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Love a Farmer Fund Introduced

“We don’t need farmers who raise commodities; we need human beings who raise food,” Kristopher Flack

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We’d like to add it takes a community to grow a farm.

Barclay grew up on an organic farm and bakery in New England. Tony’s family had multi-generational agricultural interests in Peru before his family left that country in the 1960s. We’ve now been farming and baking here in beautiful, pastoral Norwood since 2002. Growing vegetables, raising pastured chickens and turkeys, milking goats, baking amazing granola,  breads and other delicacies. At times it’s been a long and lonely road, although we’ve had tons of support and encouragement from neighbors, apprentices, employees, friends, family, CSA members and regular customers at the farmers markets.

When we started, we felt like we might be walking the plank, so to speak. Farming, let alone organic farming, was barely on the radar screen for most Americans. The movement, if you will, was in its early stages of what has now become a modern-day renaissance not seen since the 60s. Many of our friends thought we were nuts. The US Census Bureau had even taken farm work off its list of employment choices. But we were determined. We wanted to farm. We wanted to grow food. We wanted to share that passion with others. We wanted to eat healthily and raise our children in this environment. We wanted to offer an alternative choice, that of local organic agriculture, to the regional community. We wanted to create a vibrant economy around food. We felt a sense of urgency.

At the time, there were  too few of us venturing into the challenge of connecting with nature to grow food. The fact of the matter is, there still aren’t enough of us. The vast majority of this nation’s food still comes from large corporations who have gobbled up most of the arable land in this country and used dangerous forms of technologies, herbicides and pesticides to increase production. Something like 80% of this country’s food is produced by just five corporations. Imagine that for a minute.

Vocational programs in high schools have all but disappeared. While a few colleges teach sustainable farming, it’s rarely a career choice among the next generation of would-be farmers. Most colleges that are offering degrees in agriculture are still stuck in the old mindset of conventional, industrial, chemical and factory farming. For many aspiring farmers, work opportunities are far and few between. A paradigm shift is really hard to come by, especially in a corporate-dominated world. Fortunately, we’ve  had a stellar crew of interns over the years, most of them deeply committed to the movement.

We just heard from a previous intern who was here for two years right out of college. Of her experience, she wrote, “That (first ) summer season changed everything, personally and professionally, for me.”

When we have folks who work the land around us at the dinner table, in coffee shops, or just shooting the breeze around the bed of a pickup truck drinking a beer together after a long day of work, we’re in heaven. Most folks — young and old —  that want to farm are really turned on and motivated. They want to help out; they want to learn; they want to dream; they want to pursue their passions. They want to be a part of a movement that they see as vital to the very survival of the planet and its inhabitants. But they need our help.

To that end, we’re proud to introduce a new program here at Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery: the Love a Farmer Fund. From here on out, a percentage of the sale of every ounce of granola sold will be collected and put in a fund to help out a small farmer somewhere across this land. Like us, we want the little guy to succeed. We had help when we started from a generous neighboring landowner, Loey Rignquist, who shared our vision. She made it possible for us to purchase the land and water needed to get started. Aspiring farmers today need that same kind of help —  to acquire land and accumulate capital. It’s our turn to give back.

Won’t you join us?

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The Link Between Human Microbiomes and Healthy Soils, and More!

We talk a lot here at the farm and in newsletters about the importance of micro-organisms in healthy soils. It’s estimated that one handful of organic garden soil holds over a million micro-organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. These micro-organisms are responsible for, among other things, breaking down organic matter to release nutrients needed by plants that turn them into vital nutrition for human consumption.

But did you know that our human body is also full of micro-organisms? They’re called human microbiomes. Haven’t heard of them? We hadn’t either until the past year or so. Now we learn that the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a project called the Human Microbiome Project that is funding scientists from across the US who are researching, are you ready for this, the trillions (you read that right, trillions!) of micro-organisms living in and on our bodies. What they’re after is how these micro-organisms might affect and even predict our physical and mental health.

Just like in healthy soils, the microbiomes are essential to life. These microbial cells are only one-tenth to one-hundredth the size of a human cell, yet they account for an estimated 3-5 pounds of adult body weight! The bacteria in our gut help digest food, produce certain vitamins, metabolize carcinogens, ferment dietary fibers, regulate our immune system, protect us from diesase-causing strains of bacteria and even communicate with our brain. Busy little guys.

Not too surprisingly, what these scientists are already discovering is that the micro-organisms inhabiting our intestines are linked to many autoimmune diseases. The gut microbes are also linked to obesity, diet, geography, age and behavior. There’s also believed to be a link between human microbiomes and  autism. Writing in ACRES USA, Melinda Hemmelgarn the so-called “Food Sleuth”, concludes, “I’m betting that some of the most exciting research and discoveries into the root causes of health and disease will come from the Human Microbiome Project.”

The link between microbiomes and farming is clear, at least in our eyes and in the lives of soil scientists. Robert Kremer, a USDA soil scientist and microbiologist from the Univ. of Missouri, says, “When the soil is functioning properly with all properties interacting optimally or in synchrony, vital processes for living organisms in a vigorous and healthy state should be in place.”

It’s official: Organic food found to be healthier than “conventional” food

So, it was no surprise when we read this morning the results of a definitive study on the health benefits of eating organic food versus non-organic published by Newcastle Univ. The authors conclude, “Organic fruits, vegetables and cereals contain significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. They added that organic produce and cereals were found to have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides.”

“This study demonstrates that choosing food produced according to organic standards can lead to increased intake of nutritionally desirable antioxidants and reduced exposure to toxic heavy metals,” lead study author Carlo Leifert said, per a news release. “This constitutes an important addition to the information currently available to consumers which until now has been confusing and in many cases is conflicting.

“Many of these [antioxidant] compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including [cardiovascular] and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies,” the paper reads.

Voila! There’s the link folks — from researchers on opposite sides of the Atlantic — between human microbiomes and healthy soils and nutritious food.

We point all this out because every once in a while, there’s synchronicity between what we produce, what we all eat and that scientific world out there validating the importance of it all. No pun intended, but that’s certainly a lot of food for thought.


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