Two Saturdays ago, I took a trip to Polyface Farms, the iconic biodynamic 550 acre farm outside of Staunton, VA made famous by Michael Pollan in his Omnivoire’s Dilemma for its farming practicies (mimic nature, environmentally friendly, respect for animals, etc). It felt appropriate to pay homage to this book and welcome the changing seasons with a visit to a farm that gave me the guidance I needed to eat meat without the guilt that tends to accompany my animal-based meals.
At one point in my food journey, I virtually eliminated nearly all forms of animal protein from my diet in an attempt to rid my body of some painful and persistent Irritable Bowl Symdrome (IBS)-like symptoms. Although I noticed some aesthetic changes to my shape, the reality was that my increasingly leaner body felt weaker, not stronger, as I had hoped. I felt increasingly sluggish, tired, and, well hungry!
With a little more experimentation, I began to understand that the best way for me to heal a sick, bloated belly was to eat a balanced diet that included some animal protein (and a lot less refined and natural sugars). These little tweaks are all I seem to need to consistently and sustainably meet my energy needs. Reading about the Polyface farming model led me to understand that the animals I eat enjoy same benefits of a balanced diet that I do. What I’ve found is that I not only prefer pastured raised meats over factory farmed meats based on taste, but it also makes me feel better.
While some Polyface food products are available at DC farmer’s markets, a trip to Polyface, local food tasting in Staunton, and the opportunity to walk the farm that Joel Salatin pioneered, made the trip to buy eggs and chicken from the farm store worth the extra effort. Unlike the skinless, boneless, cellophane wrapped meats that may appear clean in a well-lit grocery-store, the free-range Polyface chickens I observed have the enviable distinction of having been raised in a “happy place”.
Upon arrival at Polyface farms, the lush green backdrop, and the overall transparency of the operation left a lasting impression on me. The store’s grocery is open from 10am-4pm on Saturday and is a large, uncluttered space, simply decorated with a very modest “hall of fame” and a wall where t-shirts and books are sold. The refrigerated section had a section for meat, chicken, and eggs. Before venturing out to tour the farm, I bought some chicken and eggs and set out to get closer to the chickens and cows that lived there.
The highlight of my visit was watching the chickens leave the Eggmobile shelter to sun and exercise themselves with walks along the grassy hill. If you are ever in the VA area, I highly recommend a visit to Joel’s farm for some farm-fresh air and a better understanding of a farming practicing that emphasizes respect for animals, which ultimately makes for tastier food.