We joined American Joel Salatin – Local produce campaigner and self-confessed “Lunatic Farmer” – for lunch in the gardens at Daylesford’s Lake House. The weather may be cool, but sustainable farming is a Hot Topic.
Gathered around a table in the shadow of Daylesford\'s Lake House are chef and owner Alla Wolf Tasker, a handful of local producers and the man they are all here to see - radical famer of the moment, American Joel Salatin.
A passionate advocate of regional Produce, Alla knew she wanted to bring Joel to Australia when she first discovered his unconventional approach to local, sustainable farming several years ago. The fact that his trip coincided with the release of the documentary Food Inc. - and awareness of Joel had significantly grown - was pure serendipity. Alla organized a series of talks and feasts starring Joel at her iconic Victorian Property, where he shared his vision of non-industrial farming, practiced at his Polyface farm in Virginia\'s Shenandoah Valley.
Something of an inventor and an innovator, Joel strongly believes in transparency, working in accordance with ‘Nature\'s template\', and aspiring only to feed a local community in farm\'s bio-region. Polyface uses portable electric fence to constantly move pastured livestock and poultry to new grazing lots (which he call\'s ‘salad bars\'). Polyface pigs, meanwhile, are know as the ‘pigaerators\', because for Joel, \"respecting and honoring the piggness of the pig. Means allowing it to nuzzle around in the hay-strewn sheds that the cows have vacated. This oxygenates the waste and hay into lovely compost, which in turn becomes the farms bio-fertilizer.
All week, excited farmers and foodies have left Lake House with ideas and inspiration from Joel, determined to fix their own local food system. For producers at this lunch - Including Julie Cameron of Meredith Dairy, Tuki\'s Robert Jones, and Brendan Eisner from Daylesford Organics - it\'s a chance to thank Joel and share their beautiful produce with him as part of the menu that Alla has created.
For his part, Joel hopes that the ‘Chose local\' mantra of growers everywhere will reach the city dwelling home cooks too. \"I encourage them to shorten the distance between the plate the and field\" he says \"the apparently abundance that people see at supermarkets is false security, throughout history, stable communities have fed themselves. They have had their own butcher, baker and candlestick maker.\" Alla agrees \"30 years ago, we relinquished responsibility. We said ‘were really busy, we want food that\'s cheap and accessible\'.\" \"But foodies are now helping to lead the movement back. The desire to reconnect is being expressed everywhere, through farmers markets and farm stalls.\" Says Alla.
If there\'s one thing that Joel believes is that the foodie revelation will happen through the kitchen door. \"The main thing that people can do is to rediscover their kitchen,\" He says \"buy raw, local ingredients and mix them puree them, cook them, do whatever, just don\'t be taken in by the clever rearrangement of the same ingredients in bright packaging that processed food represents.\" His main message is: step away from the super market trolley. \"That may mean having organic boxes delivered, visiting a farmers market, or just visiting a farmer,\" Joel advises. \"There are farmers all over the place struggling to make a living.\"
For her part, Alla hopes Lake House\'s board appeal with help spread Joel\'s message. Although, Joel wants to reach even further. \"In one of my last lectures, I said that I would like to see the quality of food that Lake House serves deepen its market penetration beyond the hoity-toity foodie circles,\" says Joel \"Alla didn\'t let me forget that one: she keep teasing me afterwards, saying, ‘Oh so were Hoity Toity are we?\"
Joking aside, the pair certainly agrees on one thing: good food is worth celebrating. Reflecting on a wonderful meal, that ended only reluctantly as the sun set, Joel remarks, \"If its one thing that culture comes together for, its good food, we just light up around it.\"
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