The dangers of glyphosate and other pesticides prevalent in modern food systems have been discussed in previous posts, including our 2016 report on glyphosate in food webs, and our 2018 interview with investigative journalist, Carey Gillam. Like Alex Vasquez’ 2014 YouTube video that pronounced glyphosate as the toxic chemical of the year, Gillam’s book, Whitewash, represented a well thought out effort to inform the public about risks tied to a chemical that most of us once considered safe. Gillam, Vasquez, and many others have also awakened the public to the reality that government agencies commissioned with protecting the public from environmental hazards are unlikely to ensure that the food you put on your table is safe.
Unfortunately, while it is important to raise these concerns, and critical to open people’s minds to dangers lurking in the food they eat, it is equally important to recognize that legislation aimed at removing one toxic chemical is likely to pave the highway through which the next toxic pesticide will be released. Lawsuits and legislation may attack chemical companies, make headlines, and add fuel to political debates, but in the end, farmers will not change their production methods, and people will not see their exposure to pesticides reduced until society as a whole recognizes the need to change the way we think about food.
We need to accept that good food is much more than a simple commodity. Good food is more than the flavor, color, and the atmosphere of the swanky restaurants in which it is served. Good food is the complex centerpiece of a sacred union-a communion of sorts-between humans and the environment we live in. When that union is disrupted, it affects all health. Human health. Biodiversity. Environmental health. When we compromise food quality for the sake of convenience, or because we would rather save our dollars to spend on more stylish, less life-sustaining goods and services, we are setting the stage for chronic disease that affects our own lives, and the lives of our children.
This connection between food, health, and life itself is being recognized by growing numbers of mainstream and alternative health practitioners, farmers, ranchers, future farmers, and people from all walks of life. This awareness marks the first step in what is sure to be a long but hopeful journey towards better living for all of us. Remaining steps should include:
- efforts that reduce restrictions which staunch innovation, reduce transparency, and cripple growers.
- efforts that increase consumer understanding of how food is grown, where it comes from, and why it matters.
- efforts that place functional foods grown on healthy soils at the center of health care discussions.
Our own efforts have included promotion of small, local farms and 21st Century Victory Gardens because we believe that while large farms may always serve a need to supply large quantities of foods, small farms and gardens offer a better interface through which growers can communicate with consumers about factors that influence freshness, quality, flavor, and function of their produce. Recently, we have partnered with The Extension Team, a diverse group of entrepreneurs who are committed to making healthy food and good nutrition more widely available. Through this partnership, we have been able to connect not only with farmers and gardeners but also with people like Melissa Brice, of Reclaim Wellness, who is integrating local farming into her alternative health practice. Hear details in the podcast below.
With many other irons in the fire (hypnobirthing, office management, community outreach, and more) novice farming efforts like Melissa’s will no doubt come with a steep learning curve. Her group will require community support to get off the ground. What makes her farming project exciting, however, is the potential she offers to serve the community in multiple ways:
-clients in her wellness center will experience first hand the physical benefits of fresh herbs farmed and harvested by local experts.
-the farm will continue to produce pecans and vegetable crops, but now they will be grown on more organic, more regenerative soils that store water, reduce runoff, sequester atmospheric carbon, and provide habitat for pollinators.
-the farm will serve as a demonstration ground for evaluating alternate tillage, mineralization and other regenerative practices.
-clients at the wellness center will be exposed to the value of eating locally grown fresh produce, stimulating demand for additional local farms.
-when one wellness center integrates with local farms, a model is established. This makes it easier for others to do the same.
The proposed benefits of local operations represent forward thinking statements, and actual outcomes may exceed (or fail to reach) those stated here. Let’s work together to make efforts like these succeed.