By Nancy Smorch
I know I already talked about the Live Conference for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition I was supposed to attend this past weekend (last Friday’s post on Dr. Mark Hyman was inspired by this event), but over the weekend I had a chance to watch some of it, and the surprise speaker for me was Daphne Miller, M.D.
If you haven’t heard of her (I hadn’t before this weekend), she is author of this book, "Farmacology, What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing."
Her talk summarized what she learned when she visited various farms around the world and spoke with researchers about microbes in the soil and microbes in our gut. For me, the main point of her talk was that the greater the diversity in the micro biome of the soil, the more nutritious the food that was grown in that soil. Likewise, the more diverse the micro biome of our own gut, the healthier we are.
This really makes one think seriously about the way we are farming today and how we need to shift our attention back to the health of the soil - and not just by “supplementing” it with substances that show up as lacking in the soil (much like humans taking supplements), but by modeling nature and how she keeps things in balance - plant things that are native to the land, allow animals on the land, plant diverse crops, and conserve water. One of the farmers, in particular, found when he followed this model, the health of the soil improved dramatically and thus the food he grew in that soil became much healthier as well.
I came to see evidence of this firsthand since living on our current property in Michigan. I had a friend over a few years back who does everything organically - raises amazing chickens with great-tasting eggs, grows her own produce organically, and is now raising her own cattle. While walking on our property together we stopped to taste some of the concord grapes our daughters had just discovered growing amongst some trees. She couldn’t believe how great they tasted. She had commented that these grapes were so good that a place like Michigan State University would want to come and test the soil to see what it’s composition is so they could try to duplicate it.
I also saw the effect on our pastures of overgrazing done by our horses and how the quality of our soil combined with overgrazing was allowing for all kind of weeds (not beneficial to our horses - in fact, dangerous to them) to flourish. Other areas of our property which were kept more “natural” were growing amazing grass.
Another interesting experience is that I sometimes grow my own sunflower sprouts. I have a large bag of sunflower seeds that I took to Florida this past year and planted some in some soil I got from a local farmer - pretty sure he got it from Black Cow. The sprouts that grew from that soil were good. But then this past week I planted those same seeds in some “compost” we buy locally, here in Michigan, and that we use in our garden. It takes the place we get it from 4 years to complete its development. I just tried the first sprouts from it the other day and I instantly noticed a big difference in the taste. The ones grown in the Michigan compost tasted so much better - they tasted even sweeter. I wasn’t doing this as a comparison, but there was enough of a difference in taste that it drew my attention to the soil.
I think this is the new focus of farmers and those that want to grow their own food for the best possible nutrients and taste. I know has been my focus for the past year - and even more so now.
With the summer months coming upon us and Farmers Markets opening up again, see for yourself. Try similar produce from different farmers and ask them about their farming practices and see what you learn.
Let me know what you find out!