Our Brisbane chapter were lucky enough to catch the Queensland premiere* of Polyfaces, a must-see doco that delves into the unique people and farming practices behind Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. With the film now available to watch online, we now have a totally legit excuse to crank out the wine with a bestie for a night in that we can be a little bit proud about.
Polyfaces was created by Bendigo filmmakers Darren Doherty and Lisa Heenan, and is set amidst the picturesque Shenendoah Valley in Northern Virginia. Over four years, the Aussie couple documented their visits to Joel Salatin’s farm, beautifully presenting daily life on the farm and the family’s unorthodox farming methods.
What we loved about Polyfaces is that it didn’t just cover how the farm transformed the land, but also the lives of those on and around it. Lisa Heenan said that “We wanted to make a film that would touch people’s hearts.” And for us it did that. It was wonderful to see the more personal side of sustainable farming, and to see how powerful a supportive community can be to achieve great ends, both from a financial and ethical standpoint. On a personal level, the farm also gave each family member meaningful purpose. In life, in their work, and in what they could share with one another.
But how did it all start? The Salatin family began their journey on spoilt, over-used land and soil, which had been stripped of the nutrients essential to producing nourishing food. To revive the land, they planted trees and and produced compost. They raised their livestock on grass rather than feed shipped in from afar, which ensured movement and regrowth. And they changed the way they sold their food, only ever offering seasonal products to a community who were in reach of their ‘foodshed.’ Over time they proved that environmentally restorative farming (and distribution) practices can offer truly sustainable alternatives to conventional farming.
The decade long family-run business now serves as a challenge to certain agricultural norms. The farm uses no synthetic pesticides or herbicides for example, instead favouring sustainable rotation and grazing methods to feed over 6,000 people in the surrounding area.
Polyface farm also use animals and their er…natural bodily functions (we’re gonna say it…poop) to produce high quality, nutrient-dense food. In intensive ag, those bodily functions are so concentrated they become a “waste” problem and burden to the land. At Polyface, they’re managed so that they become a resource.
The filmmakers and the Salatin family left us optimistic about a farming future that didn’t have to be exploitative, in a beautiful and concrete way. And that alone is a great reason to watch the Polyfaces story unfold.
Thoughts from Evie and Lucy, Youth Food Movement Brisbane.
Image credit: screenshot from trailer
*The Brisbane premiere was one of Inspired Living Events’ film nights which Kristen Ottoway has been running monthly since 2013. If you’ve never been to an Inspired Living Event, DO IT! They are so much more than film nights, and it’s always great to meet other people who care about living sustainably.