Exploring Polyface

This past week I went to visit Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Staunton, Virginia. I have long admired Salatin’s work and writing. Even though I lived in the Shenandoah Valley for years, I had never heard of Polyface until I moved to New York and started paying more attention to the types of food we eat and where our food comes from. Somewhere along the line we watched the documentary Food, Inc., which features Salatin and his farm, Polyface. We have been Salatin fans ever since.

Turns out, Polyface is only a short drive from my parent’s home. My dad, daughters and I drove out to Polyface last week. I have had a craving for roast chicken and I was hoping Polyface would have some pastured chicken for sale. I also wanted to see the farm for myself and was hoping there would be some animals out and about for my girls to see.

The rocky hills of Virginia were at their finest the day of our visit. Mist gently hugged the hills as we drove along windy, country roads to Polyface. The closer we got to the farm, the lower my cell phone reception got. By the time we got to the farm, I had no reception.

Polyface was nestled among the hills and when we turned into the driveway, we were greeted by several chickens roaming freely in the field next to the driveway. The farm store set back behind the house. The store was larger than I had anticipated. It was meticulously clean and well-stocked with a variety of pork, poultry and beef products. I was excited to find that Polyface sold meat products not typically found in a grocery store, such as chicken feet and pork fat. Indeed some of the products Polyface carries, I have not been able to find from my own local farmers. The store also had t-shirts and Salatin’s books and DVDs for sale.

On one of the store walls was large map of the farm and magnets with pictures of each type of animal on the farm. Each magnet was placed at the corresponding location where the animal was located on the farm so we knew where to go to find each type of animal. Polyface is one of the only working farms in our nation that allows people to explore their farm beyond the farm store. Do not misunderstand-Polyface is not a petting zoo or u-pick type of farm. Polyface is a working farm. It is a farm that believes in openness and as Polyface states, “Anyone is welcome to visit the farm anytime. No trade secrets, no locked doors, every corner is camera accessible” (Polyface Guiding Principles, n.d.).

After purchasing our items, we set off to explore the farm. The rabbits were our first stop. My girls were fascinated by the rabbits, which nibbled the blades of glass from my girls’ delighted, but timid, fingers. Our next stop was the chickens and then cows. Finally we made our way to the pigs. There were pigs of all sizes and colors housed in a barn. Bails of hay were stacked to the ceiling in one section of the barn, while the other parts of the barn were divided into various sections to hold different-sized pigs. The girls enjoyed seeing the smaller pigs, while I was surprised to discover most of the pigs were actually larger than I am.

We spent a few hours at the farm, roaming around and exploring. I loved being surrounded by the rolling Virginia hills, but at the same time I felt isolated (more about this in a future blog post). I also felt overwhelmed, as the realization of all there is to do on a farm started to sink in. There is no shortage of things to do on a farm where the animals are taken care of from their birth all the way to selling their meat. Yet, each thing that needs to be done has purpose and involves life- creating, growing and sustaining life. We all need to eat. This is a simple fact. Yet, I think here in this simple fact is where so many of  us do not comprehend the significance of our choices.

At first when my husband and I started analyzing and changing our eating habits, it was with the goal of being healthier. Of course it is healthier to eat wholesome foods, as well as know where our food comes from and what it is made out of. Now that we have been doing it awhile, we have realized we continue not just because it is healthier for us, but also because it connects us with the land (even if it is not our own), those around us (builds a sense of community) and our creator. There is something incredibly fulfilling to knowing where our food comes from and knowing exactly what is in our food. Tonight, judging from the scent wafting through the air, I am going to thoroughly enjoy the roast chicken we will be having for dinner and I am thankful that I know a farm not too far from where I am staying where I can find wholesome food.

Reference:

Polyface Guiding Principles. (n.d.). Polyface. Retrieved April 25, 2012, from http://www.polyfacefarms.com/principles/

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The Value of Simplicity

It has been ages since I have blogged. We had a health crisis in the fall and it has taken a bit of time for us to get through the crisis and return to normal life. Wholesome living remains one of our family’s goals . We have not made any major changes to our wholesome living principles in some time. For the most part, we have been content with the foods we decided to eat (and not eat), products we use and the way we have decided to do things in our home. However, there is always room for improvement. In this instance that improvement can be summed up in one word: Simplify.

To live simply is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in the past few years, and one that I continue to learn with each passing day. With less things comes less stress, at least for me. Simplification does not always mean having less stuff. It may mean simplifying the way we do things or the way we organize our lives. The Amish have always fascinated me. I admire and am inspired by their choice to live simply. What is so interesting to me is, in many cases, they do not believe that modern conveniences are inherently evil. Instead, many believe that most modern conveniences will speed up life to a pace where the most valuable tenets and moments of life will be overlooked and/or not appreciated or cultivated.

Often it seems as if we are all racing to accomplish our goals as efficiently as possible all the while attempting to acquire the biggest and best toys. In such a culture, to live simply seems to be a foreign and, at times, repulsive idea. Why would a person spend forty-five minutes hanging clothes on a clothes line when it takes only five minutes to toss them in a dryer? Why would a person hang out with someone in person to find out how his/her friend is doing, when Facebook is only a few clicks away?

I am finding there is such beauty and serenity in taking the simpler path in just about every area of life. I am also finding that it can be healthier. Hanging clothes on a clothes line provides sunshine and exercise for my children and I. Things like bleach, fabric softener and anti-wrinkle sprays do not need to be used either. It is a blessing to do work outdoors and watch my girls giggle, laugh and run in the grass around me.

Cooking from scratch reduces cluttering up my shopping cart, refrigerator, and freezer with quick-fix, processed meals. By not keeping processed foods in our home (for the most part), it reduces the health risks that come along with eating those types of foods. Cooking from scratch also provides a bonding experience, as cooking in our home is a family activity. I always feel a sense of satisfaction when I open my fridge at the end of the week just before I go out to grocery shop and realize we did indeed eat all the groceries we bought from the store or market.

I am always battling to reduce the number of clothes in our home. This helps keep laundry manageable and rooms cleaner (fewer clothes equals fewer items for toddlers to pull out of drawers and scatter throughout the house). I always feel such as sense of satisfaction when I reduce the number of clothes we have and donate them to people in need. I have to admit, I was pleased when I packed for a three-week long trip and was able to fit enough clothes for three of us in one suitcase. Having fewer clothes also helps reduce mental clutter as there are fewer outfits to choose from when deciding what to wear. Less time is spent pondering what to wear and/or trying to figure out what child needs what type of clothes for each new season or growth spurt. If each person is limited to only a few outfits, then it becomes a lot easier to identify who needs what.

There are so many areas of our lives where we could simplify in one way or another. This is the first of a few posts on the topic that I hope you will enjoy. I have found when I simplify and de-clutter life as much as I can, it helps clear my mind as well. I just feel better. I feel less bogged down and more willing and eager to spend time on the things that truly matter in life: my relationship with the Lord and my relationship with all those around me.