In our grandparents’ time, of course, ranging poultry on pasture was the norm, not the exception. It is only in the CAFO Age (confined animal feeding operation) that chickens have been confined by the tens of thousands in a single enclosed space, and giving them abundant access to grassy pastures has come to seem a radical idea.
More than any other person, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of central Virginia has inspired the recent revival of “pastured poultry”. I am proud to hail him as a personal friend and mentor of more than twenty years.
Polyface has raised pastured broilers for many years for local restaurants, a loyal drive-to-the-farm customer base, and a number of distribution points in Virginia and the District of Columbia. This year they will raise more than 12,000 broilers, using about fifty 10×12-ft movable, floorless pasture pens. The growing birds benefit from the lush pasture, and the manure they lay down is a key part of the Polyface soil fertility program.
Beyond their provision of food of integrity to countless customers over the years, I salute the Salatin’s for their inspiration of widespread adaptation of their model by homesteaders and small producers everywhere.