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Back to basics

Farmer and activist Joel Salatin poses in a still from the documentary "Food, Inc." He visited the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition on Nov. 14th to speak about the importance of organic farming. (Photo special to The Voyager)

Farmer and activist Joel Salatin spoke to a packed house at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition on Nov. 14.

Salatin, a third-generation organic farmer, lecturer and author, whose family operates Polyface Farms in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, has been featured prominently in works such as Michael Pollan’s book   “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the film “Food, Inc.” He spoke to the crowd at IHMC in a talk entitled “Folks, This Ain’t Normal!”

Nearly a full hour before the lecture, the room began filling up, and by the time Salatin spoke, there was only standing room both in the lecture hall and in an overflow room set up nearby.

Salatin began his talk by addressing misconceptions that surround the organic farming community.

“Most people think I’m a Luddite,” he said, “but in fact, I am not anti-technology.”

Salatin went on to praise modern innovations and research – but while criticizing harshly what he called a “fundamental lack of appreciation for historically normal patterns.”

 Salatin argued that technology is not the problem; rather, he said, it is this lack of appreciation for natural processes.

“Folks,” he said, “if you have to put on a hazmat suit to go see your food, you might not wanna eat it!”

 The University of West Florida Honors Program, the UWF College of Arts and Sciences, the UWF Department of Environmental Studies, and the UWF Department of English and World Languages sponsored this event along with the Pensacola News Journal and Sacred Heart Health Systems.

 Answering an audience question regarding difficulties in finding genuinely organic, healthy food options, Salatin stressed the importance of reaching out to local farming communities.

UWF is no stranger to the local food subculture: founded in 2010, the UWF Student Community Garden is located on campus near the baseball fields and is a student-maintained project that allows students and the local community the opportunity to work in and benefit from organic agriculture.

“Salatin’s talk reminded all of us of the importance of accountability not only in the field of agriculture but in all fields,” said Rebecca Cleary, English major and member of the UWF Honors Program. “His emphasis on the romantic, and almost religiously sublime, aspects of farming was encouraging in a world in which so many place more emphasis on pure productivity at the cost of integrity.”

Students interested in finding out more can visit for more information or search “UWF Student Community Garden” on Facebook groups.

Rebekah Johansen
Contributing Writer

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