Nine years ago, I named my farm Small Wonder Farm. Now, I have launched Small Wonder Food. If you are wondering why “Small Wonder,” this post is my explanation. The actual name came from an essay by Barbara Kingsolver and reflects my understanding that focusing on the miraculous minutia in nature is key. This post is also the prelude to my free e-book Healthy Food Comes From Healthy Farms.
The last decade of my life has been a journey from feeling my worst to my best. It’s a journey that took me from partial disability to finding my life’s purpose as a food literacy educator. Along the way, the journey has been marked with small wonders. These small wonders made me change my focus until the minutia became the focus. The minutia, in this case, the microbes, were the answer I sought.Ten years ago, I was dragging through life with severe asthma, fibromyalgia pain that meant days with little movement, brain fog and fatigue so extreme that I was fighting to function on even a basic level, constant upper respiratory infections, an undiagnosed autoimmune thyroid disorder, a series of miscarriages, a nervous breakdown, and terrible digestion problems. All these issues had been building for decades.
I dared to believe that there were better answers and that I could improve my outcome. I did find help from sources outside traditional health care. But, this is not about those people or even what they told me. The real magic came from my own dive into the world of food production. I took a hard look at how food is produced in our country–how it works and how it should work. Based on my discoveries, I took myself and my family largely out of the industrial food chain. As I began to feel better, I poured my mental and physical energy into food production. I dug my hands and my heart into the soil of my own farm, dubbed Small Wonder Farm. I dug my mind into it as well.
As a farmer, I do my best to get out of the way of the small wonders naturally unfolding. Farmers don’t make miracles. At best, we help set the stage and bear witness. I quickly learned that the ultimate small wonder is the living soil and that I, indeed all of us, are completely dependent on it. Virtually everything we eat starts with soil. If it doesn’t, we shouldn’t be eating it. Good soil is alive, and it produces nutrient dense, healthy food. Soil is teeming with life we can see and far more that we cannot. A single handful can contain more microorganisms than the humans that live and have ever lived on the planet. (Kiss the Soil, Josh Tickell) As a farmer, I discovered that my job was to care for the soil–to use practices that would maintain and feed the complex life within it. Once that is accomplished, the soil will work the magic.
As an “organic” farmer, I witness miracles every day. I have had the great privilege of witnessing the miracle of planting a seed and watching it grow over and over again. I learned to love the beauty and tragedy of the cycle of life, death, and then rebirth. I have studied the soil in my hands and learned some of its magical properties. For me, the daily miracles are what keep me farming. Farming in harmony with natural systems is a front row seat to magic. The toxin-free produce is a bonus. The field is the one place where time completely slips away from me and nothing nags at my thoughts.
Farming in a way that builds soil and conserves (even improves) resources is called regenerative farming. It goes beyond the regulations behind certified organic farming. The Rodale Institute defines regenerative farming as “organic agriculture [that] improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.” To me, regenerative farming is the obvious way food should be produced. You can only withdraw from an account for so long before it is overdrawn. Unfortunately, conventional farming is a system based on taking, not maintaining and regenerating.
It was my understanding of food production and my immersion in it, that made all the pieces of nutrition and health come together for me. I know that good nutrition can only come from good farming. Furthermore, good nutrition, good farming, and a healthy planet are all one and the same. You don’t have to farm like I do, but you do have to understand and honor good farming.
If you are interested in connecting with local regenerative farmers in your community for the best health-restoring food, please download my free e-book Healthy Food Only Comes From Healthy Farms.