Nearly 150 students from 11 Iowa high school districts gathered at Graceland University in the southern Iowa town of Lamoni on November 8, to hear innovative farmer Joel Salatin, one of the most outspoken advocates in America on sustainable agricultural techniques. Salatin prophesized that, "we will not be able to feed the world in the very near future unless we make simple, common-sense changes to how we treat our livestock, our crops and our land."
Salatin and his family own and operate the 500-acre Polyface Farm in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley where their primary crop is grass. Greatly simplifying the goals of Polyface (the farm of many faces) Salatin follows the patterns of nature, what he calls the circle of life. He moves his cattle herd daily, to adjacent fields, using high-tech portable electric fencing. The cattle graze, they move, they graze, they move. The soil is enriched. The grasses are healthier. The cattle are healthier. The meat is better, he says.
He and his family raise many animals and crops at Polyface – too many to mention here – and their story features a return to the past and yet uses modern methods -- to produce food in a natural, sustainable agriculture system. "It's the kind of agriculture that can, and will, feed our growing world if the changes are made," he says. You can visit his website to learn more about Salatin and his hopes and dreams.
The event was Graceland University's annual Ag Business/FFA Day
It was an optimistic day at Graceland as the best and brightest Future Farmers of America high school students from around the region were hosted by faculty and volunteers of the university's fast-growing Agricultural Business major. Besides hearing the Polyface Farm story the students visited GU crop test plots, experienced the Lamoni Livestock Auction, learned about cattle-and-cornfield sustainability techniques and took part in team-building sessions so they could share their knowledge and learn from each other.
The high school students hailed from Lamoni, Leon, Mt. Ayr, Bedford, Afton, Murray, Centerville, Truro, Chariton and Nodaway Valley. They had a chance to take a good look at Graceland's facilities, meet faculty and ask questions of Salatin, a man who is trying to change the way the world thinks about myriad issues. Those include "how people must deepen our top soil rather than continue depleting it."
Farming in a sustainable way with value-added marketing approach
Salatin spoke Thursday evening to a large group of first-year Graceland students as part of their FYE, or First-Year-Experience classes. Salatin's evening talk related to his latest book, "Folks This Ain't Normal!" He describes the book as "a discussion about how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love."
Salatin was joined by Francis Thicke, an organic dairy farmer from Fairfield in southeast Iowa for a panel discussion during the annual GU Agricultural Business event with the high school students. Thicke, who has a doctorate in soil science, and his family operates a sustainable dairy farm and market their milk with a value-added approach. GU Agricultural Business Professors Max Pitt and Justin Akers facilitated the panel discussion, providing students and their FFA advisers the chance to interact with these two forward-thinking agricultural innovators.
For more information about Graceland's Agricultural Business major, contact Professor Max Pitt at 641-784-5438 or email [email protected].
About Graceland University: Graceland University was established in 1895 as a non-sectarian liberal arts institution of higher learning. It operates campuses in Lamoni, Iowa and Independence, Mo. Graceland offers degree completion programs at three other sites: Kirkwood Community College campus in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Indian Hills Community College campus in Centerville, Iowa; and North Central Missouri College campus in Trenton, Mo.
Students from nearly every state and 40 nations choose from more than 50 academic majors and programs at Graceland. For information about attending Graceland, visit Graceland's website and follow the links to Admissions and Financial Aid or call 866-GRACELAND or write to Graceland University, Office of Admissions, 1 University Place, Lamoni, IA 50140.