Keynote Address

A Conversation about Inspiring a New Generation of Farmers Who Want to Feed the Future


Introduction by Lisa Heenan of Regrarians


Lisa of Regrarians introduced a trailer of a new documentary film about Polyface Farm which was finished last week. Called ‘Polyfaces’, the film was produced, directed and written by Lisa.

LH: The climate of the mind is the hardest thing to change. We ask the question ‘What if you could save the planet by eating better foods?’

View the trailer here.


Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm, Author, Fields of Farmers


The question is ‘How do we inspire a new generation of farmers?’

We have to ask what kind of farm we want and for us the answer is a generational farm. We have four generations on one farm.

In the US the average farmer is 60 years old. We are losing the knowledge and ability.

If the young can’t get in, the old can’t get out.



Every farm has opportunities, but older farmers find it hard to think about them. No farm is full of its possibilities – farms are under-utilised. This is the place for the next generation of farmers – they don’t need extra land.

Farmers are not encouraged to think this way.

The opportunities are limitless based on creativity – we can’t do what we can’t imagine.


Portable infrastructure

The National Parks want environmentalism by abandonment.

Portable infrastructure separates the cost of land from the cost of the farm.

To assume that nature functions best as abandoned is not true. We can add value.


Multiple use infrastructures

This creates ‘confused pathogens’!

Cornell University calculated that there are 3.1 million acres of inactive, abandoned land in the state of New York. In the US there are 30 million acres of lawns.


Start with the smallest viable entity

Successful farmers start out on a small scale.

There is a problem of growing too fast.

Sometimes you have to ask the question ‘How small can this be done?’

Regulations impede innovation. Innovation is seen as a threat.

This is symptomatic of our paranoia towards food; we have become scared of it because we are so disconnected.

Re: process food – if it won’t rot, it won’t digest!

Regulations stifle innovation through costs.


Collaboration is critical

It is hard to admit that we need others.

At Polyface we love to embrace the gifts and talents of others.


Fiefdoms are superior to employment

Everyone wants a fiefdom.

Each person raises their own salary based on performance.

We have incentives with commissions.

We have to let go of the way things are done and let gifts and talents shape and mould our businesses.


Equity of farm

This needs to be in management and knowledge and not in buildings, machinery and land.

What we do needs more people on the farm, but that’s ok!


Electronic aggregation and interfacing

We need to use the internet – farmers are not good marketers.

Maintaining a physical cashier interface is expensive.

Importance of online shopping – companies such as Relay Foods can help as this spreads the customer base.


Solutions are needed from inside out, not outside in

If we have a problem, we tend to look for a solution elsewhere, but real answers come from inside.


Movement creates movement

We suffer with ‘paralysis by analysis’!

We are so tied up with mechanics that we have a rigid interface. We are scared to press the wrong button and scared to take the first step.

Remember: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly first!

We don’t do anything well first time around. We have to learn by our mistakes and learn by doing.


Our internship program is hugely popular. Young people are desperate to learn.

The farms of the future will have no fixed buildings or fences and will be populated by young people.

50% of farmland will change hands in the next 15 years in the US.

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