Authors@Google: Joel Salatin discusses 'Folks, This Ain't Normal'

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 28.10.2011

>>Female Presenter: I'm Liv Wu. I'm an executive chef. I know a lot of you. I'm just delighted
and honored to be introducing Joel. He's a hero of mine and a hero of a lot of us on
the food team. I'm not going to say a lot except to say -- to tell you that this morning
I was playing around on his website – the website for Polyface Farms. It's really a
cool site to visit foodie or no or greenie or no. It's full of fun and full of really
serious stuff. And stuff that makes you think hard. But of course I went to the -- I clicked
on the buy turkey link because it's, you know, seasonal and we just created -- if you guys
didn't know -- an ability for us to group by heritage and organically raised turkeys
that will be available to all of us through Google Green Grocer. But I clicked on "turkey,"
and there was all of this wonderful language that so Joel. It's wonderful white skin, buttery,
moist. You know, it was a great sale. And then, the last piece was a disclaimer that
says 'we will not ship. We don't ship. Please go to your local farmer and buy your turkey
there. And not only that, we suggest you go to visit the farm before you buy the turkey'
and I just went 'huh'. That is exactly what we do on the food team here. This is what
makes us able to bring you great food and makes our consciouses clear about what we're
doing. You may try to drive an electric car or hybrid car, but in fact, what you eat and
how that food is produced is contributing hugely. as much as if not more than, the car
you drive to our environmental footprint. So I love the turkey link. And just with that
I will give the floor to Joel.
>>Joel: Thank you. Are these yours? [chuckles] I need them but they're not mine. All right.
Well, it is a real distinct honor to be here at Google and I do feel like a fish out of
water because I have what is called 'anti technology karma'. [laughter] Anybody who
shows me how to do something on a computer when I do the same functions, it doesn't work.
Took me ten minutes to get out of the parking lot at the Hilton this morning up at Burlingame
because the room key card would not work in the -- you know, I watched the other cards
in front of me all go through, put it in and run out, put it in and run out, mine it doesn't
work and so the gate doesn't come up. So it takes me ten minutes to get out of the parking
lot. That's just the way my life is, you know. But I sure can make dancing earthworms.
>>Joel: And in the continuum of things probably most of us, historically and in the future,
will be far more dependent on dancing earthworms than working key card slots out of a Hilton
parking lot. So -- and as my life has gone, on I have found myself more and more kind
of -- I call it archaic-- in our culture because we live on a farm that is -- that has four
generations living on it. My mother is a very healthy happy octogenarian will be 88 this
winter. She still rides five miles a day on her stationary bike. Drives. Ballroom dances.
Teaches English country dancing to people and sings in the Happy Notes which is an old
-- it's a group of retirees-- who entertains and she'll pop in at our house and she drives
to sing in this chorus at the nursing home. She says, "we're going to sing to the old
folks" and half of them are younger than she is. But and then of course we have, you know,
Teresa and I are there and our children are there and their children are there. So we
have four generations on the farm all living in a commune. It's quite dramatic. It's quite
amazing. And we grow our own food. I feel like we just live in this nest of abundance.
We live in a time when a lot of people are concerned that we're teetering on the precipice
of precariousness in a lot of things. You know, economically, ecologically, socially,
culturally. And so, to live surrounded by a tribe that is devoted to a common denominator
and surrounded by abundance. We like to graze. I like to walk through the seasons. We have
mulberries and pawpaws and pear trees and apple trees and grapes and strawberries and
I just like to graze. I just have these visions of campuses whether they're Google campuses
or any kind of institutional campuses where all the ornamental landscaping is converted
to edible landscaping and you use your GPS technology to just let everybody know every
morning when you get up with a app the strawberries in quadrant 45 are ready to be picked today.
[laughter] The asparagus in quadrant 87 pick some spears on your way to your office this
morning. Why couldn't we do that? And the idea is to return us as a nest -- as a nest
to an ecological womb. Wouldn't that do a lot to take the edge off of the fear and the
concern that many of us have for some of the big picture items around our world. You know,
we could hook up the exercise room to water pumps that would pump water back up on to
the roofs of all of our buildings that are growing strawberries and cucumbers. That way
we don't have to have any air-conditioning and it cools down our buildings so much we
use our human power to pump the water back up on the roof. And this stuff can be done.
It's not out of the question. So, as I live the more live the more I look at our culture
and I look at the fact that we are if first culture in human civilization that routinely
eats unpronounceable food. You know, we're the first culture in human civilization that
eats food that you can't make in your kitchen. You ever try to make high fructose corn syrup
in your kitchen? We're the first culture in the world, in history, that has ever put 1500
miles on average under every morsel of food. That's a long ways. You know, in 1930, one
calorie of food on the table took an average quarter calorie to get there. Today every
calorie of food on the table takes 15 calories of energy to get there. I mean, these are
hockey sticks graphs. And we all know that hockey stick graphs never last. And so, what
happened was -- I'm leading up to why this book came out -- was that as I tried to describe
looking for sound bites of how do I describe what I think has sustained and rejuvenated
and regenerated and formed the glue for human existence for centuries if not millennia,
what I found was that this blip that we call "modern America" is extremely abnormal. And
I run into young people every day like you know -- it's so fun to talk to a group here
at Google. You know, if I talk to a group of farmers, you know the average farmer is
now 60 years old. And they can remember, you know, a day before supermarkets. Today most
of us can't even remember a day before computers. My first book -- I wrote on a typewriter.
You know, when I was in college, there was no computer. I wish you'd just think about
this for a minute. I can remember when TV dinners were introduced. Can you imagine,
you know, no microwave. I can remember a day when there was no takeout. I could remember
when a salad bar buffet started in restaurants. Started during Vietnam era -- Vietnam war
era. It was one of the biggest shocks of Vietnam war veterans. They went, they came back there
were salad bar restaurants. [laughter] Where did this come from? It was like boom! It hit
the culture. But these are new things in our culture. And as I would explain these things
and how, you know, when I was a kid if you wanted to stay warm in the wintertime you
don't have to worry about this in California but where we are if you want to stay warm
in the wintertime you had to get some heat in your house and so, we would cut wood. We
had wood stoves and we would cut wood. And my wife has inherited her grandmother's majestic
wood cook stove that when she and granddaddy went to housekeeping in 1929, that was state
of the art technology -- this majestic wood cook stove that you put little kindling on
the side that's where your dish water got hot. It just kept hot water there all the
time. You see all the old westerns and the baby is getting ready to come and the doctor
says boil water. The water was always there. It was always ready. That was new technology
at that time. And so, I just started mentioning this as I would describe these numerous things
that we've come to today with supermarkets with unpronounceable food, with computers,
with the technology, you know, iPhones and iPads and Google. that this represents an
abnormal blip in human history. And so, what is this glue that is normal in civilization?
And so, I want to just spend a couple of minutes and we'll go right to questions and answer
and discussion about some of these things that I think have been -- are interesting.
They're in the book 'Folks, This Ain't Normal'. It describes what I consider to be abnormalities
in our system. You see -- historic -- so I want to talk about animals for a minute. Because
animals are much-maligned in our culture. I got one chapter in the book the title something
like 'my aunt is my dog is my cat is my child'. And what we've done in our culture, as we
have Bambi-eyed and Disney-fied our culture, and we ascribe anthropomorphistic humanism
to animals and so, we have animal rights movement that has eliminated, for example, wearing
fur. When I was a kid, teenagers would actually get their spending money by trapping foxes
and mink and beavers and stuff. I'm not that old. I'm not that old! I'm really 80. That's
what good food does to you. [laughter] People would -- you know, I remember very well old-timers
saying back in the 20s and 30s. You know, when I was a boy these are people that are
old enough to be my dad in a community, this is how teens got money to go to the movies
or get their first automobile or whatever. And fox skins brought 50 dollars apiece. Today
they're less than a dollar so nobody traps and a lot of places in our country now are
having problems with kids with rabies. One in ten foxes has the mange because of this
explosion because we've extracted humans out of nature. And so, what was the role of animals
historically? Let's talk about chickens. Historically chickens -- because everybody likes chickens.
I mean, chickens are like the most -- the coolest of the farm animals. [laughter] So
what was the role of chickens? Well, historically they didn't have garbage trucks and landfills.
And enough excess food to just throw it away. So chickens were a garbage disposal, salvage
operation in the homestead and the farm stead. That's what chickens were. And that's one
reason why peasants -- chickens were a luxury because there was no grain. Now, let me talk
about grain for a minute. Because our culture -- when you think "farm," you tend to think
"grain." That's what we think in our culture. In fact, we subsidize the U.S. duh Don't look
at me like you don't get this. The USDA subsidizes six types of grain annual production. But
in a day before cheap energy and machinery, if you wanted to plow a field to grow barley
or wheat, you had to walk all day behind ox or a yak or a mule or a horse with a sharp
stick and it was arduous work. And you know at the end of the day you looked back and
maybe the area of a size of this room you actually got torn up a little bit. And then
you could go back and you could hand broadcast seeds. Okay? And those seeds would grow. And
then you had to hand weed those seeds to keep the weeds out of them then whatever grew,
you could go in with a scythe and scythe it down and then put in a shock so it could dry.
It actually ferments just a little bit because of the uneven moisture drying of the stalk.
And that's one reason why people now have so much wheat gluten intolerance is because
we're harvesting it so fast and drying it so fast there's no tiny amount of fermentation
that occurs in the grain, to change the enzymes to digestible enzymes in the grain crop. Okay?
So. You put it in a shock and then you took it in to a hard floor maybe a wooden planks
or beaten lime or rock or clay that you pounded real hard. Anyway a hard surface and then
you beat it all right with a flail and then you would winnow it, all right, throw it up
and the breeze would blow through it and drive the chaff and husks away and then you'd get
some barley. Now carefully sweep that up and put it now in a -- in something that you could
store it away from rats and mice in a day before sheet metal, before mesh metal, in
a clay pot somewhere and hopefully that would last you until the next year's harvest. Folks,
there was not enough grain left over to feed animals. That's why in the Bible, in Hosea,
the prophet talks about a harlot being sold for 9 and a half ephahs of barley. It's not
because harlots were cheap. [laughter] It's because barley was expensive. [laughter] I'm
trying to help us understand here that this idea of cheap grain fundamentally -- fundamentally
changed the role and the place of farm animals that had been normal throughout history. And
so, now suddenly we had all this grain with our ability to tillage, machinery, cheap energy.
And so, now we can go plow up with a great machine. Suddenly the traditional role of
a chicken which was right next to the kitchen to eat the kitchen scraps and the, you know,
the peelings and all the stuff that came out spoiled food being in a day before refrigeration.
Food spoiled what do you do? You feed it to chickens. And then chickens then in return
then cycle it -- the ultimate recycling agent-- and give us eggs in return. That was the traditional
role of chickens. Today, we think we're great when we take our banana peels and our waste
from the kitchens, put it on a truck run with diesel power --especially biodiesel-- and
truck it off site somewhere to a composting operation and then people can buy the compost
for their house plants or little ornamental flowers. What really would be green would
be to attach a chicken house next to each cafe so that the scraps [applause] went right
into the chicken house, the eggs come right back in and now we don't have to truck the
garbage anywhere or bring the eggs from anywhere. That's what I'm talking about is normal, okay?
So, I've just concentrated on chickens but you could take every single animal. I'll do
one more just to show where I'm coming from. Let's take cows. All right? What is the role
of herbivores in nature? Historically herbivores -- the bison on the American plain. Today
the wildebeest on the Serengeti, the cape buffalo in Botswana. We Americans -- we modern
day developed country people-- are absolutely brain damaged when we talk about grass. When
I say "grass," everybody thinks about this close cropped lawn out here or a golf course,
right? When I say "grass," what I think about grass, is little house on the prairie when
ma and pa wouldn't let the girls go out past the stoop of the soddie lest they get lost.
Lost? What do you mean? We think lost, the city beautification committee would cite me
for violating the ordinance for having an unkempt lawn. No, I'm talking about glass,
like if you go today to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, they've preserved a 2-acre
native prairie patch they used it with fire. This grass is 12 feet tall. It's more than
half an inch thick at the stem. It's thick as hair on a dog's back. I still get chills
every time I talk about it. It's an absolute biological biomass soil building carbon sequestering
cathedral. [laughter] And you walk out in there in this 12-foot tall grass. I mean,
taller than the lights in this room, okay? And it's over your head and it just blocks
out the world. And then to imagine this rustling waving mass of biomass for hundreds of miles
out through the prairies. I mean, it is unbelievable. And so, civilization -- civilizations coalesced
early on around grasses, perennials and herbivores because that was the only really nutrient
dense product that could be produced without tillage. Because when all tillage was done
with a crude stick or a wooden spade, it was too precious to do in any scale. And so, that's
why lamb, goat, camel, cow, yak -- all right? Became the centerpiece of civilizational diets
and fish all right? Because that could be fished. You didn't have to till to get seafood.
And you didn't have to till to get the herbivore. And so, that's why that became the centerpiece
of dietary protocol in every civilization. Today, with cheap grain, we have been able
to abdicate this and plow up everything and confine the animals in houses where they neither
salvage nor do anything except for eat erosive, petrol chemical dependent, ecologically debilitating,
annuals that are subsidized by U.S. domestic policy to make cheap food in concentrated
animal feeding operations that have no comparison either ecologically or relationally or symbiotically
or nutritionally to their forbearers who filled a definite function in their ecology of the
ecological womb. So what we've been able to do is extricate ourselves from this historic
normalcy which was the herbivore is the biomass restart button. The grass grows in an S curve.
You with me? S curve. The bottom part I call diaper grass. This is teenage grass and this
is nursing home grass. [laughter] Well, if my job is to take solar energy and metabolize
it into decomposable biomass, carbon sequestering biomass, where of those three stages do I
want grass more often than not? Teenage. Not nursing home into senescence and not diaper
into trying to toddle, but teenage all right? And so, if the grass is allowed to just grow
and get old and die, it shuts down the photo synthetic thing. If it stays very diaper-ish,
it can never really kick into high gear. And so, the herbivore was nature's way before
mowing machines and before cheap energy was nature's way of pruning the biomass to restart
the rapid biomass accumulation. An herbivore is an ecological biomass accumulation restart
button. That's the role of herbivores in nature, all right? And when we go to grass finished
beef, grass finished lamb, we reaffirm that normal role of the herbivore ecology in nature.
We're the first culture -- and I'm almost done -- we're the first culture that views
children as liabilities instead of assets. All cultures in history viewed children as
a blessing. Today we talk about the cost of raising a child. You know, this is the first
generation which the average child has not had domestic chores. You know, kids used to
grow up weeding the garden, picking beans, helping can applesauce. Helping to cook. Today
we call that child abuse.
>>Joel: And I would suggest -- and I know I'm speaking into the heart of our electronic,
plugged in, techno-glitzy world and so I'm doing a dance with you here and I'm not a
Luddite and I love technology. I love microchip, electric fencing and energizers, UV stabilized,
you know, canvasses and nursery and polyethylene black plastic pipe and stainless steel and
refrigeration and there's a lot of cool things we've got today, all right? But I want to
tell you something. Human self-actualization, human self-affirmation, I think, is actually
encouraged and stimulated when we viscerally participate in the physical elements of life.
And there is no comparison with looking back at the end of the day and seeing gleaming
gleaming jars of fresh-made, canned salsa for example, sitting on the shelf that you've
picked the tomatoes and you've sliced and diced and you've smelled it and you've been
viscerally involved, touching, smelling, moving it, and preserving it for the future. There's
nothing that compares with the sight and the ability to participate and have a visceral
relationship with that production on the shelf compared to being the top performer in the
latest video game. One is just cyber. And we see it in our interns. We've had interns
come out of Dilbert-cubicle type situations. And they get there and they describe with
trembling lips and deep emotion that for the first time they were able to build something
that they could touch, sense, feel, and hear the voices of their team members in person.
Powerful self-actualization. And finally, we're the first culture that has devoted so
much time and energy to a national food police -- the food police -- you know about the food
police -- we call them the food safety people. I call them the food police. Who, for the
first time in human history, have told a culture that you know it's perfectly safe to eat Mountain
Dew, Twinkies and Cocoa Puffs but that raw milk, compost-grown raw potatoes and Aunt
Mathilda's pickles now that's deadly [laughter] And so, I want to end -- because of this setting--
, I want to end with a thought about food innovation. Because folks, what has become
normal in our culture I'm suggesting, you know, DiGiorno's frozen pizza, concentrated
animal feeding operations farms with no trespassing signs, food production models that you have
to walk through sheep dip and put on hazardous materials suit to go visit, it's not food
worth eating and it's created a toxic landscape. Just try living down river from a concentrated
animal feeding operation or from a mono-speciated spraying operation in the San Joaquin valley.
We know about this. There are many of us who believe that much of our pathogenicity, our
type two diabetes, the fact that the U.S. leads the world in the five chronic debilitating
diseases of cancer and diabetes and these things. There's a reason why, that there's
a connection here because we lead the world in creating an abnormal food system. Now,
if we're going to return our food system and our landscape policy to a more normal sustainable
regenerative system I would suggest that it's going to require the same kind of innovation
that Google enjoys today bringing innovation to the world. How does innovation happen?
It happens in embryonic prototypes. The beginning of Google is not a 15,000 person campus in
California. The beginning of Google is a couple wild ideas with lunatics sitting on their
little computers fooling around with stuff and dreaming and thinking. But starting small.
And so, what we've got right now is a desperate need in our food system to free up the innovators
at the bottom. Farmers like us that are returning with high-tech, techno-glitzy stuff like electric
fencing and 4 wheel drive diesel tractors, with front end loaders and chipper shredders,
large scale composting and all that kind of stuff. But taking that heritage normal biological
cycling with a healthy dose of appropriate technology, marrying the two together and
coming with an innovative anecdote -- antidote not anecdote -- antidote to the problems we
face in our ecology in our food system. And we have to be able to start from the tailgate
of a pickup truck; from an innovative kitchen in our homes. We have to be able to start
there to access our neighborhoods and our communities with innovative antidotes to what
Wal-Mart and Costco are offering us. And so, that's just as much as I'll say. You can ask
more questions about the food police. That's as much as I'll say right now. But it is absolutely
an innovation thread that runs through everything and that's why innovation always occurs in
the economic sectors of least governmental penetration. And that's why government regulation
is stifling true innovation and antidotes to the problems of society. And so, that's
all I'll say right there about the food police. We can go onto more questions and answer.
I think I'd like to stop right there. That gives you a few tidbits of some of the things
that are in this book "Folks, This Ain't Normal". I think you'll find it a very broad cultural
and I think many of you when you look at, you know, the result of having a Manhattan
project for ammunition but not having a Manhattan project for compost. You'll get this wonderful
epiphany that you understand some of the wonderful things you've heard about elitism and we can't
feed the world will be set in their cultural context as we carry the past into the future.
Because my belief is that the chances are the next hundred years we will need to return
to a more localized, truly solar driven, carbon cycling, biomimicked, kind of existence than
we have learned to enjoy in the last 50 years as we have abdicated historical normalcy in
our civilization. Questions? Comments, anything at all on how all this works.
>>Male #1: Thanks for speaking today. So, I think I buy into just about everything you're
saying. But at the same time I think in order for us to actually have the kind of change
you want to have, we need more than just rich Bay Area people pulling for it. I think the
system is kind of stacked against, you know, sustainable farmers and the real cost of,
you know, factory pork isn't what's reflected in the price but the fact of the matter is
if I was spending most of my income on food, it's hard for me to then also get what, you
know, we think is better, more humanely raised, and sustainably raised stuff. So have you
any thoughts on how you get the people who are not kind of us more bought into the system
and make it possible economically for them to do. People like Alice Waters can say everybody
can afford this stuff but in reality I don't think that's really true in every case. So
how do we get people who aren't us to pull for it, too.
>>Joel: Your question is well stated. I think there are two issues here. One is how do we
get more people to buy in just philosophically after all a lot of people are still eating
at McDonalds. And a lot of people still think they've eaten a great dinner out of a box.
I ran into a an art teacher in Washington, D.C. she said I'm going to retire this year.
Being a very astute male, I said you don't look nearly old enough to retire. And she
said well, I'm not. I'm frustrated. And I said why. She said because our first art project
this year and the first art project is to bring in a cooking pot. This is tenth grade.
Bring in a cooking pot and draw it because they come in different shapes and sizes and
they're fairly basic and easy to draw. And so, yesterday I did the assignment and all
the kids looked at me -- 22 in the class-- looked at me like I had two heads and they
said, "we don't have a cooking pot in our house." Said "what do you do?" "We just open
a box and stick it in the microwave." So I think the question is two things -- one is
how do we get more people to just buy into the idea that I should have a relationship
with my food you know. You know, we live in a culture in which people are far more interested
and passionate about the latest body piercing and hair style in Hollywood than they are
about what's going to become flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone at 5 o'clock.
And this is abnormal. Now, the answer to that is simply we have to lead by example. And
that's where this headquarters is leading in the institutional edge by example. What
you've done here with your meal plan and with all these -- with sourcing and all that is
leading. I call it leadership and that's what needs to happen is leadership by example.
But the second part of your question is about the high price. And essentially it is the
charge of this is really an elitist movement. This is really about elitism. Now, when anybody
ever comes up to me and talks about the price -- that they can't afford this food -- I know
this is very unpolitically correct. You won't find very many politically correct things
in this book. My first response is: right now we'll get in your car and it better be
a cheap car not an expensive care and we're going to go to your house or apartment wherever
you live and this is what we're not going to see in your house because you can't afford
this. This is what we're not going to see. We're not going to see any sodas. We're not
going to see any alcohol. We're not going to see any a tobacco. We're not going to see
any coffee or tea. You really can live without those things. We're not going to see TVs or
iPods. We're not going to see lottery tickets or Disney vacation cruises. We're not going
to see hundred dollar designer jeans with holes already in the knees. [laughter] We're
not going to see -- are you with me. >>Male #1: Yeah.
>>Okay. Here's the thing. The fact is very, very, very few people have no choice about
how to spend their money. And I would say -- and I know again it sounds very uncharitable--,
but I would say instead of us sitting here today picking the lint out of our belly buttons
stewing over how to deal with maybe the 2 percent who really have a problem, let's instead
look around and say, "well, all of us that can, what's my problem? What's my excuse?"
And the fact is if the 98 percent of the people who could do something would do it, it would
so fundamentally change the fringes that the argument would change in a way that we can't
even imagine. You know, it's like people with a 4-acre suburban lawn coming together at
their garden club meeting and stewing about, you know, the 4-child single mom in Harlem
that can't grow a garden. Why don't all you people grow a garden? We got 35 million acres
of lawn in this country. 36 million acres growing food and housing and recreational
horses. That's 71 million acres. That's enough to feed the whole country without a single
farm. So the point is every one who can should. And if everyone who could would, it would
so fundamentally change the parameters of the argument that we can't even imagine the
innovation that would punch out the other side. And, if it became more normal again,
a lot of things would happen -- economies of scale just regular things that happen when
something becomes more normal. Next question? Yes.
>> Male #2: Hi. I'm from the big island of Hawaii. I have a farm and a community there.
We've had -- we integrate chickens. We make biochar. We generate all our inputs. It's
all very lovely. >>Joel: Wow, you are weird. Okay.
>>Male #2: Yeah. Yeah. >>Male #2: A lot of us here are technologists.
And sometimes when technologists get into the carbon, we geek out on agriculture.
>>Joel: Absolutely. >>Male #2: Anyhow. Ultimately though, like
many people in agriculturally sustainable parts of the world, it's not economically
sustainable. We weren't able to for instance build a house for our growing family. So like
many many families one of us has to leave and go to the city -- or Google in my case
-- and be either wash cars of rich people or be a software engineer -- my case -- and
send the money home to the farm. This is like -- it's a -- it's common. It feels -- it's
tragic in a way. I mean, I would love to be there with my chickens and grass and everything.
But is this -- could you say some words about the people who have to leave the farms to
make it work? Because the system is stacked against actually doing it the right way.
>>Joel: Yes, yes. Well, if you would like me to, I would say, " bless you my son.."
>>Male #2: Thank you. Amen. >>Joel: But in actuality, we haven't gotten
where we are overnight and we won't get out of it overnight. And as you know, all innovation
requires disturbance. We know that. All succession, all, you know, freshing up whether it's for
ideas, technology, policy -- it all requires disturbance. And so, what you're going through
in your life right now is the disturbance of an innovative idea that you have brought
to your home, your family. Chance are you didn't grow up on a farm. Chances are you
have this green bug in your genes somewhere, you know? Both Gen and Jean. You have this
thing that is wanting you to move forward that way. And a lot of people do. A lot of
people really want to do something with their hands as a craftsman or an artisan. And I
think our culture has failed the blue collar craftsmanship of our age by worshiping just
intellectual, academic, cerebral pursuits without appreciating the balancing groundedness
that calluses and not to mention immunofunction occurs when we assault our immunofunction
with exercise with calluses and splinters and dirt under our fingernails or grease or
whatever. And so, what you see, then, is you see people with physical, visceral hobbies
whether it's building sailboats or gardening or doing something. We've got people now learning
to cut meat in big cities. It used to be like big Tupperware parties. Now it's meat-cutting
parties. [laughter] Because people want to get in there and touch it, sense it. It's
the Lexus and the olive tree phenomenon. And so, in a place like this you see it very acutely.
And so, I think what you're trying to do is absolutely phenomenal and laudable and I think
there are principles that hopefully -- I wrote a book "You Can Farm".
>>Male #2: I read it. >>Joel: That can hopefully help stimulate
some creativity in how to jump start that forward. But at the end of the day what you're
trying to do is leave a legacy that has moved us innovatively in some direction. And maybe
you won't accomplish it completely even in your lifetime. In fact, I've heard, if a vision
can be accomplished in your lifetime, it's too small. My dad used to say, if you don't
suck a seed just suck and suck and suck until you do suck a seed. So just keep after it.
And remember that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly first. We've all heard
Grandma. We come do adulthood. You know we're children and we're willing to experiment with
things. And we come to adulthood and we become paralyzed with analysis and fear because we
can hear Grandma over our shoulder, "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." And
the fact is, nobody does it right the first time. Nobody. I mean, it would be equivalent
to, you know, to going to a family shindig and here's a little toddler and the first
time Janie tries to stand up, she gets up on a chair she's wide eyed, "Oh look Janie's
starting to stand." Of course she gets this great big grin, she loses her grip on the
chair and falls down on her diaper and all the adults gather around and say "Janie, if
you can't walk any better than that just quit". [laughter] We don't do that do we? We say,
"oh, wow, she's doing." And the fact is all of us toddle first. And so, if it's worth
doing, it's worth doing poorly first and just be encouraged by that and keep going after
it. >>Female #1: Your answer to -- so Kevin's
question was more or less -- there's a lot of people out there who can't afford to eat
well and your answer was well they can afford to eat well they just choose not to. So how
do you change the mind set and convince them that it's something worth doing as opposed
to something that's not worth doing. And I have a second question which is, if you were
king for a day and could change three policies or behaviors or do three things to fix the
U.S. food system what three things would those be.
>>Joel: Oh my. You moved this question -- okay. So we'll go to your king for a day one. Yeah,
because I do believe that it is a mind set. I did a class for a college. It was a real
elite girl's private college on global food issues. The professor of global food issues
wanted me to come and be a guest lecture. I said, "let us do something different. Get
us a classroom with a cooking range in it. You go get some salsa and some good local
artisanal cheese. I'll bring some apple juice from our neighbor's biological apple orchard.
I'll bring some eggs and some skillets okay? So we went in there and I did omelets for
these college students. You know, sixty-second omelets. And we had the salsa; we had this
cheese. We had this apple juice to die for. It's cold pressed; it's got an inch of sediment
on the bottom. You have to be careful eating it because you could guzzle it and ooh, I
just ate six apples. And you have 24 hours to work through this event. [laughter] But
anyway, we did these wonderful omelets for a buck 50 a plate in two minutes per. So I
asked the students. I said so -- because college students are always forlorn no money, no time,
blah, blah, blah. I said so how many of you watched a movie this week. All of them. How
many of you put money in a vending machine this week? All of them. Okay? See? We live
in a culture that's all about victimhood. Victims, victims, victims. I mean, and we're
hard wired to remember what stops us not what makes us go. That's why we call them stoplights
and not go lights, okay? So we dwell on the negative. We dwell on the negative. And so,
the positive part of the question, if I were king for the day what couple of policies would
I do to really move this forward? Ooh, that is a big one. The first one I would do, is
to eliminate all farm subsidies. All subsidies. All these things that -- and you know what?
There are a lot of things that aren't overt farm subsidies. They're kind of sweetheart
deals. You know, things that, for example, make it cheaper to bring a container load
of apples from China than pick apples from our own trees. Because that's, you know, if
you use -- because of all the laws regarding that. So I would certainly eliminate all the
subsidies. The second thing I would do, is amend the constitution with a food emancipation
proclamation. [laughter] And I would grant every citizen of the United States. And I
am dead -- it's funny but I am dead serious about this -- I would grant every citizen
of America the right to food freedom of choice. We do not have that in our culture. And the
Food and Drug Administration now, in response to several suits filed by the farm to consumer
legal defense fund, which I call the NRA of food choice in our country. And everybody
should join it because I want it to be as big as the NRA. Because you see we've been
granted the freedom to own guns, worship, assemble and speak. Well, what good is it
to have those freedoms if you don't have the freedom to choose the fuel to feed your 3
trillion member internal community of beings that fuels you to go, shoot, pray, and preach?
[laughter] It happen only reason that our founders did not give us the freedom of food
choice is because they couldn't have imagined a day in which you couldn't, you know, buy
raw milk from your neighbor and California has now, you know, incarcerated these three
folks down in Los Angeles for having the audacity to take their herd share goat milk from their
own animals off the farm and drink it in their own homes with their own families. Now, folks
this is tyranny. And we're supposedly fighting tyranny around the world with our military
while our own USDA food police sends swat teams out to farmers and confiscate food out
of domestic freezers to keep families from being able to eat foods of their choice. So
I would emancipate food from its enslavement by Monsanto's agenda. And anyone who thinks
Monsanto is your friend, think again. You know, we have trespass law in this country.
If I came to your house or your yard and dumped a bunch of garbage on your lawn that you didn't
want, I'd probably -- the prosecuting attorney would come against me for trespassing violations,
right? But Monsanto can go and dump promiscuous pollen. Those are interesting words. [laughter]
Promiscuous pollen that runs rampant around the community creating sexual orgies in my
plants with life forms of garbage that I don't want and our country -- our own president
-- our Democratic president thinks that I should have to pay Monsanto a royalty for
the privilege of their promiscuous pollen. This ain't normal. So. I would absolutely
say, "you know what? You own you". And you can word it however you want to. But I would
say every person is now -- if you want to take responsibility for your own person hood
and your own 3 trillion member of internal community of beings, you can do it. You can
do it. [laughter] You know. Now, if you don't want to and you still want a USDA stamp on
all the food you eat to certify that it's gone through the industrial food fraternity,
that's fine with me. And you will find me -- I will not be picketing McDonalds. I will
not be picketing the World Trade Organization. I will not be picketing Monsanto. What I want
is to let we native Americans who honor heritage indigenous foods to be able to eat it and
for you to be able to buy it. And if we did that, folks, if we did that, you would see
an explosion of cottage industry and domestic food systems like you cannot imagine. Everywhere
I go around the country. This is a very unusual group for me to talk to. My bread and butter
group have been sustainable ago groups farmers and greenie type food people. And everywhere
I go there is just this almost like a bull in the stall at the rodeo right before they
let him out or a horse right before the horse race. There's just this chafing at the bit
ready to make egg noodles or quiche from my garden produce or lacto-fermented sauerkraut
or charcuterie or artisanal cheese. There's this -- people are just nuts about this. But
in between them and their neighbor and you is this huge food police that says, "Oh, you
can't make pickles in your house and sell it to a neighbor, that's manufacturing. You
live in a residential community." So I have a lady in Texas that told me she got fined
by her homeowner's association because there's antifarming language in her homeowner's association
and she grew a tomato plant in her vegetable, I mean flower garden and that's farming. So
we have created -- we have taken our western, Greco-Roman, reductionist, linear, compartmentalized,
fragmentized, systematized, disconnected, individualized, parts-oriented, kind of thinking
to an unbelievable philosophical apartheid and I think that those of us who want to come
back together in a more eastern holistic, we're all related, and let me own my own body
-- those of us who want to do that and live in our tepees and have our medicine man and
educate as runners instead of mathematics. Those of us who wanted to do that, should
be able to opt out of the greater cultural that normalcy may not vanish from this side
of our world. Question. >>Male #3: Well, how to follow that one up?
So it seems that you're describing a really wedged situation here with the laws and how
the money flows. And you know one of the characteristics of a wedge like that is that the people who
are benefiting the most are the beneficiaries and they have power. How do you break a cycle
like that. >>Joel: How do you break a cycle? Well, that's
why I didn't say -- see? Notice I didn't say if I were king for a day, I would shut down
Monsanto. See, a lot of my friends would say that. If I were king for a day I would outlaw
concentrated animal feeding operations or I would outlaw -- you know what I'm saying?
Or I would outlaw genetic modification or whatever. You see? I didn't say any of those
things. I really believe and I think I'm at home in this company here to say this. I really
believe that the greatest innovation and the greatest opportunity is when we allow people
to self-actualize their own individual expression. That's why on our farm we create habitats
to preserve and enhance the pigness of the pig, the chickenness of the chicken, and the
tomatoness of the tomato. It's in that environment of phenotypical distinctive expression that
you capture the essence of the person and the essence of the gifts and talents they
bring to the table. And so, yes, it is a wedge. And that's why I think rather than try to
regulate out and cherry pick what we don't like and regulate that out. If we just allow
the people -- I mean, right here the people who want to eat differently and buy differently
and by one meal at a time create a different landscape for their grandchildren. If we allow
them to do that, it would just completely topple Monsanto, Tyson, Ciba Geigy. The only
reason they're able to enjoy their position at the top is because they're protected from
competition at the bottom that is absolutely -- that has absolutely jumped ship. You know,
very few people I think really trust Kraft Food to take care of them anymore. We've been
there, done that, okay? And look where we are. We've exchanged 18 percent food costs
and 9 percent health care to 9 percent food costs and 18 percent health care. We've been
there done that. Just like people who are looking for breast-feeding, Lamaze, home schooling,
free food in an institutional setting. Who would have dreamed of this five years ago?
Who would have dreamed of it, okay? This is indicative of an entire desire to not entrust
the current powers that be with my body, my food, and my being. And so, what we need to
do is just free up that -- free up that move, okay? Let it go. And that's what scares the
current big players to death. But that's where I'm coming from freedom from the bottom up
not from regulation top down. And that's the difference.
>> Liv Wu: I love finding this. And I want to read it and have you comment on it. You
call it "scaling up without selling your soul." [reading] "Many successful entrepreneurial
startups morph into Wall Street empires that lose their distinctiveness and in the process
the business chews up and spits out its workers and founders in a mad scramble to dominate
something. Does middle ground exist between the calm talking stick circle of indigenous
circle of eastern tribal cultures and the mad scramble frenzy of western capitalism.
Or perhaps more to the point, in light of recent Wall Street and economic developments,
what values are more important than growth? Especially since cancer is growth." Please
talk about this whether it's the food chain or larger.
>>Joel: Sure. What she just read is something that I wrote actually. You didn't say that
I wrote it, but I wrote that in response to -- I'm going to be very personal with you
as our farm grew and as our business grew we saw small entrepreneurial endeavors like
ours be gobbled up. Look at organics today and look at the take overs of the little innovative
organic players in the game and they've been bought up by the big food companies. We got
scared frankly because we didn't want to get gobbled up like this and sell our soul. And
so, we developed a ten-step value statement for Polyface farms that is a totally anti-Wall
Street empire-building capitalistic value statement that I gave first to Fortune 500
middle managers at the Innovation Immersion Summit in Phoenix, Arizona about five years
ago. And I've given it several times. It probably should be a book. But as we looked at what
is it that defines us as a opposed to a typical, you know, a typical like global, Wall Street-type,
capitalistic corporation? There were distinctive that came about. And I won't give all ten
of them to you but I'll give a few. The first one was so we resolved ourselves that we would
never have a sales target. No sales target. We don't measure success by sales. As soon
as you start measuring success by sales or you create quotas or you say we want to be
at this stage by such and such a date, this many customers, this many sales. As soon as
you do that, you begin looking at people as commodities to buy, sell, and trade. In my
scramble to the top of the heap. You know, notches in my hatchet if you will, okay? And
so, we want sales to be an organic -- almost a serendipitous outgrowth of quality and service.
And so, we don't assume -- this brings me to my second segue. The second one is: we
will never advertise. All growth, if it's going to be, has to come from satisfied word
of mouth. Now, it's fascinating to me that even the companies that spend 2 million dollars
for a thirty-second Superbowl ad still get 70 percent of their customers according to
business journals by satisfied customers -- word of mouth. It still works. And so -- and that
is certainly a mantra here at Google. It works. So we don't assume, if sales drop off, we
don't assume we're not spending enough on advertising. We assume that we must not be
giving the quality or service or whatever. Okay? In other words. And what this does is
instead of immediately making us look outside, it makes us look inside and we think that's
healthy for the organism. Another one is that we will never patent or copyright. Whoa -- talk
about anti-Wall Street. Here's the deal. We want to be lean and mean. And if we never
patent anything, then that means, we have to stay lean and mean to stay ahead against
the copiers. And if we can't stay one stride ahead of the copiers, then we don't deserve
to be in charge. Because really, all these ideas are just gifts. And I know -- boy, that's
a real big one, okay? Especially since this morning I was reading about Steve Jobs and
the antipathy between Apple and Google and I'm watching all of your Apple computers here.
[laughter] And realizing a lot of Google money bought Apple computers. So anyway, the idea
here is that innovation really in a lot of ways is just -- is very much a stroke of blessing,
genius and epiphany. And so, the innovators should be sharp enough to stay a little bit
ahead of the copy catters. So those are just three. But there are ten of these that we
have identified -- one is defining our -- a fourth one is defining our market. We won't
deliver more than four hours away from the farm. Because four hours out and 4 hours back
is about as much as one person can drive in one day. Which creates an ability for transparency.
We don't want to ship anywhere. We want people to come to the farm. We have a 24/7, 365 open
door unannounced policy. Instead of a no trespassing sign, we want to put up a sign "trespassers
will be impressed." [laughter] And that's our commitment to transparency. We're not
concerned about copy catters. We're not concerned about diseases, because our animals have an
immune system. [laughter] We want people to come and viscerally participate in this so
that, when we sit down to dine to this intimate experience of dining, there is a partner we've
danced with prior to meal. And that creates integrity. Maybe one more question -- what's
our time like? One more and we're over? OK, one more.
>>Male #4: Thank you Joel for everything you do. Really really appreciate it. You mentioned
the power of word of mouth. And that's definitely something we're working on here at Google
and aiming to make it better at. We've announced some things that are coming along those lines.
I think you'll find some people in this room and this company that will be very willing
to help you get your message out. Given your difficulty with the swipe card at the hotel
this morning is there anything we can do as a individuals or as a company to help you
get that message out. >>Joel: [chuckles] Thank you. I would say
well for one is -- that's one reason I like to write. Because to me, that is a way -- and
this is by the way available on audio and Kindle, you know -- this book. But to get
this kind of thinking penetrated into our culture. But you guys -- when you said you
want to help, you have a great big voice here. You have a huge voice. And your voice to bring
balance can be extremely powerful. And so, I think that individually in your ripple of
influence, you can add things to the pot whether it's how you eat, where you recreate, what
you do, what you value as a individual and then as a corporation, as a business. There
are certainly things that you could do -- like you're doing -- more of the same. And continuing
to use your purchasing power -- I mean, I'm hearing about buying whole animals. That's
a big deal. So the cafes have to work together. This one does T-bones this one wants meatloaf
and so you get together and you use the whole animal. And you use some blemished fruit.
And you use some blemished tomatoes. Maybe Google could start a cannery here. Maybe you
could have some canning classes and take this one step further in domestic food preparation
to stimulate domestic culinary arts. Because ultimately this big change is not going to
occur -- I mean, it can't occur just with the farmers and just with the food preparers
or chefs or processors. It ultimately has to penetrate to the way we live so that our
homes -- rather than just -- and our kitchens -- rather than just being a pit stop between
everything that's important in life out there actually become an epicenter of how we live,
use our lives and our economic commerce that we domesticate our values. And that is something
that all of us can work on. And that's something I'm sure Google can continue to work on when
I hear about 3 hour commutes and that sort of thing. And so, you know, telecommuting,
working from home, those kinds of things are ways to move that -- to take this information
economy and move it to the next step which is the regenerative economy. That's the next
step we've got to go. We've been the agrarian, we've been the industrial, we've been the
information, now we've got to move on to the regenerational economy. Okay, everybody. Thank
you for letting me visit with you.
>> Joel: Now, may all of your carrots grow long and straight. May your radishes be large
and not pithy, may your drip irrigation never spring a leak. [laughter] May your kitchens
be places of aesthetic, aromatic, romantic sensuality. And may we all commit ourselves
to making the world better than we inherited. Blessings on all of you. Thank you so much.