Author encourages Duluth crowd to be connected to foodIf Joel Salatin had his way, the eggs you have for breakfast this morning would come from your own chickens.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
If Joel Salatin had his way, the eggs you have for breakfast this morning would come from your own chickens.
Salatin, a farmer from Swopes, Va., preached the gospel of growing your own, raising your own and preparing your own food to an admiring crowd of about 300 people Saturday afternoon at the Marshall Performing Arts Center on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus.
“If we had enough chickens attached to every kitchen in America to handle just the scraps that came out of that kitchen, there would be no egg commerce in the U.S., and we would drop landfill use by 30 percent,” Salatin said.
Apartment users wouldn’t be exempt in Salatin’s scraps-to-chickens scheme.
“Sure you’ve got room for chickens,” he said to appreciative chuckles. “Throw out the parakeet cage. Get rid of the aquarium. Your average pet dog generates more poop than 11 chickens, and all you need is two.”
Salatin was the keynote speaker for Community Wellness Day, a daylong event at UMD sponsored by St. Louis County, the city of Duluth, UMD, Associated Chiropractic of Kenwood, Essentia Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield and other organizations.
On the subject of growing your own and buying food locally, he clearly was preaching to an enthusiastic choir.
Before Salatin’s talk, Tony Macioce of Asssociated Chiropractic presented the Community Champion award to Kristin Stuchis, who envisioned and spearheaded the Hillside Public Orchard in what had been a vacant lot at Ninth Avenue East and 10th Street.
Sitting in the front row, Joel Swan of Duluth frequently nodded his head in agreement as Salatin spoke. Although he and his wife live in an apartment, Swan said he has been able to put many of Salatin’s ideas into practice.
Swan has a plot in a community garden on Sixth Street and a hydroponic garden in his apartment and hopes someday to have his own land on which to apply Salatin’s ideas. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can about how to make this happen,” he said.
Salatin, who wore a blue blazer over a red button-down shirt and khaki pants, spoke for nearly an hour. He kept the audience engaged with humor and an active speaking style, his voice carrying a hint of Southern drawl. When telling his audience why tomatoes grown in the backyard are so much better than tomatoes from the grocery store, Salatin illustrated what tomatoes go through in shipping by bouncing across the Marshall stage.
“And then we wonder why they taste like cardboard,” he said.
Salatin’s theme was that Americans need to return from a segregated food system, in which the food we eat comes from somewhere else, to an integrated food system, in which we know where it comes from and are involved in its production.
The segregated food system is a development only within the past century, and it hasn’t been an improvement, Salatin said.
“We’re in a culture that’s so disconnected from real food that we don’t know what real food is,” he said.
The abandonment of real food neared its height in the 1960s, Salatin said, “when we were enamored of TV dinners and Velveeta cheese. We even abandoned breast-feeding as Neanderthal.”
But he said he’s seeing a movement back in the right direction in what he calls the “local food tsunami.”
Salatin himself is part of that tsunami. He plays a prominent role in the book “The Omnivores Dilemma” and the documentary movie “Food, Inc.” His own most recent book is called “Folks, This Ain’t Normal.” He talked about finding himself to be a cultural icon.
“I feel like Cinderella,” Salatin said. “Suddenly you wake up, and you’re chic. That’s pretty amazing.”
In an interview, Macioce said the impetus for Saturday’s talk began after last year’s wellness day, when organizers suggested seeking a big-name speaker.
“I said I know exactly who we should bring in,” Macioce said. “There’s already a semi-underground movement happening to get more local food. This might be a neat way to spur some lasting change.”