no raw onion” and also thrilled for a cup of hot apple cider!

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Although I kind of wanted to eat this salad I sat next to. If it’s good enough for a cow’s salad bar, it’s good enough for me!

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{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Allie@LiveLaughEat October 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Can’t believe you MET him! Love the little pig snout.

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2 Sarah @ The Strength of Faith October 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Can you elaborate on what folic acid is? I studied a lot of theology and not a whole lot of nutrition in graduate school. :)

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3 KathEats October 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

It’s a vitamin! Vitamin B9. It’s main claim to fame is the synthesis and repair of DNA in the body (so it’s pretty important). It’s found in whole grains. Lots of breads are now fortified with it (because they are processed so much it is removed and they add it back..) It’s extremely important for child-bearing women to get enough (400 micrograms and 600-800 for pregnant women) because of its role in the synthesis of DNA (and cells) in building a fetus.

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4 melissa October 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Kath, any ideas as to how they test for folic acid content?

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5 KathEats October 4, 2011 at 7:46 pm

I’m actually not sure..but I’m guessing just a regular blood test

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6 Danielle October 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

What a fun and exciting day! I am currently reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma and loving it. I especially loved learning about Polyface farm – so awesome to see pictures!
I will definitely be picking up his book. Salatin’s approach to farming just makes so much sense; it boggles the mind why people try to mess with nature. It is so beautiful on its own.

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7 Katie @ Peace Love and Oats October 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

That is so amazing. I just wish all farms were like that! One day…

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8 Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga October 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Wow! What an awesome day and meetup. Quite the brush with fame for you meeting Joel…and of course spending time on his farm looks lovely.

I love the pictures. So beautiful.

The one you labeled 8018blog…the sun reflecting on the field…a great shot and I’d love to take portraits there. They would turn out beautifully.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. It’s clearly off to a great start :)

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9 ellen October 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm

so awesome! i do remember reading about him in pollan’s books… and his farm referenced in many, many readings and documentaries. so nice to actually SEE the farm! glad you had a great time.

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10 r8chel October 1, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Sounds like you had a wonderful day! A few years ago, a couple friends and I drove over to Polyface one Saturday afternoon and gave ourselves a tour of the farm. It was so interesting to see the things I had read about in Michael Pollan’s book. And just before we left, we ran into Joel and got to chat with him for a little while. It’s such a wonderful, peaceful place!

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11 Sana October 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm

:) That egg salad must taste great!

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12 Cate @ CKinCA October 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Simplicity… such a concept! :)

I really want to read the Omnivore’s Dilemma now. Pictures are great… Looks like a fun weekend adventure!

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13 Kelly (meatlesswithaman.blogspot.com) October 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm

it’s a great read! I listened to it as a book on tape – such great info!

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14 Laura October 1, 2011 at 5:18 pm

This made me think of an awesome class I took in my freshman year of college- The Policies and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture. Weird for an english major to be taking, but I learned so much! The professor took us on a field trip to his son’s organic and sustainable farm to take a tour and to do some work! The hard work and dedication this young farmer puts in every day means I will never gripe about the price of organic/sustainable food at a farmer’s market again!!

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15 katie @KatieDid October 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Wow that is such an awesome experience. I definitely remember his face from the movie Food Inc.! It looks even more gorgeous in your photos than the movie, and he seems like a caring, friendly farmer.

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16 Michelle (Peachy Palate) October 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Some amazing pictures! I’m not a big egg fan but that egg salad sandwich looks to die for! I may have to fix myself something eggie tomorrow!

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17 lynn @ the actor's diet October 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm

so cool! this reminded me of the pioneer woman’s blog!

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18 Stephanie @ Food and Fitness 4 Real October 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

It looked like a wonderful day. I love how he showed how simple it is to raise his chickens without a half million dollar coup and they didn’t smell! Seeing your pictures made me want to go outside and breathe some fresh air. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

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19 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! October 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

This looks like it was an amazing experience! I loved Joel in Food Inc!

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20 Tina October 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Oh my goodness! I am jealous ;). That looks like an incredible day. Thanks so much for sharing everything. I remember Joel and loved him too. I will definitely be buying his book!

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21 Rachel October 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm

i’m so jealous that you got to meet joel! he’s pretty much my idol. i toured polyface earlier this year but he wasn’t there. that egg salad sandwich looks pretty incredible too…

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22 Maria @ Beautiful Busy Bee October 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Wow those eggs are amazing! That’s crazy how much more folic acid they have than regular. I love going to farms. :) Can’t beat an autumn hay ride, that’s for sure!!! I can’t believe you don’t like raw onions, I eat them plain. But I’m weird that way. :)

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23 MaryBe@Accidentally-Vegan October 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

I have admired Mr. Salatin for quite some time now. If I lived near Polyface, I wouldn’t have to be a vegan. Well, at least I would eat eggs again. All farms should follow his wonderful, ethical, and caring practices.
This was your best field trip ever!

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24 Catherine October 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

You are fast and you are serious! I saw you out there and knew you would represent so hard for what you heard. Thanks for having a big influence! And your boots are really cute.

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25 KathEats October 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

You were on the tour!?

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26 Jen October 1, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Kath, the country air agrees with you.

As for Pollan’s book, does he advocate not eating meat or rather being conscious of where it’s coming from?

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27 KathEats October 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Eating meat – that is raised sustainably and ethically

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28 Tami October 1, 2011 at 5:59 pm

We got 4 chickens this spring, they started laying a little more than a month ago. I can’t believe the difference in the eggs….so clear and the shells are so much harder. The chicken re a happy bunch

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29 KathEats October 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I think it would be so awesome to have chickens..but I don’t think that’s something we’ll pursue. Good for you – I can def. tell a difference in the eggs from our local farms

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30 Samantha October 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Damn! You are so lucky! I’d love to spend a day there. So awesome!

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31 Lauren October 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm

This is amazing! After reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma I’ve been dying to visit the farm. Glad to see your recap though–almost like being there!

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32 Khushboo October 1, 2011 at 6:14 pm

That egg salad was made for you :)

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33 Catherine October 1, 2011 at 6:14 pm

You really did a nice job with the pics and writeup. Previously found you annoying (so you will delete this and it will be a private message), but saw you at PolyFace and thought you would do a good write-up. You have. Get ready to get a lot of exposure, and thanks again for spreading the word so effectively. A+ blogger.

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34 KathEats October 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Well that’s an interesting comment. Were you on the tour too? Do you work there?

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35 Tina October 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Wowza! Nothing like an insult wrapped up in a compliment, huh? I find you anything but annoying. I have learned a lot from you and always love reading your posts!

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36 Ashley October 1, 2011 at 8:53 pm

As a teacher I have heard similar comments. Such as, “Your history class was boring, but you are a great criminology teacher.” At 1st I would only focus on the negative part. However, after much thought, I realized the student’s heart was in the right place. She was trying (while being slightly inappropriate) to compliment me. SO…. Take it is as praise! Ignore the “annoying” part! Just focus on the “A+ blogger part”! And remember… You left a such a lasting impact that you inspired Catherine to read your blog and leave a comment! Bravo! You rock!

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37 Karen October 2, 2011 at 7:21 am

A+ post (and reply) Kath! :)

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38 Angie @ Musings of a Violet Monkey October 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Such an interesting day!
I’ve read good things about Joel and Polyface in Pollan’s books… but I’ve also read some less than stellar things about him and his farming/slaughtering methods, as well. (Particularly in Eating Animals – by Jonathan Safran Foer). However, I’m always interested in learning about sustainable farming, from any angle. Going to order his new book right now!

~

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39 Courtney October 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm

That looks so beautiful!

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40 Lorin October 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

My school, Cal Poly, had Joe Salatin as a speaker last spring quarter. I am part of the Real Food CLub on campus and after his presentation we had a pot luck style lunch and talked with him. It was about 12 of us and him, it was awesome to meet someone like him.

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41 Michelle (The Runner's Plate) October 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I grew up on a pig farm, and yes, the pigs were always chewing on my boots. :)

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42 Jennifer October 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Wow….how exciting! That is beautiful land. I can’t believe the difference in the folic acid count between his eggs and the FDA. It does make you think. I’m definitely going to read his book and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

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43 Rachel October 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Psst – That first picture is straw. :) Used for bedding, not for eating.

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44 KathEats October 1, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Whoops :oops:

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45 Tracey October 1, 2011 at 6:55 pm

This is a beautiful post, and what an amazing experience that must have been.

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46 Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio October 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm

This is a beautiful post! I love that you were able to go to this farm and share your experience with us. This is amazing. I love it.

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47 Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) October 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I met Mr. Salatin and heard him speak two years ago – so inspirational!

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48 Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) October 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I would have LOVED this field trip! I so wanted to do this kind of thing. Tony, my husband, and I went to TN for a bit this summer looking into the option of doing something like this on a MUCH smaller scale. Unfortunately, it was the wrong time and wrong place. I’m not giving up though. I do want something like this some day!

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49 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife October 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm

WOW. What a cool place to visit. I love this. Nature does KNOW best!

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50 Jenny L @ Eat On, Party On! October 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

This post is one of the coolest I have ever read!

I go to UC Berkeley and have been subjected to much of the eat local, eat sustainable, Michael Pollan buzz (and got to meet him, too!). It’s absolutely fascinating to see that you went to Polyface Farms because even though us students read all the books, do all the research, and attend all the lectures, sometimes those holistic farms are just as foreign a concept as the factory farms are!

Thanks so much for posting!

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51 Shannon @ The Hungry Rower October 1, 2011 at 7:29 pm

So jealous you got to tour Polyface! I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Salatin last year and found him to be one of the most engaging and charismatic individuals I have ever interacted with, not to mention ingenious. I would love to be an intern there; Polyface is about as “real food” as it gets.

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52 Elizabeth October 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I just read Eating Animals, so your post was timely. I’m definitely thinking about things!

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53 Hilliary @ Happily Ever Healthy October 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Wow, what a wonderful day. You learned so much, and got some great pictures!

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54 Lauri (Redheadrecipes.com) October 1, 2011 at 7:50 pm

SO AMAZING!!!! I bet that was the best egg salad EVER! So crazy, I could just eat one of his eggs instead of taking a prenatal :D

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55 Mel @ Mel a la Via Paradiso October 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

The summer before I started college we were assigned to read The Omnivores Dilemma, but I couldn’t get past the first chapter. Too much talk about corn for my enjoyment, but I’ve heard good things about his other book.

I love the phrase ‘The Ballet of the Pasture’ and your photos are making me want to don my boots for a trip to the farm! My mom would like to raise her own chickens, but my dad is vehemently opposed to the idea! Perhaps I’ll show them this post :)

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56 maggie October 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

how interesting. I buy my turkey, lamb, beef, chicken at one of the local markets that only stock grass fed product locally raised. There is such a huge difference in flavor and fat content. Oh and I also thought your boots were cute.

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57 Emily October 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm

That’s such a coincidence! I was just writing a paper on ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ for my Literature and the Environment class…it’s so great to see Polyface Farm through your lens. Hope you had a great time!

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58 kathleen @ the daily crumb October 1, 2011 at 8:05 pm

these photos are all gorgeous… what a spectacular day. and what an interesting little factoid about the folic acid. a great thing for those ladies thinking of babies in the near future!

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59 Angel7 October 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm

WOW!!! … What a day! Life is all about learning!

I am all about sustainability!

http://faithfulsolutions.blogspot.com/

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60 Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin October 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I am so incredibly jealous of this awesome experience you had! I loved reading about Joel’s farm in Omnivore’s Dilemma. I had no idea he has his own book coming out – I can’t wait to read it now!

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61 Sahira October 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm

An experience for sure! So great!

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62 Mom October 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Great post. The pig picture reminded Dad and me of when you looked through a hole in a pig pen and the pig was right there. You burst into tears. You were one or so.

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63 KathEats October 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

I think I remember that..

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64 Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel October 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm

That looks breathtaking. If I went there, I don’t think I’d want to leave!

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65 Anna October 1, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Wow, how did you come upon that opportunity? The story of that farm blew my mind in TOD, which is kind of sad because it’s how all farming should be!

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66 KathEats October 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

Relay Foods organized it so it was easy to join! Cost me $50 but very worth it

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67 Candy @ Healthy in Candy Land October 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm

What an awesome experience! I am so fascinated by Polyface and would love to tour it in person. Thank you for helping to spread the word on how important this way of farming is. Now if only the really big guys would take note!

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68 J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) October 1, 2011 at 9:28 pm

What a great visit! The farm and the animals are beautiful. I have never heard of this mobile farming. I need to read about this! I’m fascinated and hopeful at the same time. I love seeing nature at its best. :D

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69 Jenn October 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

This is so wonderful and makes me homesick for my daddy. He raises cattle in Mississippi using Joel’s techniques and has taken classes and visited with him. I have pictures of my dad with his “girls” (the cows) that are so similar to your pictures of Joel with the cows. It looks like it was an amazing visit!

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70 KathEats October 2, 2011 at 9:26 am

That’s so wonderful that your dad is doing the same thing!

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71 Elisabeth October 1, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Wow! Looks like a wonderful tour. I love Michael Pollan’s books & will definitely be reading Joel’s book! :)

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72 Karen October 2, 2011 at 6:31 am

Great post. Love your sweater!

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73 Cait's Plate October 2, 2011 at 7:08 am

GAH!!! What a fun time! I’m seriously so jealous – that must’ve been such a great experience. Also? I LOVE your sweater.

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74 Natalie the Awesome October 2, 2011 at 7:43 am

those cows are really cute <3

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75 Courtney @ Translating Nutrition October 2, 2011 at 7:48 am

The folic acid content of those eggs is amazing! Such incredible proof that the way we grow our food matters. Thanks for sharing- fascinating!

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76 Dee October 2, 2011 at 10:00 am

Oh wow. This was such an informative post! I’ve got two new books to check out now. ;)

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77 Meghan @ Day-to-Day Crazy October 2, 2011 at 10:03 am

That looks like such a cool experience!

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78 JenATX October 2, 2011 at 10:29 am

great pics & great info!

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79 Amy October 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

So cool. I’ve always wanted to check out Polyface Farms! The information about the eggs is especially fascinating – THAT is why we buy local organic eggs!

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80 Ella, RD October 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm

This is SO amazing! I am so jealous that you got to go to the farm and meet Joel! I can’t wait to check out his new book. I was also so struck by the simplicity of his operation, like you said. He isn’t doing anything super revolutionary – he’s just looking back in time and emulating what our smart farming ancestors did and then improving on their practices. It’s like the reduce/reuse mentality that is supposedly “new” and “green” – actually so much of that is what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did in their own homes out of common sense, necessity and frankly, frugality.

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81 Kelly (meatlesswithaman.blogspot.com) October 2, 2011 at 12:32 pm

awesome post!! I’ve read Omivore’s Dilemma – so Joel Sallitan is a celebrity in my eyes! How awesome that you got to meet him. Looks like a great day!

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82 Debbi October 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I’ve promised myself a field trip to Polyface for a couple years. I only live a couple hours away. You really made the trip come alive! Thanks!

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83 Lea @ Healthy Coconut October 2, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I haven’t read that book but hopefully I can check it out from the library soon. It’s always checked out when I go.

Love the pictures and was skimming thru. Will read the whole post when I’m not on my phone.

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84 ~Christy October 2, 2011 at 7:47 pm

What an amazing adventure! I have The Omnivore’s Dilemma but haven’t read it yet — no time like the present! And I’ll add Joel’s to the list, too. Thanks!

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85 Jess-The SemiAbnormal Gal October 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I’m so jealous you got to go! I actually have been considering doing a summer internship at Polyface, during my summer “break” from school since I’m a high school science teacher. Unfortunately his internships run through September, and teaching in Florida, we go back in August. Sniffle.

I do have plans to do a hayride visit like you just completed though. Charlottesville is so lucky to be near Polyface and other wonderful farms!

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86 Kelsey October 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm

super super super super super COOL!!!!

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87 Lindsay October 3, 2011 at 4:20 am

This was a fascinating day for you AND your readers! Thanks for taking us along! I’ve been a bit MIA lately (argh to our apartment internet!) BUT I am loving catching back up today…and my inlaws JUST bought chickens for their farm, I am pumped to tell my mother-in-law about this post so that they can “be all about the grass!” great tips…and scary tips about the folic acid in the eggs!! Intrigued to look into his book….

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88 Lauren @ Oatmeal after Spinning October 3, 2011 at 6:21 am

Oh wow! He was interviewed in Food, Inc. right?
I saw Michael Pollan lecture at Goucher College a few years ago (right after Food Rules was published), and it was amazing! I got to meet him and have him sign my stack of his books- I was almost starstruck!
Looks like you had an amazing day :)

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89 BriHappy October 3, 2011 at 6:49 am

This is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I love the Omnivores Dilema. All of Michael Pollan’s books were wonderful! Where is Polyface Farm located? I need to add this to my soon-to-do-Bucket-list!! Thanks for sharing :)

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90 Christine October 3, 2011 at 9:13 am

Thanks so much for posting Kath. I viewed FoodInc. just over a year ago and it has completely changed my life. Farmer Joel was so great for the movie. It is truly scary what is happening in the food industry and I applaud your efforts to educate via your blog. Look forward to reading his book.

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91 Christine @ Oatmeal in my Bowl October 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm

What an amazing experience. And I love the pics. Definitely going to Kindle the Omnivore’s Dilemma as I have not read it yet. And since the hubby and I are moving to the country next year, it’ll be perfect.

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92 Monica October 5, 2011 at 11:06 am

That is so cool! I would love to go on a farm tour like this!

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