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You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise Paperback – June 1, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0963810922 ISBN-10: 0963810928 Edition: 1st

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You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise + Pastured Poultry Profit$ + Salad Bar Beef
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Polyface; 1st edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0963810928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963810922
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Joel Salatin and his family own and operate Polyface Farm, arguably the nation's most famous farm since it was profiled in Michael Pollan's New York Times bestseller, The Omnivore's Dilemma and two subsequent documentaries, Food, Inc., and Fresh. An accomplished author and public speaker, Salatin has authored seven books. Recognition for his ecological and local-based farming advocacy includes an honorary doctorate, the Heinz Award, and many leadership awards.

More About the Author

About Joel
Joel F. Salatin (born 1957) is an American farmer, lecturer, and author whose books include You Can Farm and Salad Bar Beef.

Salatin raises livestock using holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Meat from the farm is sold by direct-marketing to
consumers and restaurants.

In high school, Salatin began his own business selling rabbits, eggs, butter and chicken from his family farm at the Staunton Curb Market. He then attended Bob Jones University where he majored in English and was a student leader. He graduated in 1979. Salatin married his childhood sweetheart in 1980 and became a feature writer at the Staunton,
Virginia newspaper, The News Leader, where he had worked earlier typing obituaries and police reports.

Tired of "having his stories spiked," he decided to try farming full-time after first getting involved in a walnut-buying station run by two high school boys. Salatin's grandfather had been an avid gardener and beekeeper and a follower of J. I. Rodale, the founder of regenerative organic gardening. Salatin's father worked as an accountant and his mother taught high school physical education. Salatin's parents had bought the land that became Polyface after losing a farm in Venezuela to political turmoil. They had raised cattle using organic methods, but could not make a living at farming alone.

Salatin, a self-described "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer" produces high-quality "beyond organic" meats, which are raised using environmentally responsible, ecologically beneficial, sustainable agriculture. Jo Robinson, the author of Pasture Perfect: The Far-Reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products From Grass-Fed Animals (2004) said of Salatin, "He's not going back to the old model. There's nothing in county extension or old-fashioned ag science that really informs him. He is just looking totally afresh at how to maximize production in an integrated system on a holistic farm. He's just totally innovative."

Salatin considers his farming a ministry, and he condemns the negative impact on his livelihood and lifestyle of what he considers an increasingly regulatory approach taken by the agencies of the United States government toward farming. Salatin now spends a hundred days a year lecturing at colleges and to environmental groups.

Customer Reviews

This book has Lots of great ideas as well as information.
T Zachry
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in starting there own farming enterprise.
I applaud Joel Salatin for writing a book that encourages people to farm.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

278 of 284 people found the following review helpful By D. New on June 20, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nothing has motivated me more than Salatin's book, YOU CAN FARM. Finally, we are doing it! Wish I'd had this book 30 years ago, but the author was a child at the time. Extremely well written, shows how a couple willing to work hard can make a profit (when was the last time the average farmer heard that word?) on 20 acres. Very tactfully explains why most farmers not only are not profitable, but often require someone working off the farm in order to maintain the lifestyle. No longer necessary. But what is necessary is some rethinking of the rules, some creative marketing of what is produced, and a need for the farmer to think of himself (once again) as an independent businessman, rather than a cog in the wheel of agri-industry. Give this one to the young person who wants to go to the land, and watch what happens!
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470 of 490 people found the following review helpful By Oregon Farm Mama on October 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read this book the year my husband and I first started our organic vegetable farm (five years ago). It was a VERY inspirational book, and at the time I wanted EVERYONE I knew to read it. Salatin is highly entertaining and motivating -- the book is well organized into topical chapters with lots of lists and bullet points. It's a great read, and several chapters are RIGHT ON (such as the chapter on what to avoid and how to deal with moving to the country).

However, there are also some big scary flaws in the book that make it somewhat dangerous in the wrong hands. First of all, Salatin's list of BEST farming enterprises is very persuasive but doesn't account for differences between farms, regions, and markets. He ranks poultry operations as being highly profitable, but today chicken feed prices in the west (can't speak for elsewhere) are so high that all the small-scale poultry operators I know have gotten out of the business. Meanwhile, new farmers keep trying to do poultry because of Salatin's book, but I have yet to see it pencil out in reality for anyone.

Also, there's a big math error in that chapter as well. While he endorses vegetable growing as a viable enterprise option, he kills it with faint praise when he says this:

"In order to move $30,000 worth of stuff, you need a lot of pounds of stuff, and you need a lot of customers. If the average person spends $600 per year on fresh vegetables (which I'm sure is a high estimate), you would need 500 customers in order to gross $30,000. Because the price per pound and average purchase is higher for animal proteins, we here at Polyface can do that volume with fewer than 100 customers, on average. That's a hefty difference."

The problem with this analysis? $600 x 500 = $300,000!!!!!!!
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200 of 209 people found the following review helpful By Robert Plamondon on December 15, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In YOU CAN FARM, Joel Salatin describes just how he runs his farm and why. By sticking to the example of his own experience and his own farm, he paints a vivid, detailed, and obviously accurate picture of how he makes his living from farming, and how you can, too.
Most of the farm activities he recommends require little up-front investment or experience. One can start small and expand as one learns the ropes.
We've used many of Salatin's ideas on our farm in Oregon, and they've worked very well for us, and we know a lot of other people who've put them to work as well.
Other writers focus too much on the romance and political correctness of ecologically responsible farming. But romance and political correctness don't pay the bills. "Sustainable agriculture" has to sustain the farmer as well as the land, or it's nothing but a snare and a delusion. Salatin shows a proven path to success and profitability.
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Krystle, on June 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you don't like reality checks, don't read this book. With his no-nonsense attitude, Salatin walks you through several opportunities in farming that show tremendous potential as profitable enterprises, and he also tells you what to stay away from and why (e.g. starting a horse or alpaca farm is NOT the best way to break into farming and turn a real profit, no matter how pretty or cuddly they may be).

Yes, occasionally he does break into a radical conservative rant--but who cares what he thinks about healthcare and New York City? What matters to me is that I come away from the book equipped with knowledge that will help me make wiser decisions. For someone like me who's starting from scratch, what I want to know is how I will do things differently after reading this book, and in that regard, this book was EXCELLENT.

The most important message that Salatin drilled through my head with "You Can Farm" is this: Carve your niche first, start the farm later. Most of us have it backwards. Perhaps too many people have seen "Field of Dreams" and assume "Build it, and they will come." It simply doesn't work that way with farming. That's why so many agricultural operations depend on off-farm income and/or go out business completely.

Then there's the little fantasy of having a patch of land to call your own. I'm no stranger to it; I want to own the land I farm, too, for no reason other than I just want to. But it comes at a high cost, and Salatin won't let you forget it: "Land should only be acquired when you know what to do with it, and the size should be less important than location. Be patient and let your farming enterprise drive the land base, rather than the land base driving the farm.
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