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My Polyface Experience #PIDS2016

Posted 8/5/2016 11:57am by Renae Schlatter.

On July 29 and 30 I had the opportunity to visit and experience Polyface Farm in Swoope, VA. I was taking part in the Polyface Intensive Discover Seminar (PIDS). They held three of these two day seminars in July. The two days were indeed intense days of discovering and learning all about what Polyface is. The sessions are limited in the amount of attendees that are able to be there so that the experience could be more personal.

Joel Salatin talking about their composting system


A common question I received while I was there after getting to know some of the other attendees was, "Why did you want to come to this?" I think after folks found out about my farming background and experience, they were curious as to what I wanted to gain from experiencing Polyface. I feel that no matter what our occupation is and how long we have been doing it, we can always learn from others who are in the same field. Our farm uses many similar farming practices as Polyface does, but their farm is much larger scale than ours. It was interesting to me to hear them talk about time and motion studies they have done for different tasks, ergonomics of doing tasks efficiently and safely, how they have scaled up their operation, and so much more. But what struck me most profoundly was their relationship that I witnessed between them (the Salatin family) and their team. I don't want to use the word staff because they are beyond employees. The way everyone on the team works together in a relationship to make the farm run smoothly and make the farm profitable is amazing. After talking some with Daniel Salatin, he assured me that building those relationships has not always come easy, but with much patience, grace, and prayer, going both directions, it works.

Daniel Salatin talking about his over 20 years of experience raising rabbits


Both days that I was there I was well fed! The days started at 7 AM with a hearty farm breakfast. Farm fresh eggs and sausage and all the fixings to go with it. The meals themselves (three full meals a day!) were worth my time there. Each meal the Polyface team was spread out among all of us attendees, so we got the opportunity to talk with different folks and learn their stories and hear about some of their goals. On both days it was after 9 PM that we were done with dinner and evening "sessions." At the end of the first day, one of the current Polyface interns said I could be back the next morning at 5:30 to help with morning chores. So on the second day I drove out to the farm in the dark and watched and help a couple of the interns move and feed a batch of broiler chickens. I've done that many times here on our farm, but to see how someone does it just a little differently was a great opportunity. One benefit of being out at the farm so early, was that I was able to witness the morning come to life. So, in Northwest Ohio, we really don't have mountains! To be in the Shenandoah valley and watch the morning come to life was a highlight of my trip. (Just check out the backgrounds of some of these photos...definitely not in Ohio any more!!)

Daniel and Andrew Salatin - Andrew speaking on his sheep raising enterprise


Both days we were taught mostly by Joel and Daniel Salatin. We also heard from Daniel's wife, Sheri a couple of times. Daniel and Sheri's sons talked to us about the enterprises they are starting. We also heard from Eric, the apprentice manager. Throughout the days I had the opportunity to talk to many of their current apprentices and interns and learned from them as well. I could go through each day and tell about what I specifically learned, but I don't want to go that route. Did I take some technical nuggets of information away that we could implement here? Sure. But more importantly I went away with this, Ohio and Virginia are not the same. What works for Polyface maybe will not work just the same here at Canal Junction. Some things have been tested and proven and will work anywhere and the wheel doesn't need reinvented. Some things I need to take the concept, the idea behind it and decide how to make it work here, with what we have. 

Travis Salatin explaining raising Khaki Campbell Ducks for eggs

I am so grateful for the experience and the opportunity to be at Polyface and view it in such a close and personal way. I'm sure they were all tired when we all finally pulled out Saturday evening. Both days were eye-opening and rewarding. A big thank you to the Salatin family and their team for a great two days in Swoope, Virginia.


Joel Salatin teaching about mob grazing cattle... "Mobstocking, Herbivorous, Solar Conversion, Lignified Carbon, Sequestration, Fertilization."