Farmer Joel Salatin Steals the Title of Your Memoir


Joel Salatin has beaten us all to one of the greatest titles ever for a memoir. But Salatin's version of Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal isn't about the joys of drugs, or deviant sexual practices, or even tax evasion (alas). Instead, it's about being a small farmer in America. 

Salatin's disdain for government bleeds into his dislike for big companies. (To be fair, sometimes it's hard to tell where one begins and the other ends, especially in the food industry.) But unlike many other advocates of organic and local foods, he knows where to draw the line. As he says in an interview this month with The Portland Mercury: "I'm not saying we should outlaw industrial food. What I am saying is that we should have a freedom of choice option for those who want to opt out. If you want to live on Fritos and coca-cola, that suits me just fine."

The rest of the interview is full of Salatin's off-kilter views as a self-proclaimed "Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic." Enjoy!

What are the biggest barriers [food safety bill H.R. 875, currently in consideration in the US Senate] presents for farmers?

The biggest one, in my opinion, is a provision to give the FDA unprecedented power to make warrantless searches on any American farm to determine if practices are "science based."

"Science based" is a very subjective term. I think that what we do is science based but the USDA, [he pronounces it U.S. "duh"] does not believe that what we do is science based. When they say "science based" they're talking about drugs, and vaccines, and pharmaceuticals, and cloning, and a host of other things. That's science based.

Again, this is a perfect example of the pushback as our system gains credibility and acceptance in the marketplace. This is an example of our industrial food system manipulating our lawmakers and the USDA to keep us on the fringes—to basically put this heritage food "in the teepees," if you will, so it can't continue to erode market share. It's not about food safety, it's about controlling market access.

Here's another good bit:

What's interesting to me, is that in order to have consistent political philosophy on [freedom on choice], then we need to stop our War on Drugs. It's not reasonable to say, "Give me the freedom to drink raw milk," when all of the public health experts say that it's not a safe thing, and then tell them, "I don't want people to be able to take cocaine or marijuana if they want to take it." And I'm a pretty conservative religious-righter. Boy it's an amazing thing when I tell my buddies that they have to give up the War on Drugs. But if we give it up and gain food freedom, it would be a great trade-off. The fact is, when the government gets between my mouth and my stomach, that's a pretty intrusive government. The only reason our founding fathers did not give us the right to food freedom, is because they could not have foreseen the day when a neighbor could not get a t-bone steak or a glass of raw milk from a neighbor.

When I spoke with Salatin last year, he gave me a list of three illegal products he'd like to sell to you—farm stand jam, custom slaughtered meat, and raw milk.