You Are What You Eat. The Gift Of Health
From Chapter 1 of "Healthy Garden Healthy You" by Milo Shammas
Every fiber that makes up the human body was once a biological or elemental part of the soil, air and water. We have heard the saying from the Bible, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." We come from the earth. We live off the earth. We return to the earth. The food we eat is inextricably linked to soil particles that existed millions of years ago. What you eat today is part of a food chain that was here before our species walked the earth.
Eating can be such an arbitrary act, simply a way to fill your stomach. Or you can eat consciously, with awareness, and insist that everything you allow into your body must be healthy and pure. When you intentionally choose healthy food, eating becomes more than a practical action to sustain your physical body. It becomes a lifestyle, a way of being in the world, an expression of your desire and choice to live longer and healthier. The only one way you can have ultimate control of that decision is to nurture the soil and then grow your own food in that soil. This is the basis of healthy living.
The large corporations that control most of our food supply and our farmland are set up to produce large quantities of food while making huge commercial profits. Sadly, for the health of our nation, the quality of that food has been left far behind. And the quality of the food we eat, its ability to nourish us and sustain our health, rests simply on the quality of our soil.
The health and balance of our ecosystem also depends on the vitality of our soil. (Notice that word vitality. My dictionary defines it as "of or manifesting life." It comes from the Latin word vita, which means "life.") "Vital soil" has life in it and gives life to everything that grows in it. Humans and animals depend on the health of the soil. Along with the other ancient elements (air, water and fire), earth-soil is the main thing supplying our plants with the sustenance they need to properly develop into naturally thriving, insect-resistant, nutrient-packed produce. When we eat a piece of a living plant that came out of living soil, our body draws out the life from it (nutrients) we need to stay alive. Looking at this life process in reverse, we stay alive by extracting the life from living plants that depend on "lively" soil.
Commercial agriculture supplies our grocery stores with all the produce we can imagine, organic or not. Some is grown locally, some on the other side of the nation, or even imported from other continents. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says that much of our produce travels 1,500 to 2,500 miles to arrive at our tables. Aggressive marketing and efficient transportation networks enable us to eat fruits and vegetables from all over the world all year round. (If you're willing to pay the price, you can eat summer fruit from the Southern Hemisphere in the dead of winter in the frozen North.)
If you want to eat organic food, do you need to care about certification? A careful consumer may ask, "What gives a farming operation the ability to say they're organic? How does that change the treatment of their food? Does it matter if it is organic as long as it is healthy and does not contain chemical residues?"
What makes gardening for personal use organic is somewhat ambiguous for those of us growing our own produce. In essence, there are no policies or rules for home gardeners. We have no manual to follow. Our instinctive compass must guide us. If what we grow seems healthy and good enough for our bodies, we are generally free to grow it. Home growers have freedom of action but need to understand what they are doing and the probable consequences. Many prospective organic gardeners agree on the need to avoid synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and genetically modified organisms. Beyond those popular conventions, we find a variety of gardening strategies. Some people take it to the extreme, believing that to be organic, a plant must not receive any type of nutritive treatment other than what is naturally found at hand. Others treat the soil and feed the foliage only certified organic materials.
For your growing and mine, this is not needed. If you use your neighbor's leaf litter as compost and are positive, they don't apply any chemicals to their soil or plants, you don't need to worry about the quality of the leaf litter. Certification is more important to commercial growers who must prove they are growing by accepted public standards or a set of rules in order to truthfully label their produce organic. For the home gardener, certified is a useless term.
However, if you do not understand the techniques of organic practices, you cannot claim to know the effect your plants have on people, pets, children, health, or the surrounding environment. Before you assert, "Organic is good," you should understand how and why. Otherwise, you may easily fall into the trap of believing, and paying to consume, someone's deceitful marketing scheme.
Organic gardening, growing and farming are all highly beneficial. The benefits, however, depend on the organic methods you use. Many who practice organic growing techniques want to conserve the beautiful biological diversity on our planet, while giving people and animals the resources they need to enjoy a comfortable, healthy life. However, some organic practices (discussed later) are not necessarily beneficial to people, animals or the environment. Saying "Natural is good" is too simple, as are claims that synthetic pesticide or weed control is good. We must understand the effects of our treatments before using them, so that we can properly apply them to gain the benefits while avoiding their adverse effects.
Whether planning quaint home gardening projects or large plantations, we must focus our energy on nurturing the soil, which serves as the basis for healthy sustainable growth. Look deeply into your particular situation to understand how and why the practices you choose meet your needs while protecting yourself and your soil.
I grow as much of my own food as I can. The rest I buy from my local farmers market and a good local produce market that stocks organic produce. Only when I buy produce from a market that the word certified matters to me. I know what I do in my backyard is healthy and pure. This is why it is so important to grow your own just as humans first did long ago.
Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator