Could Organic Farmers be the Only Ones Who Can Save the World?
By Kate Roberts of ‘How the Earth Thinks’
My lunch salad bowl may be a little less burgeoning these days; yet I feel satiated, joyful and full of energy in a way I haven’t since my teens. I know it’s not just me too -most people respond this way to a diet turned towards food maxed out in polyphenols and other phytonutrients. After 25 years of studying brain health, cognition, soil microbiology, immune health and nutrition, I now believe that these phytonutrients are the elixir of life. What enthrals me most is that these beautiful, tiny, highly nutritional compounds are only there in their full glory when the plants have been grown in living, functioning soil.
I’m talking regeneratively grown food, achieved by nurturing the micro eco-system in our soils. This alone gives the plant the full raft of compounds that we have evolved to use. And re-use and re-form and re-create into other compounds which then give us literally thousands of metabolites crucial to enable our body processes to work at an optimal level. Regeneratively produced plants are also more able, than conventional or organically grown food, to access micro and trace nutrients -some of which we have only recently realised our bodies need.
I came into this, really, in a roundabout way from wanting to know how children’s brains learn. This in turn led to researching how brains are different, especially those with alternative ways of working that are known as ADHD and autism. Then for my own sake, I researched the workings of mental health.
Turns out though, it’s more than just the trace minerals that are essential for neurological health. All those thousands of metabolites that our bodies make from the phytonutrients? Many of those are neurotransmitters and hormones crucial for brain function (everything from cleverness to happiness.). Most importantly of all -we actually do not make many of these -our gut bugs do! Many of these little creatures are the same as the ones in the soil and so here we are again. We need to nurture them.
- What is Regenerative Agriculture? A Comprehensive Guide
- Prevalence of Regenerative Agriculture (RA) Across the World
- Rethinking Our Farming Approaches: The Sustainable Way
- How Can We Create Sustainable Farmland?
I’m afraid you don’t have an ideal eco-system in your gut -really none of us do in the west, but we can improve it. With food grown in living, functioning soil. As well as more minerals and metabolites, eating regenerative produce also gives you a nice big dose of these microbes because they are in the plants themselves.
So, its win-win-win for your bodily and brain health -micronutrients, metabolites and microbes all in my one small salad bowl. It’s boosted my cognition and my mood and protects me against neurological degeneration. The science, particularly from the last 10 years tells me this, but I also know because I feel it. There’s much more to the changes in my diet than this, but the benefits of regenerative food set me on a quest -to get more of it available to buy and to inform the public of the benefits.
Then there are the benefits in our meat also, after all, ‘you are what you eat, eats’. Regeneratively reared animals, given access to a wide range of herbal plants and hedge plants, in place of corn and grain, have completely different proteins and fats and vitamins. I mean, completely different: conjugated linoleic acid instead of linoleic acid. May not sound different but your body knows it is! A2 protein instead of A1, more B vitamins and Vitamin K2. The animals themselves are more healthy too -sounds only right to me.
For those organic farmers still reading please keep reading -don’t forget I did say that you are the ones to save the world. This is because your soil is the best we have, and it can be made ‘regenerative’ more quickly than ‘conventionally’ farmed soil. I do know you are sceptical, and I understand that -how can we have got it wrong for thousands of years?
I’m talking tillage of course and I also know why you don’t want to stop. Tillage deals with weeds. But does it? The science says that tillage causes weeds and farmers in other parts of the world that have tried ‘no till’ have found this to be so. We need to match our own special UK biogeographical conditions with the right weed reducing techniques, so let’s get going.
To provide motivation, the mindset change we need is straightforward -with tillage you destroy fungi and with it, hamper the rest of the fully functioning eco system in the soil. This in turns hampers our health and mental well-being through ‘hidden hunger.’ Fungi is a kingpin that many of those plant nutrient metabolites depend upon. Without the thin network of hyphae running amok through the soil there is no full health. Not for the plant and not for us. Also, fungi sequester carbon: big time. If you had the additional mindset that tillage wasn’t fair on the world would you work towards reducing it?
What I find so exciting (remember I came at this through neurology) is the thinking skills that farmers are getting to use to solve problems -adapting machinery and finding new, less disruptive ways of putting things in the soil. There are a wide variety of different ways to reduce the not-so great things, whether it’s in your diet or in your farming. But we don’t need to do loads of problem solving because numerous other countries are ahead of us on this. We just need you to help lead it in the UK.
When I say save the world -it’s two big things that you could do for me, my loved ones and everyone else on the planet.
One. Reversing climate change through sequestering carbon via increased photosynthesis and a more fully functioning soil eco-system. This will also mean there is less emissions of CO2 ..and methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases.
Two. Giving us back our physical and mental health through increased nutrient density in our food. Again, through a more fully functioning soil eco-system.
There is so much more to say, I can give you the information and explanations to motivate the mindset change and help you start your journey for better soil -please just get in touch. You can even come and share my salad bowl if you like.
It’s never too late to make it better than it is.
How the Earth Thinks looks at the connections between our health, how well our brains work and how our food is grown.