3 days at Polyface Farm

1306 Polyface - 01

It’s the pace of everything, that gets you most of all – everyone is busy – doing a task that needs to be done, right now, then walking purposefully to the next task, which also needs to be done.

Joel Salatin often describes the interaction between his rotational beef grazing and egg mobile systems as ‘ballet of the pasture’ – a slow dance of animals circling, shifting and moving in precise relation to each other, to create a symphony of regenerated land and outputs of ‘beyond organic’ protein.

What Nick witnessed in the time he was at Polyface this last week, however, was more a ballet of the entire farming system. But to a faster beat. 

Nick. Off to move the cows with Joel and Dan Salatin. Lucky duck.

Nick. Off to move the cows with Joel and Dan Salatin. Lucky duck.

There is far too much going on at this farm to describe in one blogpost. I won’t even try. Aside from the actual farming going on, there’s decades of refinement here, in terms of making all the integrated small farm systems efficient, mobile, regenerative and viable.

1306 Polyface - 03

Moving the cows onto fresh pasture, after setting up the next round of mobile fencing… it’s only a matter of calling them and walking them to the next patch. The cows have done this before and they’re looking forward to the next ‘salad bar’…

Cows on the move with pastured broiler pens (just a couple) behind

Cows on the move with pastured broiler pens (just a couple) behind

Mobile cow chelter moving to next patch - shelter ensures less-stressed cows, it's mobile nature ensures there's no overload of nutrients or buildup of parasites in the one spot

Mobile cow chelter moving to next patch – shelter ensures less-stressed cows & it’s mobile nature ensures there’s no overload of nutrients or buildup of parasites in the one spot.

People thought Joel’s dad was crazy when he built the one above back in the 1980s. But on a bright sunny day in early summer the cows were all hanging out underneath it.

It’s also a great way of concentrating impact where you want it. If you’ve got some brush or brambles you want to get rid of…. put the shelter over them and 150 cows will trample it down to nothing by days end.

Cows on their minimal infrastructure grazing system...

Cows on their minimal infrastructure grazing system…

Setting up for chicken processing day - here come the broilers

Setting up for chicken processing day – here come the broilers

1306 Polyface - 06

It's an all-in affair

It’s an all-in affair

1306 Polyface - 08Chicken processing day saw 314 chickens taken off their pasture and transported to the on-farm open air processing unit, next to the on-farm shop.

Less than two hours later, they’re all processed, bagged, chilled and ready for eager customers. Everything is clean as a whistle, and the result is real food.

No chlorine, no antibiotics, no transport dehydration and stress, no closed-door antics. A good life on pasture, one bad day, then off to the kitchen.

All done and hosed...

All done and hosed…

Dan and the tomato unit - after a winter of housing chickens on deep litter, this greenhouse soil is nutrient rich and ready to produce some serious tomatoes

Dan in the greenhouse – after a winter of housing chickens on deep litter, this greenhouse soil is nutrient rich and ready to produce some serious tomatoes (and an experimental biochar unit in there also)

1306 Polyface - 13

Biochar unit - still in it's experimental phase in terms of how much it benefits the production systems here...

Low pressure wood boiler for home radiator heating running off 100% renewable energy

Pigs in the barn on deep litter, 'pigaerating' the cow's winter bedding into compost

Pigs in the barn on deep litter, ‘pigaerating’ the cow’s winter bedding into compost

Polyface Farm's on-farm shop. The only nutrient export system on the farm!

Polyface Farm’s on-farm shop. The only nutrient export system on the farm!

Eggmobiles in the dawn light...

Eggmobiles in the dawn light…

So there’s a first taste. You can also have a look at Milkwood alumni Derek’s great photos of Moving the pigs at Polyface Farm, and also check in with our Joel Salatin Workshop Resources from a previous workshop series in Australia for lots of information.

You can also browse all our previous Joel Salatin articles here, and there’s also videos of Joel discussing farm startup issues here.

Or subscribe to this blog (up the top, on the right) and stay tuned, because we’re going to be explaining the systems on this farm piece by piece.

Lastly, here’s the photoset of Nick’s time at Polyface – it will be updated with more photos in the coming weeks, but right now Nick’s still on the road in the extremely large and interesting US of A (and off to train with Paul Stamets this week! Whoohoo).

Gigantical and broad-accented thanks to the entire Salatin family, Polyface staff and incoming interns for their hospitality and commitment to living the ‘new normal’ of what farming can be. World-changers all.

>> More posts about regenerative small-farm systems

19 Comments

  1. Justin
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink | Reply

    Fantastic post, looking forward to hearing more of your experiences in the U.S.

  2. Posted June 4, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    Lucky Nick. You get to go next year? Great to see more of Polyface. Hope you are keeping warm Kirsten. x

    • Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink | Reply

      you keep warm too lovely! Yep it’s a one-at-a-time process at the moment… we’re not really in the international family trip bracket…

  3. Sharn
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    Loving the mobile cow shelter. Reckon we need one with a wall for the days of horizontal rain.

  4. Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great info and pics, thank you. I’m looking forward to the step by step post. It’ll be a great help for us setting up our own farm soon.

  5. Sharon
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    Just wondering what Polyface does with the chicken blood. Does it get recycled into fertiliser ?

  6. Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    The cow shelter is really for shade… a black cow on a hot day stops eating completely and loses weight due stress.

    People thought Joel’s dad was crazy when he built the one above back in the 1980s. But on a bright sunny day in early summer the cows were all hanging out underneath it.

    It’s also a great way of concentrating impact where you want it. Got some brush or brambles (talking like a yank now) you want to get rid off…. put the shelter over them and 150 cows will trample it down to nothing by days end.

    I have some pics of the latest two that were built towards the end of 2012 (not sure if there in the flickr set yet http://www.flickr.com/photos/cicada/sets/72157633898779724, Amtrak wi-fi is so-so).

    • Posted June 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

      just a note that i ripped off a bit of this comment and put it in the post re cow shade :)

  7. Jay
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink | Reply

    Stamets!!!!! I love you guys more than you know!! Bring spore prints home please and I’ll come meet you in the fall/spring your time down there. :D

  8. Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great to see the pics. Have just finished reading ‘Folks, this ain’t normal’ and just started ‘You can farm’. Your pics give a nice visual of how Polyface runs and how their philosophy translates into reality.

  9. Derek Ewer
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    One year on since I started the internship. As you say soooo much going at once across the entire farm. When I was asked by people “what is it like” my reply was always a reflective “I cant just explain it in words. You need to see/ feel it for yourself”. As Joel would say to me “Its hard to explain when your totally submersed in it all. Fantastic Nick got there.
    Derek!

  10. Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    That’s impressive

  11. Posted June 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Really interesting post – both word and pix. The pic collection on Flickr is great. Good to see a young child helping out on chicken dressing day. What an amazing experience. Such an inspiration. Love to you both. xStephen

  12. Robyn
    Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So great to read the story of Nick at Polyface farm. The photos are really interesting too. Thanks Kirsten for all your sharing.

  13. Christine Corner
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Can’t wait to hear more about the on farm processing of chickens and of course Fungi.

  14. Steven
    Posted June 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Pigs aerating cow manure bedding is against health regs in NSW
    LHPA on doing a free range piggery audit on my five pigs (yes only 5), demanded I prove they were excluded from grazing on paddocks where cows have been.

    No one mentions this when Joel is out here selling his methods

  15. Posted June 18, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Such a pity that we can’t process legally like Polyface in Australia. Loved the info Nick and I would love to get to Polyface to check it out, so great to see a more action focused story on everything going on after having heard the how to a few times. Oh well, shall just continue with my own endeavours in the meantime.

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  1. […] after Nick’s 2 months of adventuring all over the planet (and back and forth to Sydney 3 times), we’re all actually home in the one place this […]

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