You Are What Your Food Ate

What your food ate is the title of a new and excellent book that connects the dots between the soil, plants, animals and us and why we need a farming revolution for a health revolution. You’ve no doubt often wondered just how much nutrition there is in even ‘healthy’ vegetables, as well as meat, and of course it’s all dependent on the soil in more ways than you can imagine. What Your Food Ate, by David Montgomery and Anne Bikle (published by Norton) goes deeply into the depletion of nutrients in our food, the degradation of top soil, and loss of carbon, accounting for a third of all carbon released into the atmosphere, from degrading organic matter in agricultural soils, as well as the dangers of chemical fertilisers leading to, among other things, the acidification of soil. But it points the way forward, destroying the argument that more ‘organic’ ways of farming doesn’t produce as much food. It argues for a ‘no till’ planting process, with cover crops and diverse crop rotations, that can create a high yielding soil-building enterprise. Organic farms, according to a global analysis, were a quarter to a third more profitable than corresponding conventional systems. But the soil connections, much like the explosion of interest in the microbiome, go much deeper.

Having just acquired another 9 acres on our farm in South Wales I read avidly about how to make good compost and how clever plants are and what you need to do to get nutrient-rich fruit and veg. I learnt how clever animals are, from wild animals to sheep and cows, practising ‘zoo-pharmaco-gnosy’, selecting from hundreds of plants, grasses and weeds to support their health and why ‘factory’ farming is totally the wrong way to go. Of course, all of this knocks on into our health as ‘healthy, life-filled soil makes for healthy, nutritious crops, forage, and livestock that, in turn, support human health’. The book explains the dramatic downturn in omega-3 versus omega-6, as well as nutrients and phytonutrients that we eat as a consequence of current farming practices. It’s well worth a read.

If you’ve got any expertise, or time to spare, helping us turn our little farm in the Black Mountains of Wales, tucked under Sugarloaf Mountain, in a model for growing healthy food do let me know by messaging on Facebook (patrickholford), giving your contact details.