Food, from the soil to the body

11/05/2015

Last month I had the great pleasure of presenting my third and final Food as Medicine talk and demonstration at the Point Reyes Farmer’s Market. I was delighted to be joined by my friends and fellow Bolinas community members, farmers Mickey Murch of Gospel Flat and Caymin Ackerman of Big Mesa Farm. Our conversation spiraled through such topics as caring for the soil, the beauty of farming, the benefits of eating organically and the parallels between healthy farms and healthy humans. Our appreciation of their beautiful work culminated in tasting golden beets (grown by Mickey) topped by brilliant cilantro (grown by Caymin) pesto crowned by pomegranate anils. Delicious.

I’ve long been interested in the benefits of organic farming practices and was so intrigued by the strategies Mickey and Caymin employ to avoid use of poisons like pesticides and herbicides. Returning to the basics of tending to the health of the land through the use of quality compost and thoughtful cycling of crops leads to soils replete with nutrients. Further, studies show that organically-farmed fruits and vegetables are higher in powerfully health-promoting vitamins and antioxidants. The beautiful, richly colored golden beets grown at Gospel Flat are a testament to the power and deliciousness of food as medicine. The cilantro grown in Big Mesa’s healthy soil is packed with nutrients and has the added benefit of naturally chelating heavy metals in one’s body, facilitating their elimination. Wow!

Caymin highlighted the growing awareness within the farming community, as in the medical community, of the importance of soil bacteria, also known as the “microbiome.” Like our bodies, healthy soil is rich with communities of bacteria. These helpful little microbes “fix” nitrogen in the soil and facilitate the incorporation of soil nutrients into growing plants. Analyses of the soil of organic farms compared to conventional farms shows an increase in diversity of these helpful bacteria, as well as a healthier nitrogen balance. Similarly, humans exposed to fewer rounds of antibiotics have a healthier gut flora, are less prone to gastrointestinal and whole-system distress, and are able to absorb nutrients from food more effectively. 

We are so very fortunate to live in a community that knows, honors, and supports its farmers. Our farmers market is a weekly celebration of good food, community connection and thriving local economy. The Gospel Flat farm stand, a Bolinas community treasure, allows us to buy vibrant produce at any time, day or night, on the honor system. (If you haven’t checked it out, please do. It is lovely. There are frequently art shows happening. Amazing.) Local food systems minimize negative environmental impacts and bring communities together.

Today my youngest daughter’s preschool class took a field trip to Gospel Flat farms. They walked the rows with Mickey, picking and eating beans straight off the vine. They picked rainbow chard, marveling in the beautiful colors. They planted broccoli, looking forward to the time when they’ll be able to eat what they planted. They got their hands dirty, spent time in the sunshine and used their bodies to connect with and tend other little growing things. This is, indeed, a recipe for good health.