Saturday, October 29, 2011

Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

By Joel Salatin
New York, Center Street, 2011
351 pages   Non-Fiction

Joel Salatin is a farmer and an advocate for the way things used to be—when people lived off the land, ate whatever they grew and things were “normal.” He says that the story of his life and his farm is a story of a “lifetime of swimming the wrong way” through the morass of the American culture and its so-called progress. The book is dedicated to “identifying and honoring historical normalcy.”

Salatin discusses time-honored living, eating, farming, and building practices that have been lost in the American way of life. Each chapter concerns an aspect of that life with examples of how we have lost that way of living and with suggestions of how to reclaim those practices.

As a disclaimer, I received this book as an ARC and did not read the entire book; hence, its placement on my short list. However, I did find much to relate to. I particularly liked the action lists that he put at the end of every chapter. I wanted to check off one thing that I was doing from every list. Here is one list that I was able to check off all four.
1.       Quit buying processed food with ingredients you can’t pronounce.
2.       Buy organic, local, farmer’s market, Community Supported Agriculture.
3.       Get in your kitchen.
4.       Meditate for five minutes about what you think your intestinal community would like today. Feed it.

Some of the ideas in Folks, This Ain't Normal are quaint and untenable—for instance his recommendation that women return to the home. I am happy that the wives in his family are a part of the family farm business and able to be home, but frankly Joel, “this ain’t normal.” I do think that mindfulness is one of the keys to living a healthful life, and I thought that he presented those ideas forcefully and clearly.

And then there is the question of the title of the book, Folks, This Ain't Normal. If Salatin wanted his book to be taken seriously, I think the title shouldn’t be so folksy. The people who might take his ideas seriously might also be put off by the back-woodsy title.

I practice some, but not all, of what he preaches. Today I bought apples at the farmer’s market to make applesauce for my baby granddaughters. This is the first time I have canned in years. As a young wife, we lived on a small farm, had a huge garden and chickens, raised a steer on the inlaw’s farm, and tried to live a simple life. Some of those things I have missed, and so I have had a small garden for the past two years. Today, I am returning to applesauce, an old skill.

Let me mention two books on this topic that I especially appreciated and will tie in with Folks, This Ain’t Normal. I reviewed Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food last year. Like Salatin, Pollan suggests that we not eat anything that is incapable of rotting or anything that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize. The other book I enjoyed and would be a good accompaniment to Folks, This Ain’t Normal is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver and her family lived a year off what they grew on their Virginia farm and bought from their neighbors. 

Last year, we had a big family adventure at a sustainable farm in Hart Michigan called Liberty Family Farm. Here is their website:
The website for Polyface Farms, the Salatin family farm.
A You Tube video of Joel Salatin talking about his book:
This is a wonderful You Tube video of Michael Pollan talking about the week he spent working with Joel Salatin at his farm:

I am giving my copy of Folks, This Ain’t Normal to my niece and her husband, who practice urban farming along with cheese and beer making.

1 comment:

Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf said...

Great review! I've not read this but I did read about Polyface Farm in Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. Off to check some of those links!

PS Animal Vegetable Miracle was great...I also heartily recommend it.

♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf