A Philosophy of Health Through Farming
In this post, Greg writes on the intersection of nutrition, environmental, and social impact from his perspective as a farmer.
Our farm is just getting started, but over time my urge is to move towards a more collective lifestyle of self-sufficiency and systems thinking that grounds our health as farmers and consumers in the health of the land. For me there are many reasons why being as close to the source of our sustenance as possible is attractive. In this post, I’m going to introduce a few of them.
Over the years I have gained an understanding of health that has illuminated that the healthiest food in world must be grown in the healthiest environment in the world, from pigs to potatoes. For vegetables to be as nutrient dense as possible they need to be grown in soil rich in life and organic matter (which means chemical fungicides, herbicides, or pesticides can’t be used). For pigs to be as nutrient dense as possible they have to have as close to a “wild pig” life as possible with access to forage and the ability to run around and root and just do what a pig does; a happy pig, with the proper nutrition, is a healthy pig. And so that health, that vitality, moves on down the line to the consumer, me, or you. And as far as I can tell the best way to ensure that the best nutrition is reaching your body…is to grow it. You get to see and ensure that from beginning to the end that the plant or animal was nourished and cared for as thoroughly as you desire. No better way, as far as I’m concerned, to keep one’s vitality high and healthy.
Right now as I write this blog post I’m eating Hoppin’ John (for folks who don’t know what that is, it’s black eyed peas, rice, and cooked greens), and nearly all the ingredients in it are ‘Organic’… the peas, the rice, the greens… So, if they are organic it has to be better for the environment, right? Not necessarily…. some of the best organic farms struggle with 2% organic matter in their soils, especially the big commodity operations (farms that grow grains, beans, nuts…pretty much anything you find in a grocery store…) Because chemical herbicides cannot be used, they rely heavily on tillage which burns out the organic matter and releases CO2 in the atmosphere, at the same time causing huge amounts topsoil loss into our waterways, which, in the volume currently occurring, is very toxic to our rivers, lakes and wetlands. Knowing this, what can one do? Grow your own food or buy it from a small producer you know is actively pursuing ecologically sound practices. A way to reduce the impact of conventional or organic industrial agriculture is, to whatever degree possible, opt out of it or grow your own food. Here at Brightheart we want to do no-till agriculture wherever possible, meaning we won’t turn over the soil in the beds where we are using this method. This will, over time, allow organic matter to accumulate in our soil increasing the biodiversity of microfauna in our soil which in turn increases the nutrient density and flavor of our veggies, and also massively reduces the run off coming from our fields! Exciting, right? Homesteading provides one with the opportunity to control your interaction with the environment and, if you do it right, your impact can even be a positive one.
In a world where the most powerful economic and political forces are large global businesses whose sole desire seems to be filling every moment of our lives with consumption of one of their products, our connection to each other and the environment is more and more obfuscated. I desire a closer connection to my fellow humans and the ecological system from which we are all inseparable. I believe there is power in this understanding and closeness to each other and the source of our collective being. I think a world that had this connection enshrined in its culture, as much as we enshrine Sunday night football, would be a much healthier one. So, here we are, be the change you want to see, right?
We are just getting started out here on the Brightheart Farm, and I’m optimistic that the future is going to be healthy, connected, and integrated with the land in a beautiful bright dance of humans and nature. That is what I will be working for.
What are some reasons you can think of? Please share your ideas and comments below, all are welcome. I want to hear them!