Thanks to The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Joel Salatin has been able to combine superb farming practices, celebrity status and capitalism, enabling him to turn his Polyface Farm into an ever-expanding, very profitable operation, beyond the wildest dreams of most sustainable farmers. Good for him. Why should the corporate factory farmers be the only ones able to make a decent living?
Recently I read an article that discussed the Polyface intern program. Internships at Polyface require a twelve month commitment. The interns are given room and board and a $100 per month stipend. There is a huge demand for these interships and the waiting list is years long. So who wants to pluck chickens and muck stalls at Polyface for $100 per month for a year? Ivy League grads who take leaves of absence from great jobs, among others.
The article included quotes from one young Ivy leaguer who left his high powered corporate job to spend a year working at Polyface. I can’t find the piece to check the quote I have in mind, but it was something like this, “Two things in particular made the experience well worth it: having the experience of saying grace before meals, and waving at neighbors when we passed them on the road.”
What powerful evidence of how disconnected our society has become. The idea of praying before eating, or being friendly to neighbors, is now so utterly alien to our culture that to brilliant Ivy Leaguers they’re just quaint aspects of a life on Polyface Farm.
To take a few moments to give thanks for the food we’re about to eat, or to wave at a neighbor we pass on the road, doesn’t require that one sign on to be an indentured servant on a Virginia farm for a year.
I recently read a book that mentioned something called “refrigerator rights.” I’d never heard the expression before. Those who have “refrigerator rights” are folks who could walk into a house other than their own, go to the refrigerator, and start making a sandwich. “Refrigerator rights” require a degree of community, familiarity and connectedness that is very rare these days.
What this Polyface intern yearns for, in my opinion, is refrigerator rights. He’ll return to his high-powered corporate job, remembering the year of his life when he sat down three times a day with other hard-working people for a meal, and said a prayer before eating it. He’ll remember the days when he had become accustomed to reflexively smiling and lifting his hand to wave, whenever he met someone on a country road, whether he knew them or not. He’ll regret that back in “the real world” he’d be considered weird if he said a prayer before eating, or maybe if he even acknowledged the existence of God. He’ll regret that on the jam-packed streets of the city it’s impossible to smile and wave at everyone he sees, and that if he did he might get shot. He’ll miss refrigerator rights.
By the way, if anyone is interested in working on White Flint Farm for $100/month, just let me know. In Keeling everyone waves when they pass another vehicle. And you’ll have the special privilege of asking a blessing before meals. Refrigerator rights will be included at no extra charge.