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farm of many faces

I spent this past weekend at Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, participating in a two-day intensive regenerative agriculture course that Joel Salatin and his team put on. From sun-up til sundown on Friday and Saturday, myself, and thirty-five other people from all over the country took a deep dive into not only all of Joel’s farming practices, but why they do them and how they work together to grow better food, and ultimately better soil.

It’s the first time in a long, long time that I’ve had the chance to get away on my own, especially for a learning experience and it was so good for me personally, and enlightening to gain a better understanding of many of the things that we’ve been doing on our farm for a few years now, and how we can do them better.

It’s amazing how many different folks, from different walks of life, are interested in the same things. In our group, just to name a few of the people who attended were: an Anglican priest, a factory chicken-house farmer wanting to convert to an organic method, an 80-year-old chemical biologist, and a drug & alcohol rehab worker. From stay-at-home moms to roofers, and truck drivers, people from all walks of life are interested in homesteading and choosing better lives for themselves and their families. In the first few minutes of opening morning, it was inspiring for me to hear where everyone had come from and why there were there.

As usual, we came there as strangers, but by the end of the second day, we were friends. Or at least, most of us had gotten to know each other pretty well and phone numbers were being passed around, so all could keep in touch as they head out for their homesteading journeys.

Virginia, and Joel’s farm Polyface (called The Farm of Many Faces,) are beyond beautiful this time of year. The air was crisp in the mornings and warm in the afternoons, and most of the time, as Joel taught, we found ourselves lost in the beauty of the clouds sitting in the mountains, and all the flowers and lush meadows everywhere you could see.

We had breakfast, lunch and dinner each day all together as a group. Joel’s son Daniel manned the wood-fired hot iron that most of the breakfasts were made on, and everyone on the farm attended. From full-time staff to summer workers in the ’steward’ program, to the apprentices and family members, including Joel’s wife Teresa and his mama Lucille, who lives right next to them and will turn 100 this coming December!

The course covered a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. From raising broiler chickens, to processing them, rotationally grazing 'salad bar beef,' pigs 'n' glens, egg mobiles, pond building, sheep, breeding rabbits, moving turkeys, irrigation, brooder houses, composting, forestry, and so so much more.

I was blessed to stay with Joel and Theresa at their house and spent an extra night, so I could join them for church the next morning. Then on Sunday afternoon, before I headed home, Joel asked me to do an impromptu concert for his stewards and team members (and his 99-year-old Mama). We had a wonderful time singing songs and sharing stories as the rain rolled in and the weekend came to a close.

Although all the information that came my way was a bit like ‘drinking from a firehose,’ it gave me plenty to think about on the drive home and the days that have followed. I am more excited than ever to continue on our homesteading journey, growing food for our families and a better life. And I can’t wait to see where this weekend and the example that Joel and Polyface leads us in the future.

PS: The program that I went through is called PIDS (Polyface Intensive Discovery Seminar) and they usually hold three of them a year, during the summertime. If you’d like to find out more about it or attend, keep an eye on their website or shoot an email to and they can get you the dates for next summer.

They're also accepting applications this week for their Stewardship program, where about a dozen young folks from all across the country are selected to spend five months at Polyface working and learning from Joel and his team (the pic above shows most of the folks who are part of this year's stewardship and apprenticeship program).

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