Bring Back Local Farming

If you are looking to help restore local agriculture using eco-friendly and time-valued techniques, look no further than Polyface Farms.

Polyface is renowned for their apprenticeship programs. Offering 12-month or summer-long commitments, Polyface provides room and board as well as a monthly stipend for all their apprentices.

If you are interested in simply touring the facitilies, Polyface offers transparent self-guided and escorted tours as well.

Distributism is both an urban and rural solution. However, the early movement wisely understood the necessity for the town and country to collaborate. We need an agricultural uprising that will feed America locally. Be a hero and learn the craft of farming.


George Carmody Monday, October 27, 2008 at 1:00:00 PM CDT  

I must admit that although the "back to the land" ethos of distributism appeals in theory, it's practice seems more problematical. I speak from a UK perspective where cultivable land is less plentiful than in the US. But I also speak as a Westerner living in a largely urbanised culture. I myself have lived surrounded by fields and in the town and I prefer the latter. Co-operation between town and country is essential and, moreover, desirable, but for most of us urbanites 3 acres and a cow is never going to happen. So what do we do? How do we help bring about social and economic structures that restore the town and city to Christ? This is a genuine question.

John Médaille Monday, October 27, 2008 at 1:54:00 PM CDT  

GM, agrarianism is NOT about getting everybody "back to the farm," it's about restoring the proper relationship between town and country. Townsfolk are as necessary to healthy farms as is healthy soil.

Richard Aleman Monday, October 27, 2008 at 2:25:00 PM CDT  


I agree with John that we need a healthy relationship between town and country, as I stated in the post.

One of the remarkable things about NYC is that more and more we are seeing a stronger relationship forged between upstate farms and Manhattan island. This benefits the economy of the State as well, as little by little the city begins relying less on out of state agricultural production.

As far as urban renewal, we can still find some pockets of mom and pops outside of Midtown Manhattan and downtown Wall Street. We need to lobby for laws preferential to small business, and in my opinion, we need to create a networking base, in the same manner as immigrants have done for over 100 years (in the States).

Of course, there is a real estate problem in urban areas, and we may wish to support the scheme proposed by Belloc of tax restructuring (especially in regards to unproductive property), co-housing development, and manufacturing/retail business that do both at the same time.

However, and this is just my opinion, if we do not support a resurrection of the family farm, we are bound to lose.

Creating local economics will indeed require a rural renaissance, and part of that will mean that some of the damage caused by the exodus into urban areas may necessitate an about-face.

But I wholeheartedly agree. Town and country will need to join hands.

Iosue Andreas Sartorius Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 2:11:00 AM CDT  

Readers of this thread might be interested in my posting about a lecture I heard just yesterday here in Korea where I live about this very theme: Swedish Localist Comes to Pohang.

I was expecting typical decentralist leftist ideas, i.e. much I could agree with and much that would make me sick, but instead was surprised to hear denunciations of overpopulation scaremongering as well as calls for local deregulation. An excellent idea of hers was to reverse tax codes which penalize small business that employ human beings and give breaks to those that employ technology and energy.

Anna Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 9:46:00 AM CDT  

We recently drove across the U.S. from Oklahoma to Ohio, crossing the most important agricultural landscapes of our nation (with the exception of Iowa, but it doesn't look much different than Illinois). The journey profoundly taught me, 1.)how empty of caring people the land has become and 2.) how much room there is to creatively and lovingly use the land now trapped in cattle, corn, and soybeans.

Everybody does not need to go back to the land, but a few million would sure help!

Anonymous,  Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 8:21:00 PM CDT  

My family farms near Polyface and knows the Salatin Family that runs that operation. One of the great things about Joel Salatin and what he is doing at Polyface is that he is very intentional and very outspoken about how and why he does things. This makes him very accessible and there is a lot to learn from him on many dimensions. He doesn't really believe in scaling out but would rather encourage others to duplicate and improve on what he is doing in their own communities. In fact he's so eager to see others develop his ideas that he's written several books that are quick easy reads and offer a lot of real practical advice.

Joel says he's a libertarian, but I think he's probably a budding distributist who just thinks he's a libertarian. Distributism seems to me to have the greatest chance of success by being farm and food focused. You might say that JPII's writing on an ontology of Gift is well illustrated in a farming method that hinges on a healthy symbiosis. Salatin probably has as good of a template for this sort of farming as any one that I know of.

Anonymous,  Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 8:45:00 PM CDT  

Guild Master, as far as where to start, you might try doing some research on local farms. Just buying from the local farm or a CSA is a great place to start. If you can find a farm that is intentional about sustainable farming methods that is even better. I don't know much about UK farms but in the States, grass fed and local food tends to almost always be more sustainable than "organic." A lot of our organic food doesn't even come from the same hemisphere, making it very oil dependent. From what little I've read it seems that agricultural regulations in Europe are far less rigid about imposing an industrialized mega-farm stronghold so you may have an easier time connecting directly with responsible food providers.

Finding this will probably require some work on your part as well as some study. But certainly do NOT get overwhelmed and think you've got to go get 3 acres and a mule. This has been a slow and gradual process for my wife and I. However, it has been extremely satisfying.
Also, I read a Wendell Berry essay once in which he recommended a similar "start some where" approach for urban folks. Even, if you're just growing a couple of tomatoes plants in the backyard you're doing something significant and life affirming.

Unknown Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 1:08:00 AM CDT  

I am relatively new to distributism , but it seems to me to be more than just farming. It is a philosophy for life. One that may not be easier, but one that is more simple and there fore freer. We are free to enjoy life without the burden of always trying to be progressive and have the latest gadget. It means doing everything we do with a quality and pride not easily found in this get it now society. I think it represents craftsmanship. Now not all of us can do these things, but for me, as a small business person I find I am not so concerned with the profit and speed, but with quality. I want to make things(I am a carpenter) the people will use for a long time. So much of our stuff is made to break and be purchased again.
I also think distributism fits in with Chesterton when he said something like "Thanks is the highest form of thought" Capitalism seems to be only thankful for profit and the bottom line, where as distributism appreciates beauty, and quality and most especially enjoyment of a thing as what it was made to be or do. A fine cigar is not a status symbol, it is meant to be enjoyed, with a great cup of coffee or maybe an adult beverage. While not all of us can grow a garden or work with our hands, we can encourage those that do. I agree we can all make small steps.

Maybe I am missing something and I know I have more to learn and study but I am finding myself a more content and thankful person. We had a wonderful garden this year, which I did not have time to work in, but did and I found myself enjoying the soil and green on my hands, even on the days when being so far behind on my jobs seemed to be closing in. My children are amazed at how everything in the garden gets used more than once, (plant, harvest, eat, and feed the rest to the chickens, goats, or sheep.) I have rambled on long enough......

Jim Curley Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 3:12:00 PM CDT  

I will say, as someone who is learning to farm in a small way, that the government puts a big burden on the small farmer.

It's not even legal for us to trade a side of pork for the produce our neighbor grows (although we do exchange gifts), never mind selling sausage unless I either spend 20-50K getting FDA approved or spend the profits transporting hogs 40 miles away for slaughter and butcher (and then going to pick them up.)

So we need farmers, people buying local (everything-not just agricultural products) and some laws changed.

Richard Aleman Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 9:02:00 AM CDT  

"I am relatively new to distributism , but it seems to me to be more than just farming. It is a philosophy for life. One that may not be easier, but one that is more simple and there fore freer"

You are entirely correct. Distributism is about putting first things first (as Fr. McNabb used to say).

George Carmody Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 1:15:00 PM CDT  

Thank you, some interesting comments. I agree that we have to restore a proper relationship between town and country. The problem as I see it is not so much what the country needs to do - small mixed family farms selling locally, perhaps using co-operatives, moving away from agri-business, etc. - as how the city sorts its act out. Coincidentally, the very next posting here is an interview with Philip Bess, whose "Till We Have Built Jerusalem" I have recently read. It really hits the nail on the head by tackling the thorny, complex subject of why our cities have gone so badly wrong. It starts from a moral position (the Catholic one) and constructs its vision of the restored city from there. So many modern planners believe if you create a sympathetic built environment, people's behaviour will sort itself out. It's not that simple (or that Godless!).

We grow a little of our own produce, I brew my own beer and we try to support local producers as far as we can, so I agree with what Julian said about "start somewhere", but the reason I put more emphasis on the city than the country is because that is where as Catholics we have, culturally, shone most brightly over the past 2000 years. Bess quotes Card. Ratzinger as saying that there are two tangible achievements that as Catholics we have to show to the world: the Saints the Church has produced, and all the works of art (paintings, church buildings, manuscripts, music etc.) created by the Church. I note that the latter are (mostly) to be seen in cities and towns. The metaphor for the Heavenly Kingdom has always been a city (the New Jerusalem, the City of God, etc.) and this has been a very powerful and fruitful image. The social, economic and moral organisation of towns and cities has a huge potential for good and I'm keen we don't lose sight of that.

I'd be interested in some recent success stories (I'm new to distributism, so I may have missed something obvious) where distributism has helped turn round a town or city. A good relationship with the country is a sine qua non, but here in the UK it is the city that has the attitude problem!

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