‘Folks, this ain’t normal,’ by Joel Salatin, book review

Folks, this ain’t normal is the eighth book by the self-proclaimed “lunatic farmer” from Swoope, Virginia, Joel Salatin. Salatin, on his Polyface Farms, raises and sells “salad bar beef, pigerator pork, pastured poultry,” turkey, rabbits, eggs and more, has become a living legend in the local/organic food world. His self-published You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise still sells thousands of copies annually after more than a decade in print.

Less a book Folks is more a bound collection of essays (with a couple of screeds thrown in for good measure). As a result one fair criticism of the book is there are repetitive areas, as if after writing the collection Salatin was too tired to read back through it and the editor was not paid to do so. Nonetheless, there is a wealth of good information here.

joel salatin folks this aint normal

Joel Salatin [Image credit]


Folks, this ain’t normal is the work of a man who is releasing many years worth of pent-up frustration about the foolishness of the American food system from planting and growing through processing and sales. It could easily have been sub-titled, “In Appreciation of the Simple, Agrarian Life.” His harshest words are reserved for the “food police” (the USDA and FDA) and the agri-businesses with whom they are in collusion to foist upon the world cheap, low nutrition–and sometimes deadly–food. All of this happens while making agri-business richer and keeping the small to medium sized farm owners effectively cut out of most large distribution channels.

If you do not think this is so, try and buy a gallon of raw milk at your local grocery store. (You can decide for yourself whether raw milk is good for you and your family; what you cannot decide is to go to Kroger or Publix and buy it.)

To read Salatin is to be bombarded with a wide-ranging case of common sense. Does it really make sense that people can bring untested, ungraded food, cooked in unsanitized home kitchens to a church pot-luck where everyone can eat it, but to sell that same food for a penny is against the law? Does it really make sense that the same milk our grandparents drank as kids (unadulterated, straight from the cow or goat) is more “dangerous” than 20 ounces of soda or a can of Red Bull?

Is it honoring to God for cows to be crammed into industrial feed-lots where close quartered disease is rampant, more and newer anti-biotics are necessary to fight those diseases, and toxic manure lagoons are needed to hold all the urine and excrement? It is not an example of extreme hubris that chickens are raised in such close proximity their beaks need to be removed to keep them from killing and eating each other?

Are food consumers the beneficiaries when the food chain is increasingly controlled by a corrupt, multiple-fined company like Monsanto–the Planned Parenthood of the food industry–whose greed is exceeded only by the shamelessness with which they advance it? Are American citizens the beneficiaries of a farming system where so much corn is grown that the only way most corn farmers can stay in business is thanks to U.S. government subsidies for ever acre of corn they grow?

Salatin peppers Folks, this ain’t normal with a dozen or two recommendations of books (some of which likely for the basis of his essays). The titles read like a veritable library of clean eating and healthy living advice. Though not footnoted the pages are influenced by tomes like Four-Season Harvest, Nourishing Traditions, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Radical Homemakers, Fast Food Nation, Pottenger’s Prophecy, An Agricultural Testament, and, my favorite, Holy Sh*t: Managing Manure to Save Mankind. He is no slouch when it comes to reading, and it shows.

Consumers of Salatin’s previous “how-to” style books will be bereft of 1-2-3s and ABCs here. See this more as a collection of philosophical wisdom as to the “why” undergirding the “how.”

Is it convincing? Yes. Maddening? At times. Enlightening? Beyond belief. Worth your time? Without a doubt.

This 11 minute video by Michael Pollan features his time spent at Polyface and the genius of Salatin on display there. Be sure and check out the books below the video.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Gina

    No. I don’t think God is very impressed or happy with the horrible things we are doing to the animals that we eat. Or the impact we are having on the environment to make the price of raising livestock as cheep as possible so that some corporations can make more and more money to line their pockets with. By altering God’s design we are altering ourselves and diseases i.e. celiacs disease. Not just chickens and cows, but pigs and even that turkey you probably ate for Thanksgiving. You mention how the beaks of chickens are removed so they don’t kill each other. What about how they are pumped full of so much growth hormone that they can’t even walk or how they never see the light of day until they are stuffed into cages and sent to the factory. Many people don’t realize mad cow disease was caused by feeding cows other cows. Other countries outlawed feeding ground up pieces of animals to other animals, but not the USA. Many countries stopped using bovine growth hormone (rBGH) because the second ingredient is a known carcinogen – not the USA. If you believe the USDA and the FDA are protecting you -you might be in for a surprise.If you want to know what you and your family are really eating and how safe it is watch Food Inc. and Food Matters. Eating organic can be very expensive. You might actually have to cut back on meat portions and eat more vegetables and fruit. But to me knowing that what I’m eating was treated humanely and not pumped full of cancer causing (who knows what else autism or ADD) hormones before slaughter is worth it. You are what you eat! BTW Hi Marty! I love reading your blog! Hope you and your family are well. You posted awhile back about Chick-fil-a….this is why I won’t eat there!

    • Marty Duren

      Gina Coffee!

      Thx so much for your comment. I was so surprised (and happy) to see it! Glad to see you have learned so much about this. Many are still in the dark.

      I’ve been studying up partially because we should be aware of how humans are to relate to the rest of God’s creation. I’m not a vegetarian (I’d starve!), but I think we can still demonstrate honor to creatures that provide food for us. Sonya and I are trying to take into consideration humane treatment issues, local farming and growing some of our own food (which wasn’t possible this year). We think this should be a natural response of an ethic of living that reflects God’s kingdom.

      BTW, I was talking about you and Guy last week because I lost y’alls phone numbers when I changed phones. Expect a mutual friend to contact you about it, or just text me your number.

      Thanks!