Internationally famous farmer and author Joel Salatin (Folks, This Ain't Normal, Everything I Want to do is Illegal, You Can Farm) packed a Willamette University auditorium so full ahead of his speech Tuesday night – the whole event was moved to another building just to make room.
Salatin was in town to give the Dempsey lecture, sponsored by the university’s Center for Sustainable Communities.
The subject: Local food and how it can help rescue society.
Salatin is known for taking on the industrial food system and bureaucracy that’s strangling smaller, healthier farms and food entrepreneurs in America, and he did not disappoint.
With still 30 minutes to go before the scheduled start at Rogers Music Hall, organizers had to turn back many, and to the credit of the WU staff and facilities teams, they were able to herd the hundreds of attendees next door to the larger Smith Hall. In about five minutes, no less.
Salatin was eager, and animatedly fired off his point-by-point list on everything from how the industrial food paradigm encourages disease, to how colleges could best turn their campuses into waste-free models for integrated sustainability.
He is a much-loved figure in Oregon, with its obsessions for all edible and drinkable things locally and organically-produced, sold and served.
Promoting buying locally when possible, cooking from scratch and starting out small are some of the best ways to healthy living and overcoming the over-processed, inhumane and inefficient modern-food dilemma, Salatin contends.
Earlier in the day, I was invited to come tour a student-run Zena farm on a rolling 300+ acres of the Willamette Valley with the students and Mr. Salatin.
There, they are working to restore natural habitat with poultry, greenhouse gardens and more organic growing techniques. Students live in the farmhouse during their coursework - and the school food services use food grown there whenever they can.
They are well on their way to cultivating an exciting new host of programs for the – seemingly many, by the eagerness shown Tuesday night - farmers of the future.