Growing America’s Health Restoring the Nutritional Value of Crops

Organic Farmers: by Melinda Hemmelgarn


hen we think of scientists as men and women in lab coats peering into microscopes,

what’s missing is farmers. Our society doesn’t tend to equate the two, yet farmers are active field scientists. How they choose to grow and produce food greatly impacts our shared environment of soil, water and air quality, as well as the nutritional con- tent of food, and therefore, public health. Te best field- and lab-based scientists

share key traits: they’re curious, keen observ- ers and systems thinkers that learn by trial and error. Both formulate and test hypoth- eses, collect data, take measurements, assess results and draw conclusions.

Field Science Diana Dyer, a registered dietitian and organic garlic farmer outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan, explains, “I like to help people see the similarities between the scientific process and good, careful farm- ing—all aspects of which revolve around observations, goals, planning, imple- mentation, intervention and analysis of

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results—then careful re-planning based on those results.” Dyer and her husband, Dick, started

farming aſter long careers in traditional health care, where the focus was on treating people aſter they got sick. Trough their farm work, they wanted to focus on preven- tion. “Growing healthy food in healthy soil, our goal was to create and nourish a healthy community from the ground up. Com- municating the multiple benefits of healthy soils and ecosystems has been at the core of our vision and responsibility from day one,” she says. Te Dyers believe that flavor is key to eating and enjoying truly nourish- ing foods, and based on their professional health backgrounds and farming experi- ence, they connect healthy soil with higher- quality, better-tasting food. In Havre, Montana, Doug Crabtree,

and his wife, Anna, manage Vilicus Farms, featured in the book Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America, by Liz Carlisle. Te Crabtrees

grow organic heirloom and specialty grains, pulses and oilseed crops such as emmer, kamut, black beluga lentils and flax. Asked if he considers himself a

scientist, Crabtree first defines the term as “a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences.” Ten he replies, “Given this definition, how could any farmer not be a scientist? An organic farmer is a life- long student of nature, seeking to emulate her wisdom and processes as we refine our production systems. Organic produc- tion isn’t just growing food without toxic chemical inputs, it’s a system that requires conscientiously improving soil, water and associated resources while producing safe and healthy food for America’s growing population of informed consumers.”

Healthy Soil, Food and People At the Rodale Institute, in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Andrew Smith directs the


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