Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin
I love Joel Salatin. He is a crazy libertarian organic farmer in Virginia. I have his EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO IS ILLEGAL; and I’ve read his YOU CAN FARM. The latter is his attempt to inspire and instruct young people considering embarking on a life of farming. I loved it, even though there is no way I am ever going to become a farmer.
Here, Salatin rants about how far we have gotten away from “normal” (hence the title) with our industrial food system. He ends each chapter with positive suggestions, some more realistic than others, for taking individual action to end the insanity and start doing something normal again – growing a tomato plant, keeping chickens as pets, etc.
This totally resonated with me. The crazy thing I’ve always thought about books along the lines of “My Year of Growing All My Own Food” and such, is that they treat what used to be normal as a miracle – indeed, case in point, the title of Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE. What we think is fodder for an entire book used to just be LIFE. Of course your grew your own food. People of 200 years ago would be might puzzled that anyone would want to read or write a book about it.
It’s NORMAL. Salatin uses the word “birthright” in this book; it was actually in reference to hunting, but I like to think of it in relation to the whole shebang of agriculture and enjoying nature. It’s our BIRTHRIGHT.
The book is repetitive and ranty, not exactly a masterpiece of literature, but it has been so inspiring to me, I go with 5 stars. I’m inspired to actually double down on my local food intake. I’m researching local grain and upgrading my dairy; I’m using more butter in place of vegetable oils (big sacrifice there, not); just putting a lot more thought into it. And I wasn’t exactly unconscious to begin with.
Salatin even ends the book by confiding in us an experience where he actually broke down in tears as he was about to leave his homestead for a month or two, a very long stretch of traveling for him. He had to stop the car and cry before he had even left the lane leading to his house. I’m touched, I really am.
And although I no longer identify as libertarian – and was not interested in the rants against the government which at times lurked just below surface, and at other times reared their ugly heads – I have to say simply that there’s something refreshing in reading arguments for organic, back-to-the-land living coming from a place other than basic hippie liberal. It’s just different and enlightening and proves that these things don’t have to be “polarized.” Everyone benefits from better food. It’s ridiculous that this should be a politically one-sided issue – like climate change.