America’s most famous sustainable farmer to deliver Dempsey Lecture

by University Communications,

Local Food to the Rescue
Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Rogers Music Center
Free and open to the public

Farmer Joel Salatin believes our country’s food system is in a state of crisis — from nutrient deficiency to pollution to animal abuse to rural economic decay — and that all of these issues can be solved by one thing: local food.

It’s not a surprising statement from the self-described “lunatic farmer” whose roles in Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and the film, “Food, Inc.,” have turned him into one of the most prominent spokespeople for the local and sustainable food movements.

Salatin will bring his ideas to Willamette University Feb. 12 when he delivers the 2013 Dempsey Lecture. Titled “Local Food to the Rescue,” the lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. in Hudson Hall at the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Salatin’s family-run Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley uses alternative practices — including chicken tractors and pasture-fed “salad bar beef” — that have become a model for sustainable farmers across the country. Polyface serves more than 10 retail outlets, 3,000 families and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs.

“Most of the things that I do or say are considered lunacy by the conventional agriculture community,” Salatin says. “We’re a nation which is well-fed but undernourished. We lead the world in obesity, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and a host of other chronic maladies. Clearly it’s not just a matter of bins and bushels and volume, it’s a matter of nutrient density and food quality. Those are things our conventional system doesn’t even consider.”

Even regions like the Willamette Valley, known for its thriving sustainable and local agriculture communities, have room for improvement, Salatin says.

“I haven’t been any place in the U.S. where 95% of the food produced there isn’t exported first and then reimported,” he says. “We should be growing it here, processing it here and eating it here. That is ultimately a far more secure food system.”

In addition to farming, Salatin is a prolific writer and sought-after conference speaker whose humorous and conviction-based speeches are akin to theatrical performances.

“If you think the current food system — 1,500 miles between farmer and plate, gluten intolerance, factory farming, reduced aquifers, manure waste pollution and a host of other maladies — if you think all of that is just wonderful, then don’t come to my lecture,” he says. “But if you care about any of that, and that’s not the kind of world you want your children to inherit, then I want you to come.”

This event is sponsored by the Dempsey Foundation and Willamette University’s Center for Sustainable Communities. Info: Joe Bowersox, 503-370-6220.

Related Event

Willamette will host a free showing of “American Meat,” a documentary featuring Joel Salatin, on Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Paulus Lecture Hall (Room 201) at the Willamette University College of Law.

The film highlights the state of the country’s livestock industry. After the showing, filmmakers and local experts in sustainable agriculture and the locavore movement will lead a roundtable discussion.