November 17th, 2012
By Craig Fear
You probably know by now that I’m a big believer and supporter of the work of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
If you’re unaware of the pioneering nutrition work of Dr. Price, check out a blog post I wrote last year:
This past week I attended my second Weston A. Price Wise Traditions conference out in California. That’s me in the picture above with some of my favorite real food bloggers. From left to right: Courtney of The Polivka Family, Kelly of Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Ann Marie of Cheeseslave, Kristen of Food Renegade and Lindsey of Homemade Mommy.
The conference brings together thousands of people from all over the country who are passionate about real food and nutrition.
Nutritionists, dietitians, doctors, nurses, scientists, activists, acupuncturists, bloggers, chiropractors, mothers (probably the most passionate group of all), and so many more come together for three days of lectures and classes covering a broad array of topics.
I love meeting so many people from so many different walks of life. And I love all the talks. But in my second year I’m learning that I actually learn the most from an unlikely group – the farmers and ranchers. And I love that as much as the conference is about nutrition it’s also about sustainable farming. In many ways, that’s what it’s really about.
Because you can’t really study nutrition without studying farming. If you do, you’ll get something resembling our school lunch programs. Or hospital food.
As a suburbanite from Long Island, I grew up completely disassociated from my food and where it came from. If you ask most kids today where food comes from they’d tell you the supermarket. I would’ve told you the same thing.
This disassociation from our food has led to the modern-day mass confusion about nutrition. We have so many competing nutritional philosophies today and we argue about them until the cows come home (pun intended). But so many of these philosophies get stuck in the realm of the intellect. Everyone waves around their studies and research as proof that their dietary approach is the best.
And I admit it. I do too. I wave around the research of Weston Price. But to me Weston Price went deeper than anyone else before him. He went to the source.
He went to the soil.
In all the agricultural-based cultures he studied he saw a deep respect and understanding for soil integrity.
And this is where the farmers go to teach us.
Take for example, Chris Kerston. I went to his talk “Mimic Nature to Get the Most from Your Farm.” He works at Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, California.
Chaffin Family Orchards is a 2000 acre diversified farm with 200 old-growth olive trees and over 40 varieties of fruit trees including peach, cherry, avocados, pomegranates, oranges, grapefruit, lemon and pears.
Chaffin Family Orchards uses permaculture principles. Permaculture means “permanent agriculture.” I guess you could also say, “sustainable agriculture” as well. Whichever term you use, this sustainability is first and foremost about building sustainable soil.
To do that at Chaffin Orchards, animals are used.
Chris went on to depict the many ways the farm uses animals to keep the soil and thus the trees healthy.
Cattle and sheep graze the orchard floor which keeps it clear of overgrowth and builds topsoil. Goats eat invasive weeds. They also prune the trees which keeps them healthy. Chris showed a picture of the goats climbing the trees and eating the fruit from the lower branches.
Until then, I didn’t know goats could climb trees. But then again, if you grew up on Long Island, I guarantee you didn’t know that either.
The chickens eat the falling fruit at the base of the trees, control the bugs and provide valuable nitrogen for the soil.
Those are just a few small examples.
What do you do if you don’t use animals on your farm for fertilizer? Well you use fossil fuel-based fertilizers. These are NOT sustainable. Furthermore, nitrogen from fossil fuels is expensive and the cost is skyrocketing for both conventional and organic growers.
Kerston explained that the farm now uses 85% less fuel than they did prior to introducing the animals.
The animals benefit from the plant life on the farm and vice-versa. In the process, Chaffin Family Orchards diversifies their farm with pastured eggs and chickens, grassfed beef, lamb and goats and increases their yield at a fraction of the cost of conventional chemical-based farming.
That’s what I call a win-win-win, the third win being you and me, the consumers. Oh and maybe a fourth win for the land. I’m sure I could go on and on but you get the point.
Finally, one of my favorite moments came at the end of the conference.
Jeffery Smith, the leading anti-GMO advocate in the country and the creator of the Genetic Roulette documentary, gave the closing ceremony speech on Sunday.
He said, “You have obviously one of the best conferences going. But you also have a different relationship with food and with agriculture. You have alignment with the laws of Nature that link you with the source to your health. And you radiate that and you carry that message.”
To me this is really what the Weston Price Foundation is all about. Its core message is so much more than just about nutrition. It’s really about sustainable agriculture and re-educating America, especially all of us urbanites and suburbanites, about how food should be grown. When we can see these relationships clearly, we can more clearly see our relationship to food and our health.
And when we see that clearly, nutrition makes more sense, especially the commonsense variety.
Put simply: Eat what your local environment provides.
Of course, it’s not that simple in reality for many reasons but at least we are gaining a greater collective understanding of why small-scale, local-based food systems can solve so many of our problems – economic, environmental, health, etc. And I’m thankful that the Weston Price Foundation is leading the way in spreading this message.
In the coming days I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite talks from the conference. I hope you enjoy them.
In the meantime I want to encourage you to become a member of the Weston Price Foundation. It’s only $40 per year with discounts for seniors and students. You also get the Foundations’ quarterly publication, Wise Traditions, a wonderful resource packed with great articles on food and farming, local farm resources, book reviews and so much more.
In the process you’ll help support the great work the foundation is doing to re-educate America about its traditional foods and farming practices.
Click here to become a member today.
This post is linked to Sunday School at Butter Believer.