When thinking of unhealthy soil, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s comes to mind: depleted soil, dark clouds that swallowed small rural communities, red dust that filled the air and people’s lungs. All of this was the result of allowing the land to be over-tilled and abused, a result of our thinking that we knew better than nature. After the dust settled, we thought we had learned our lesson.
Our health is directly connected to the health of the soil. I’m not talking about a bag of dirt that you bring home from Tractor Supply, but the soil that grows your food—the soil that was once a flourishing ecosystem, full of micronutrients that supercharge your own microbiome.
There are more microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on earth. Our bodies thrive on this biological diversity. Without it, we suffer and our bodies labor in vain to make up for our depleted nutrients. This is the connection between agriculture and health.
What if the sickness rampant in this country is caused by doctors and healthcare providers divorcing themselves from our farms? You’re admitted to the hospital, trying to recover, and are given a plate of processed food and chemically colored blue Jell-O. Your “nutrient” drip contains soybean oil, the most inflammatory oil that they could possibly put into your body. God knows what else they are giving us.
Imagine if it was part of a doctor’s job to connect you with healthy food, to help you regenerate your body by recommending food grown from regenerative agriculture.
The disconnect is astounding. “People are fed by the food industry which pays no attention to health,” observed farmer and activist Wendell Berry, “and treated by the health industry which pays no attention to food.”
It is this food industry that has helped to deplete the biodiversity and nutrients in our soil. Pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides not only kill weeds—they kill the good bacteria and fungi that your body needs to thrive. The introduction of pesticides corresponds with the increase of autoimmune diseases. This chemical warfare on our soils spurred the degradation of our food supply and the declines in public health.
For example, the Rodale Institute has been studying the nutrient uptake of crops that grow in soil with the presence of the most notorious pesticide, glyphosate (also known as Round Up). When researchers measured the phytonutrients of a single carrot, it was next to none. They replicated this experiment with a carrot grown in regenerated, healthy soil. As you might have guessed, the presence of phytonutrients skyrocketed.
Glyphosate is a pesticide known as a “chelator.” This means it grabs onto minerals like copper and magnesium, all things essential to a healthy body, and it prevents the crops from absorbing these beneficial vitamins and nutrients.
With the prominence of glyphosate and similar chemicals, are we really that surprised to see so many nutrient deficiencies in the average person? If we destroy our soil’s microbiomes, we destroy those of our bodies. If we sterilize our soil’s bacterial diversity, we sterilize our own bacterial diversity. It’s simple cause and effect.
The good news is that deficiencies in our soil—which are reflected in the deficiencies of our food—can be reversed. Nature has an incredible ability to heal itself if we are good stewards. The same applies to our bodies. Agriculture that mimics nature can heal our land and restore our own health.
Agriculture was never the problem—it is the solution. Farmers who practice regenerative agriculture are rebuilding organic matter and giving it new life. These are the life-givers, the men and women who don’t sacrifice their standards for profit. The farmers that let animals be animals, humanely and organically. As Joel Salitin might say, these are the farmers that let “pigs be pigs.”
Anyway, please don’t eat the blue jello.