I Have 180 Photos of Chickens on my Camera

I’m pretty sure Shaun and I reaffirmed our Weirdest Couple Ever title this Valentine’s Day when I got him a cookbook and he got me tickets to a farm. Not like a sexy farm,* a farm farm. With poop and tractors. So yesterday for Valentine’s Day, I sat on a wagon, trudged through mud and touched animals. HOT. Right?

In all seriousness I was counting down the days until our visit to Polyface Farm ever since he gave me the tickets, and not just to cross it off the C’Ville Bucket List. It was an important day because it was a chance to see sustainable farming and animal rights in action, a chance to see where our Thanksgiving turkeys came from, and a chance to be a part of a community that I hope one day will be powerful enough to combat the plague of misinformation that fuels our government-funded agricultural system. And, exhale.

I know I mentioned Polyface a few times on the blog [notably, here]. Please refer back to that post for the low-down so I can get into the nitty gritty today. After all, I have 180 photos of chickens to share with you.

like this one.

Joel Salatin himself ran the tour, which lasted two hours and covered a chunk of the 450 acres of land the family uses to bring healthy, happy meat to Central VA. We made four stops total [hens, cows, baby hens, pigs], and learned a little bit about what each animal contributes to the system.

joel + henz.

joel salatin.

this was serious tractor business.

The animals rotate through patches of land daily, with hens eating bugs, cows trimming the grass and providing a layer of carbon fertilizer IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, and then pigs coming in and making a mess of the land so that it can grow fresh and new. They work as a team to build, destroy, and rebuild the land, all the while eating natural diets of grass and grain. Salatin actually said that one of the most important things involved in land preservation is destruction. National Parks are some of the most unhealthy, ecologically-unsound patches of land in the country, according to him. This is because destruction [natural disasters, wildfires, animals] allows for fresh growth, and human intervention has all but stopped that process. According to Joel, human intervention in all forms is what’s wrong with our agricultural system today.

That’s why he lets the animals do all of the work grazing and fertilizing. A little help from some movable fencing and farm hands each morning shifts the animals onto their new patch so they can get down to business again. There are no large buildings or structures on the farm – just land. And it’s pretty darn green, too.

lil' workers.



like i said.

Aside from being green, this farm does not smell, at all. I don’t know how I can stress this to you. THIS FARM DOESN’T SMELL IN THE LEAST LIKE ANYTHING BUT FRESH GRASS. SERIOUSLY. UGH. Once Salatin pointed this out to us, we all let out a collective “wow,” because who doesn’t associate a farm with nasty scents and flies? Isn’t that why people don’t want farms near their homes in the first place? Not only does Salatin’s method need no structures, it also creates no smells. Because there’s no chemicals, toxins, dead animals, antibiotics, nothing to stink up the air. Also, there have been only four animal illnesses in the last 16-20 years. I can think of four meat recalls in the last few months and numerous cases of mad cow from the industrial “farms.” It’s not only safe and sustainable, it’s a method capable of being reproduced in tiny plots of land [think: suburban backyard rotations. You wouldn’t need fertilizer OR a landscaper].

Ok, re-cap: green, structure-free, scent-less, hormone-less, antibiotic-less, healthy, safe, ethical. Want more? Happy. Bear with me. These animals are happy. They interact with humans, they’re not afraid, they’re almost sweet. The rabbits were nicer than my childhood pet rabbit, Snowball.** Try picking up a Tyson hen. Even if you could get access to their facilities, you wouldn’t want to or be able to touch one, because it’d smell so bad, you’d have to wear a haz-mat suit [Salatin: “If you have to wear a haz-mat suit on the grounds where your meat is kept, do you really think you should be eating it?”], and it would be terrified of you. I had hens climbing on my feet and pigs walking up to me to say “sup” at Polyface. It really allows you an up-close with your dinner.

Don’t let me overstate this, though. The animals are happy but they’re not pets. I think one of the reasons that carnivores and vegetarians don’t see eye to eye is because neither side embraces the middle of the spectrum when proselytizing about their habits: carnivores tend to think all vegetarians are blood-throwing PETA advocates, and vegetarians are inclined to believe every meat-eater moonlights as a health inspector at Smithfield. We butt heads because we fail to find the nuances. Polyface is the perfect place for the two camps to meet in the middle. Salatin doesn’t treat his animals like inanimate objects like Big Ag does. They’re not pumped full of chemicals or sent down conveyor belts. However, he doesn’t name each hen, cuddle with his pigs after dinner, or kiss his cows goodnight. They’re his animals, but they’re also his workers and our food.

Polyface reminds me that in some alternate universe where sustainable farming is the norm, I won’t want to be a vegetarian forever. In the meantime, I’m going to live out that alternate universe for three meals: chicken, beef, and pork that we picked up on the farm. Stay tuned for three meat-filled meals from yours truly, starting tonight with beef. Let’s hope I know how to cook it…

I’m 100% thankful for my non-sexy Valentine’s Day gift. My gift to you guys? Pictures of animals. Voila.

the farm's dog, Michael. grady-sized!

i loved him.

rabbits...feeding the hens. brilliant.

love bunnies.



177... just kidding.

seriously, loved the rabbits.




ears like grady.



After writing this I googled “sexy farm,” hoping to provide you with an entertaining link. NEVER GOOGLE “SEXY FARM.”

** He was a demon. I really think he was sent from the seventh circle to terrorize the Marello family. He bit, he escaped, he made weird grunting sounds, and he grew to the size of a small dog.


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Categories: C-Ville, Food


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/courtney-marello/1a/375/b30 Tumblr: http://abarrelofoddsandends.tumblr.com/


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8 Comments on “I Have 180 Photos of Chickens on my Camera”

  1. April 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    That is awesome! He he he… “sexy farm.” Nothin’ sexier than getting your hands full of animal feces!

  2. April 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I’m jealous! Looks like you had a wonderful experience; Joel Salatin is one of my heroes. I also love chickens and would have a bunch if my townhouse community would let me!

    • April 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

      He really is very interesting. I think he’s a good face for the movement. And I agree with you on the chickens! I’d love to have a few. I think my dog would FREAK out though… 🙂

  3. May 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I love this! We share opinions about happy meat, but you’re a wittier writer than I. 🙂 I’m posting a link on my blog. Thanks!


  1. How We Spent Other People’s Money | Ryes and 'Shine - April 16, 2012

    […] course for me was the bibb salad: apple, boursin cheese and candied pecans. For Shaun: Polyface fried chicken livers. I snagged a bite of his cornbread because I am a carb floozy, and […]

  2. Polyface Meat Meal #2: Chicken | Ryes and 'Shine - April 23, 2012

    […] is part II of III dinners made from meat we purchased at Polyface two weekends ago [for meal #1, go here], and of the two it certainly takes the cake. This lil’ 3-lb chicken […]

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