My head is still buzzing with everything I saw and heard, but in particular I was really inspired by the way they used and re-used everything, and how they stacked and layered animals on the farm to reduce pathogens, and make the most of every input and output they have. I learned a lot about soils too, and making the most of any microclimates you have around.
Joel has a particularly pragmatic approach to farming in my view - he declares himself a capitalist (among other things) and made no apologies for wanting to make money from his farming, and get the best return from any investments he makes in infrastructure. Another phrase that made me laugh in this respect was "It's easier to pick a man's pocket when you're hugging him" - used when illustrating the point that he doens't mind if the "dot-com boomers" come in and buy their "land yachts" as he called them and then want to buy chickens - he's happy to raise and sell them to them.
What is refreshing though is that none of this capitalism comes at the cost of animals - all the animals get to express their innate traits, and more than once he referred to them as co-labourers - using pigs to plough and help regenerate pastureland as well as aerating compost, rabbits and chickens and turkeys as lawnmowers etc. It is a highly managed system - cows are moved daily - but just looking at the quality of his grasslands (which were the worst farmlands around 50 years ago), and the fast regeneration once animals are moved, it clearly works. His farm also generates enough income to employ 1 person per 25 acres. I suspect many farmers would be pretty happy with that kind of return. Even more inspiring is all of this he's done in a climate that has more extreme temperatures then I have here (+40 to -20), and less average rainfall.
Of course there was a lot more in the days talks and Q&A sessions, like
- all about herbivores (well, he is a cow man!)
- how to beat the "food police"
- how to develop an enterprise that's easy to scale up and scale down
- how to get into farming with no capital and no debt / raising the next generation of farmers
- the importance of diversity in creating a stable ecosystem
- a very entertaining introduction about how we all feel we're worse of than everyone else / how it "won't work for me"
If you're interested in learning more about his methods you can visit the website, and there are some clips on YouTube - and I also recommend another blog I read - Throwback at Trapper Creek, where you can read about and see many of his ideas in action - not to mention some very fine recipes for pies and muffins!