The food process by Richard Jones


A look at Polyfaces (G)

CENTRAL Victoria plays a pivotal role in a documentary about sustainable agriculture, which had its Australian premiere at Bendigo’s Star Cinema recently.

It’s not that the farm is based close to Bendigo. It’s not – it’s in Virginia in the United States.

But the documentary makers are from Eppalock 20km from Bendigo: Lisa Heenan, her husband Darren Doherty and their daughter Isabella Doherty.

Darren runs a global farm consultancy business while Lisa works closely with him so branching out into a doco on agricultural and consumer health issues was a way to spread their message worldwide.

So who and what does the Heenan-Doherty film portray.

Well, it’s about Joel Palatin and his Augusta County farm in Virginia. The farm is actually sited in the Shenandoah Valley and Salatin has lived there since 1961 when his parents bought the property.

It was virtually a rock pile when the family moved in, intensely farmed during the first few centuries after white settlers started farming.

Gradually the Salatins restored the land using natural systems and shunning chemicals in their farming methods.

They used a planned grazing system, moving their cattle every day. Poultry, chickens and turkeys then use the land where the cattle were grazing and trodden in their manure. From time to time pigs are moved in.

So the Salatins instinctively knew that animals are woven into the landscape’s fabric with the nutrients from their waste used as fertilizer.

One sequence in the documentary shows a flock of chickens devouring a host of bugs which had been camped in a manure-enriched pasture.

Over the decades the Salatins provided food to the people in their region. But the huge spread of the internet has allowed the farm and its owners to communicate much more directly with interested customers allowing sales to grow and expand.

And the documentary doesn’t shy away from showing how difficult work on a farm can be. Not just the herding of cattle but a range of other physical labours which go into running a farm are also shown.

We also hear from Polyface employees who offer stories about the benefits of eating non-processed food and how they love working in harmony with nature.

Salatin tells us how he and his team raise pigs, turkey and even rabbits along with meat chickens and egg layers. To distribute water to his farm Salatin has connected 15 miles (24 km) of piping to a pond which sits above his barn, farmhouse and pastures. 

I suppose the last word – a visual sighting really – should go to the toddler who sighs delightedly as she bites deeply into a freshly-picked tomato.


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