“Mr Salatin, may I ask you…”

I’m starting to get excited about my impending visit to Foxglove Farm to attend a workshop with Joel Salatin (you know – Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Inc) , the featured topic being pastured livestock.  Foxglove Farm is owned by Michael Ableman also a well known author, speaker and farmer.

I got to attend a workshop with Joel Salatin once before when he came to Duncan BC three years ago.  It was a packed hall, and we enjoyed his presentation thoroughly.  When he opened the floor to questions in the afternoon though, I was disappointed as people got mired in the minutae of deep bedding (how much, how long, materials, floor area, etc) or how often sheep should be rotated when they graze in a forest.  We probably spent half of a two hour Q and A on deep bedding.  Seriously.  Is there even grass in a forest ?  Turns out not, making the question something else entirely.   I do respect his willingness to take any question and run with it though, and there is no such thing as a silly question right?

That said, I do want to make the most of my opportunity to ask him a question or two.  I’ve read all of his books, some more than a few times (Pastured Poultry Profits is falling apart).  Pastured livestock is an area we want to get into, probably with sheep, but perhaps with smaller cattle like Dexters or something.

He’s really big on mob grazing these days, but we’re talking 14 acres here and both of us working off farm.  So could my question be about stocking density?  He often says he doesn’t use straight lines for his fencing, but follows the keylines and contours.  Again, 14 acres – in a very straight line L shape.  No pond, no hill, no forest.  What would he do with that?  I’m starting to get why we talked about deep bedding and arboreal sheep for so long at the last workshop, I think I’m a little mired myself here.

So maybe I should keep it general and not be irritatingly specific to my own situation.  I could ask about how to adapt his grazing strategies for small acreages  as most people there will likely be from places like mine – the average farm on Vancouver Island is between 10-30 acres.   I’ve always wanted to know more detail about Theresa’s part in things, especially in the days before apprentices and significant income – following the maxim that behind every good man, there’s a better woman 🙂 – which might be of interest to others in the same boat.

Or I could keep my mouth closed and just listen. Always a good strategy.

What do you think?  What should I ask?  What would you ask given the chance?

10 thoughts on ““Mr Salatin, may I ask you…”

  1. Annie says:

    I’ve always wanted to hear more about Theresa!! And my husband and I took him to dinner one evening and he asked us a lot of questions so I never got to ask that one. I think SHE should write a book!

    • You had DINNER with them? Wow. My overnight stay at Foxglove inlcudes breakfast, so maybe I’ll get to talk with him then. And I’m glad someone agrees, I’ve always thought Theresa should write at least a chapter.

  2. Goat Song says:

    Have fun at the workshop! I hope you get your questions answered! I know I asked as many questions as I possibly could during my 4 day stay at the farm… Joel and Daniel did an excellent job on keeping their patience with me and answering them all. 🙂

    And yes, Theresa has a LOT of stories to tell… She is every bit as good a story teller as Joel is. She loves to tell the tale of the neighbors who burned the bridge to their property, thinking that they (the Salatins) were spies from another country. LOL.

    • I would LOVE to hear the details of the burned bridge story. Maybe I’ll get the chance. I read your posts some time ago about your time at Polyface (they were awesom by the way) – and my heart just bled for you when you found out that you wouldn’t be interning. There must be something else in store for you, and you certainly sound like you have your hands full where you are. Maybe you’re about to become a herd dog owner 🙂

      • Goat Song says:

        Try asking him yourself when you meet him. 😉 It’s best when he tells it; he gets pretty animated! LOL.

        It does still hurt knowing that my summer won’t be spent as planned, but I do have some pretty big backup ideas (some would prefer to call them “hair brained schemes…) which will be implemented in the beginning of July, and then again in September/October. 😀 But a herding dog would definitely be good… It would make said upcoming plans go much smoother.

  3. Yes, please ask all those questions and then write ALL ABOUT the answers! It’s kind of funny about the deep bedding discussion; I would have been annoyed, too. We totally follow his model, but when it comes down to it, we have to just experiment a bit on our own, too, given our land and situation.

  4. What would he do with that? What would he do with that? He would invite the cows to eat it! If he found he had them packed in too tight he would move them a second time in a day. Too much standing means a smaller paddock tomorrow. Otherwise, he’s probably looking for 60-80% grazing, the rest trampled or left behind. Then it gets 60-100 days of rest before the cows get a second chance. You could start with 5 cows leaving half of your farm for hay and stockpile…you know, just in case.

    Matron of Husbandry did a great couple of articles on this very topic on her farm in Oregon. I know you said keylines weren’t helpful on your farm but these illustrations are worth their weight in gold anyway. Pay particular attention to her divisions in June vs. her divisions in November in this article. There is also a part 2 of that article. Here she talks about judging how much grazing the cows need. This article gives excellent detail.

    What would I ask him? I would ask him to dinner so he can taste the best chicken in the world…mine!

    • See, this is why I like YOUR blog – you’re just so darn practical and clear thinking. I’ve seen Matron’s posts on the keylines, but I’d forgotten them. Thanks for reminding me, I’m going to go look at them again, I remember thinking the photos were really good.

    • And you’d have to invite your sister and her family too, so she could cook up that amazing Chism Chicken for you all.

  5. Enjoy the conference! We hope to get to Polyface sometime or another to see their operation first hand. Do a post about it when you get back!

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