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'Lunatic Farmer' Holds Marin As Example Of Preservation

Joel Salatin commends the efforts by local farmers and organizations to get back in touch with our food through social change.

Marin received a visit Sunday from the spokesman for the "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer" movement.

Joel Salatin, who has lent his expertise to several documentaries including Food Inc., told an eager sellout crowd at Dominican University "There's plenty of food in the system to support healthy food, but we'd much rather keep our noses in the latest People magazine."

The event, part of Marin Organic's Food For Thought series, came just in time to celebrate Earth Day. While Earth Day falls on Sunday April 22, most of the festivities will be held Saturday, including the Earth Day Marin festival at the Civic Center.

Salatin recently released his new book Folks, This Ain't Normal and he had plenty of ideas about what's not normal with today's food.

Salatin related a  conversation with a first-grade art teacher in Washington, D.C. She asked them to bring in cooking pots to draw, only to get a quizzical look. "She asked them:

'Do any of you have cooking pots?'

'No.'

'Well, what do you cook in?'

'We just open a box and put it in the microwave.'

"Folks, this ain't normal. When we care that little and have that little visceral connection with our foods, is it any wonder we have e-coli, salmonella, Type-2 Diabetes?"

Salatin ditched his trademark blue overalls and straw hat for a sport coat for the evening, although one of his loyal fans did show up in overalls. Proving Salatin's message reaches across the generations, the 16-year-old student asked is he could intern on Salatin's farm.

It was a nice shange for Salatin, who said earlier that "Today's young people ... just can't imagine a world before supermarkets. ... Thirty years ago, when we started our farm, our customers knew how to cut up a chicken. Today, helf of them don't even know a chicken has bones. They think it just flops around or you pick them off a tree somewhere."

"Fifty percent of our food is not cooked in the home," Salatin continued. "We're far more interested in the latest Hollywood celebrity belly button piercing than we are in what's going to become of the flesh of our flesh and the bones of our bones at 6 o'clock. Used to be, people had to think about what's for dinner."

Marin Agricultural Land Trust, the event's co-host, recently announced the preservation of the Thornton Ranch in Tomales as the latest success in its mission. MALT has reportedly helped preserve 68 family farms in Marin County.

"We are so segregated in our thinking. We think that we can have an integrity food system with nobody involved with it. We think we can have good landscape stewardship with twice as many people in prisons as we do farmers. … Never have we denied the landscape that level of physical presence. That's why it's wonderful to preserve these farms," Salatin said. "What makes farmland unique is what a farmer does with it."

Salatin urged the crowd to lead the movement for local farm preservation.

"Be the burning bush and the world will look to you. The world still looks at a burning bush," he said.

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