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February 2 2024

Polyface Farm - Part Two

In which Joel Salatin and I go exploring.

I’ve just returned from a week in America, where I stayed at Polyface Farm. You can read the first part of my visit here.

Part 2

Next we walk to the workshop housing Joel’s pride and joy. A go anywhere 1987 Ford Bronco.

Inexpensively perfect, heating up the front, air conditioning (read - no windows) up the back.

Valuable, digestible dirt gut microbia all around us.

And go anywhere she does. Up slippery embankments, over pond/dam walls, through native Oak and Maple forests.

My phone battery has long since died but here is possibly the most fascinating work of the entire farm - water storage and reticulation.

Nothing grows without it.

Animals and pasture are supplied by a series of higher altitude ponds.

Situated in gentle valleys, they collect water during rainfall events that exude water at saturation point.

They don’t exist where creeks or streams are and don’t collect water that adds to water supplies of downstream reservoirs.

The ponds (dams) are holding areas. A simply designed pipe 15cm in diameter ensures when the pond is full it releases water to the pond below before damage occurs on the wall.

Because of the height, the water is distributed to lower ponds due to gravity.

The water is beautifully clear. No stock have access to any of these ponds. No manure or hoof marks line their sides.

As we climb higher and higher, the ponds continue. A beautiful and again simple design that ensures clean drinking water of the purest kind.

We return the way we came.

Joel talks with such compassion and respect for the land and the animals. A long term view based on the continuity of the of the resilience and productivity of the soil. He talks about building organic matter in nearly every breath.

How crucial building this matter is.

For our health.

Our planet’s health.

That well managed pastures, respected by their stewards (farmers) have the ability to store massive amounts of carbon. Trapping the carbon beneath the surface where it’s meant to be.

Ploughing actually releases some of that carbon back in to the atmosphere. And that’s where agriculture gets some of its bad press.

To confine animals we must replace their diet with seeds and grains grown in monocultures that also rely on the heavy use of chemical fertilisers and weed controls.

Trees are also part of the solution, however it takes a tree approximately 25 years to be effectively storing carbon.

The downside to trees in arid climates like Australia? If the trees burn, the carbon they store is released back in to the atmosphere.

I’m definitely not suggesting we stop planting trees, they have a wealth of benefits. It’s just that well managed pastures have the ability to store massive amounts of carbon and continue to sequester carbon daily.

It seems too basic to be true. But there it is in a nutshell. We hold the key. And we’re literally standing on it.

Soil health is our health and that of the planet.

You might not be able to farm like Joel, but you can buy your food from people who do.

And that makes a very big difference indeed.

Thank you for reading. Part Three to come next week.

If you’re interested you can follow me on Instagram at Soil Sister or Magners Farm.

I’m also on X and Facebook.

I’ve been busy working on a book called Soil Sister - Farming for our Future and I’ll let you know when it’s released!


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