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Why healthy soil matters

 “You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.”

– Dr. Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize winner

“Sick soils mean sick plants, sick animals and sick people.”

Paleo diet, real food, nourishing food, holistic management

Finding food that is nutritious and delicious is the most important thing you can do for your family’s health.

What is the condition of our food supply, really?

According to the current research the food that we buy and consume to keep us nourished hardly resembles the food that our parents and grandparents enjoyed. The health of the population who eats the Standard American Diet is declining.  In a recent post by Ecoorganics, called Sick Soil, they showed how the decline in soil health correlates to increasing cases of obesity, cancer, and numerous other maladies that we are facing in an increasing amount of American households.  So why go to a doctor to treat the symptoms of a poor diet when you could go to a farmer and enjoy nutrient dense and delicious foods?  And like shopping for the right doctor to take care of your family, shouldn’t you also shop for the right farmer to feed you family?  Throughout our travels as a Savory Network Hub advancing Holistic Management, we have connected and met some of the best food producers around and because of them, I am hopeful about the future of our food supply.

It has never been so easy to start a farm

According to our friend Kevin Cunningham of Shakefork Farm, access to information and markets make today the best time to start the family farm. And is that ever good for us, the consumer. With nutrient density in our food at an all time low and the US food supply loaded with commodity food that is literally killing us, we need family farms like Shakefork Farm. They are farmers who are managing for healthy soil and thus producing food with much higher nutrient density.

People who consume the Standard American Diet are stricken with many food related diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more. There have been countless studies stating that people now are fatter and sicker than they were in previous generations.

The question is why? Why is the product of the American food system so poor? Why is the food that we are eating lacking in nutrition?

The answer lies in how it is being produced. When you plow the soil or add chemicals to a farm whether it is fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides, the soil biology is killed . It is the soil biology that make the minerals and nutrients in the soil available to the plant. 

If the plants cannot access those key nutrients, then neither the person who eats the plant.

It is important to know how plants get nutrition in the first place. We all know that plants photosynthesize to produce carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water. They store these carbs, or sugars, until they have enough to reproduce (make seeds).

What a lot of people don’t know is that they are also pumping a lot of those sugars into the soil through their roots to feed the soil microbiome. It is the soil biology feeding on the plant sugars that give soil its health and fertility. As the soil “bugs” feed and reproduce they also pull minerals from rock, making them available for the plants to take in. These minerals help the plant function as they should and increase the amount of vitamins and minerals that we can get by eating them.

But what has happened throughout our food system is a reliance on mechanical tillage and synthesized chemical inputs. What we are left with are soils that are literally lifeless and incapable of providing these nutrients to the plants, resulting in the food system we have today.

Our plants have co-evolved along with soil, soil biology, and grazers for millions of years. No matter how new or modified the crop that we are growing is, it still needs access to the minerals in the soil to function correctly. As farmers we need to manage for all life in and on the soil.  It is the incredible, symbiotic relationship of the soil microbiome and plants that bring plant-available nutrients to the roots of our food crops.

Community Dynamics

One of the four ecosystem processes that we in Holistic Management manage for is community dynamics. A lot of managers do not take the time to think about what that means. Community dynamics is not just diversity of plants and animals but also it means diversity of microbes living in the soil. In one teaspoon of healthy soil there are more than one billion different life forms. All of them add to the complexity of the soil and add resilience to our farming system. If we continue to manage in such ways that are destructive, then we will continue to kill our soil  and our own source of nutrients.

I have been reading a lot lately about our food system and how devoid of nutrition our food is.  It is shocking to me that the scientific and medical communities all seem to know what the problem is, however few of them are working to change the food system and demand a better product.  The Nutrition Security Institute has done research and published a white paper that illustrates how bad this issue has gotten over the last few decades.

“Without adequate nutrition, especially minerals, research has shown that people develop chronic health conditions. More and more nutritional studies have linked many of today’s most prevalent, life threatening chronic diseases – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, macular degeneration, bone loss, dementia to nutritional deficiencies. Research is finding simple nutrition may eradicate many of these common conditions as it has with scurvy, pellagra, beriberi and others. The simple truth may be that susceptibility to disease is linked to either toxicity or nutritional deficiency. Increasingly, scientific research has shown that the secret to life-long health is good nutrition.” Human Health, the Nutritional Quality of Harvested Food and Sustainable Farming Systems by John B. Marler and Jeanne R. Wallin “Nutrition Security Institute”

Since when do we get our minerals from a pill?

I suggest you get to know your farmer and buy as much of your products from farmers who are managing for soil health and are engaging natural solutions to increase production.  For more information on good places to find farmers who are managing for healthy soil and healthy products, you can send me an email at Spencer@jeffersonhub.com and I can help you learn how to connect with the producers who are producing superior food products.