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written by

Joel Salatin

posted on

May 2, 2024

I just got asked for the umpteenth time to participate in an online educational summit with the proviso that Polyface send out two promo emails, blog twice, post a social—you know the drill.

 Do you ever feel like the internet is becoming like TV on steroids?  It was supposed to be this wonderful thing that enabled us to communicate free or at least cheaper, faster, and easier.  But as things have progressed, you can’t watch anything without ads popping up and if you buy something, suddenly you get two or three ads posted every day.

 As a crunchy old newspaperman, I’m frustrated that print media is fast leaving our world due to all the ad money going to the internet.  I’ve unsubscribed to more things than I knew existed just two years ago. And I really don’t like when something I enjoy for personal growth and edification turns into a disguised conduit for marketing. Enough already.

 People admonish me that this kind of collaboration is the new future.  They provide me a platform to teach, to rant, to spout off, and in return I market their summit or podcast or whatever.  It’s a never-ending insatiable treadmill of getting signups, clicks, links, and eyeballs.  The demand and appetite for all this brouhaha increases by the day as millions of entities vie for subscribers.

 These summits are free, of course, to the attendees.  But you and I know nothing is free.  So who pays?  We do when those infernal ads interrupt our emails, clog our inbox, and leave us feeling used by folks we’ve given access to our email address.  I gave company X permission to ping me, but who’s this?  Good grief, yet another piggyback to purchase something.

 I confess I’ve struggled with this whole scenario, especially when I get asked by friends in our movement to “get the word out.”   I know how important letting people know about your product, service, performance, informational summit is to getting attendance, whether in person or on an internet platform.  And I don’t want to throw cold water on good people’s efforts to broadcast their thing.

 But you as a Polyface patron, having permitted us to access your email, deserve to have that access used with the utmost respect and appreciation.  Remember junk mail?  My dad used to keep a list of signatures whenever he subscribed to a magazine.  He never used the same signature twice.  His name was William Thomas Salatin, so for one magazine he’d be W.T. Salatin.  For another, he’d be William T. Salatin.  For the next one, he’d be W. Thomas Salatin.  He could use Bill, Tom, etc.  I know once he used Wm. T. Salatin.  Then he could use Wm. Thomas Salatin.

 The point is he had some dozen combinations that enabled him to know what subscription sold his name to a junk mail outfit.  Then he’d write a scathing letter to the magazine he’d subscribed to, berating them for selling his name to some other entity.  For the record, it didn’t stop junk mail from coming to our house, but I hope it shows my deep family legacy of disliking businesses I initially liked who then gave me over to other outfits for marketing efforts.

 Junk snail mail has now been replaced with junk email.  But the business pressures behind this constant unasked-for barrage on our inboxes are the same.  I know some summit organizers think I’m a stick-in-the-mud for refusing to cooperate on a “we require 2 email posts to your email list” in order to have the privilege and honor of participating in their virtual conference.

 But at Polyface, we value our patrons too much to view you as clickbait for other entities—even though many of these entities are friends and we applaud what they’re doing.  Currently, we only post for things we’re doing here at Polyface, like physical gatherings.  For us to keep offering our farm as a gathering place for people, we need folks to come and patronize these events so everyone, including us, gets paid.  We view that quite differently than a virtual summit we have nothing to do with except provide content.

 I think everyone with a brand and patron base feels this tension about prostituting ourselves with barrages of emails.  Perhaps I feel it more acutely than others because I feel violated when a business I’ve permitted to have my email suddenly starts sending me stuff to promote other things.  That’s not what I signed up for.  Am I alone in this?

 The bottom line, dear Polyface patrons, is that we hold dearly our email access to you.  Back more than 40 years ago when I began writing what is now affectionately known as our Polyface spring epistle, people from around the world wanted to subscribe to it.  That was before the internet, before podcasts, before virtual summits.  We always said no because we viewed this annual communique as private, like a family dialogue.  We shared our problems, our hopes, and our current thinking about food/farm affairs in an extremely intimate way.  This wasn’t to hang out on the line for the world to see.

 We like special relationships where we know our conversations will be held in confidence, where we can maintain privacy that’s not public.  In our celebrity culture and social TikTok addiction, we crave relationships that are special because they aren’t broadcast around the world.  We need sanctuary.  We need havens of rest.

 To cut to the chase, then, I’m going on record that Polyface views our patron email list as something precious.  As something special.  Like a wedding ring.  It is not something to be flaunted around to any entity that wants access to it.  We feel a deep responsibility to protect the trust you’ve given us by allowing us to invade your space, which today includes your email inbox.  We don’t take it lightly and we certainly aren’t going to use it indiscriminately for others; even friends.

 We know that will keep us off of some platforms.  It might even cost us some marketing opportunities.  But we want to cultivate a familial loyalty and dignity with our patrons.  When we move the chickens or help a cow deliver a calf, we don’t do it for ourselves; we do it for you.  That is special.  We believe you deserve a conduit to us, and from us, that the world does not see.  That is why even this blog will not be posted on our generic social media.  It’s for you, our patron family.  Our community.

 If we can’t preserve something special, phooey on us.  To be sure, this is an inexact science right now.  Every day new temptations seem to come our way as the electronic world innovates more ways to get clicks.  And dangles more alleged rewards to expose everything and everyone in our lives to the world’s spotlight.  Polyface may not draw the lines in all the right places, but at least we’re going to wrestle with lines.  You can count on us to honor you in our access.

 All that being said, if you’ve hung with me this far, realize that we depend on you to spread the word about us.  So if YOU want to share this blog, or tell someone “you need to get stuff from these guys” we’ll be forever grateful.  And we’ll do our best to treat them just like we treat you. 

 Thank you for being part of our Polyace family; for making it possible for us to build soil, increase pollinators, and grow nutrient-dense food — to heal the land one bite at a time.  You’re doing that.  Thank you.

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