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How Regenerative Agriculture ‘Supplements’ Health

Myriad regenerative agriculture conferences are popping up, complete with bucolic photos of lush grazing lands. Some of the health and nutrition industry’s champions are investing in a movement that is capturing hearts. Young men and women are stepping into ranching and farming to make a difference, carefully tending to the limited resources we have for the sake of our food supply and the generations to come. It is reminiscent of the dietary supplement movement at its inception, driven by a mission to maximize nature’s restorative health attributes.

Photo credit: Unsplash

On the surface, this movement seems to have little relation to the integrity of the dietary supplement supply chain. “Dig” a little deeper into the issues relating to soil health, and you’ll find that the connection to nutrient health is profound, and science is moving quickly to ascertain the impact of these practices on nutrient density.

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An Apple Shows Just How Broken Our Food System Is

Author: Otto Scharmer | Published: May 27, 2018

Buying and eating apples seems a pretty healthy thing to do. But a new study has found that every 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of conventionally grown apples creates health effects costing 21 cents due to the effects of pesticides and fungicides, resulting in sick leave and eventually shorter life expectancies.

The study, from the Dutch organization Soil & More Impacts, to be published at the end of May, highlights a key problem: The price you pay for apples in the store doesn’t cover the hidden costs of producing them. Instead, these are paid for by society — through the ever-increasing costs of health care and health insurance.

The apple example is not an outlier; it’s indicative of the bigger picture. Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, with 1 billion people engaged in farming worldwide. Pasture and cropland use about 50 percent of the earth’s habitable land. Agriculture also is one of the worst-polluting industries on the planet — even though it could be one of the most powerful forces for good.

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Dr. Bronner’s Aims to ‘Heal Earth!’ Through Regenerative Agriculture

Author: Simon Pitman | Published: April 11, 2018

Regenerative agriculture is not exactly a buzz word quite yet, but it is certainly one to watch, and Dr. Bronner’s, known for its natural soaps, is now playing a big part in raising the profile of this vital movement.

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‘The Dirt Cure:’ Why Human Health Depends on Soil Health

Author: Julie Wilson | Published: February 28, 2018

Our connection to nature is sacred, dating back to the beginning of our existence. It’s no wonder then that our health is intimately intertwined with the Earth—from the soil beneath our feet, to the food we eat, to the water we drink and to the air that fills our lungs.

In other words, nature determines our health, upon which much of our wellbeing—and even our happiness—depends.

This philosophy is the foundation for Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein’s book, “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.” Dr. Shetreat-Klein is a pediatric neurologist, herbalist, naturalist and urban farmer based in New York City, where she raises chickens (a lifelong dream) and grows organic fruits and vegetables.

Her New York Times bestselling book has been translated into 10 languages.

I was fortunate to meet Shetreat-Klein a few weeks ago in Houston, Texas, where she was spoke at an event co-hosted by the Organic Consumers Association and the Organic Horticulture Benefits Alliance, a non-profit that educates individuals, gardeners, homeowners, landscapers and schools on the real-world application and benefits of organics.

Shetreat-Klein described her residency as a medical student and the complete lack of emphasis on nutrition and whole-body health. As a young medical student she was appalled to learn that it was the norm to prescribe multiple medications—sometimes up to six or seven different drugs—for children who, despite all those prescriptions, remained chronically ill.

Shetreat-Klein’s experience as a pediatrician, and as the mother of a chronically ill child, led her down an alternative path where she began to explore the causes behind the widespread chronic illness we see in children today.

Her journey took her back to nature where she realized the importance of healthy soil and the tiny, microscopic organisms (microbes) living within it. These microbes, which until recently we’ve been told were bad and should be avoided, are actually the key to good health both in soils and our bodies.

The human microbiome, made up of trillions of microbes such as bacteria, fungi and protozoa, is often referred to as our “second brain,” regulating a variety of processes including digestion, immune system function and brain function. Shetreat-Klein believes that it’s our exposure (or lack thereof) to these microbes that plays a pivotal role in human health.

In her book, Shetreat-Klein writes:

Gut, immune and nervous system—and the many microbes therein—are a direct reflection of the food we eat and where that food comes from, from the soil it’s grown in to the water it swims in to the synthetic chemicals that it’s bathed in.

Fresh food, microbes (that’s right, germs) and elements of nature—soil, sunshine, water, and fresh air—make children resilient and prevent or reverse their illness.

In “The Dirt Cure,” Shetreat-Klein reveals the shocking contents of children’s food and how it’s greatly harming their bodies. She also offers solutions, including an organic diet rich in fruits and veggies, and how to encourage your child to get out in nature and play in the dirt.

Kids have the natural ability to be healthy, we just have to give them the tools to do so, she says.

Click here to pick up a copy of “The Dirt Cure” today.

To learn more about Shetreat-Klein’s recipe for good health, sign up here for her newsletter.

Julie Wilson is communications associate for the Organic Consumers Association. To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up herePublished in full with permission.

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Kuli Kuli: A Superstar of Superfoods

Author: Marilyn Waite | Published: January 10, 2018

Nestled in downtown Oakland, California, sustainable food and agriculture startup Kuli Kuli has roots more than 7,000 miles away.

Founder Lisa Curtis was introduced to the moringa tree while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town in Niger. A vegetarian whose local diet consisted mainly of millet and rice, Curtis was able to curb her malnourishment, a lack of protein and key vitamins by adding moringa to her daily regime. Her health turnaround sparked an interest in introducing the benefit of the moringa plant to North American eaters.

When Curtis returned from Niger, she and her co-founders began creating food products from sustainably sourced moringa leaves. They started producing health bars in small batches and selling the goods at farmer’s markets. Today, the product line — which includes teas, powders for shakes, health bars and energy shots — is available in more than 6,000 stores.

Moringa is not your come-and-go food fad. It’s difficult to directly compare to any one plant. Like kale, it’s a green superfood, yet richer in nutrients; the taste profile is similar to matcha, which comes from specially grown and processed green tea leaves, with an earthy, mild flavor. On the shelf, you likely will find it next to other superfoods such as goji berries.

Moringa contains a wide range of nutrients and attractive attributes, including iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, highly digestible protein and all nine essential amino acids. Also, it’s vegan and free of soy, gluten, dairy and genetically modified organisms.

Agriculture, food and related industries represent about 5.5 percent of U.S. GDP, contributing around $992 billion each year. Transforming this industry to be sustainable and regenerative is one of the biggest opportunities to address climate change while creating economic opportunity.

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How To Be a Better, Smarter, Happier Meat Eater

Author: Mark Bittman | Published: January 18, 2018

Sure, you’ve heard that red meat is cruel and unsustainable, and that it’ll destroy the environment if it doesn’t give us all heart attacks first. But it’s so delicious! Which is why we begged Mark Bittman to reconcile our principles with our appetites—and teach us the new rules of red meat.

1. Start Beefing with (Most) Beef

Under natural conditions, cattle are an almost perfectly beneficial part of a regenerative agricultural system. Their waste feeds the fields on which they’re pastured; carbon is sequestered in that grass; and their meat, in limited quantities, is good for us, good for the land, and good for the community of farmers, ranchers, butchers, and the variety of small businesses that raise, butcher, and sell it.

Take the cattle off those fields, multiply their numbers by thousands, feed them industrially produced grain encouraged by subsidies, damage some of the world’s best farmland to grow that grain using a destructive assortment of chemicals, pump the cows full of antibiotics (to prevent illness in the unnatural conditions), scale and intensify this process so that almost anyone in the world can afford to eat meat daily, and…that’s not good for us. Or the farmland. Or the planet. Or, needless to say, the cattle. And yet beef raised this way is what almost everyone in this country has eaten exclusively for the past 50 years.

Fortunately, a growing cadre of ethical ranchers and butchers have started turning this system around. They’re pasture-raising cows on grass and mother’s milk—which gives the meat a wonderfully complex flavor, pleasantly minerally and deliciously beefy—and they’re using whole animals, minimizing waste and expanding our palates. Here’s how to find, buy, and order beef that’s not only better for the planet but tastes better, too.

2. Expand Your Vocabulary

Just about anything is better than the industrially produced grain-fed feedlot beef. The best alternative, and I’m being very specific here, is “grass-fed, pasture-raised,” especially if it’s raised locally (to reduce the carbon footprint) and organically (to prevent the widespread use of pesticides that harm the environment). There are other good alternatives that play with those variables, but the bottom line is that most of what you find for sale isn’t cutting it.

3. Open Your Wallet

The price for pasture-raised beef does vary, but it’s expensive. Beef finished in a feedlot should be somewhat cheaper, but it’s still going to be steep. Ground beef—which constitutes about a third of the yield from every animal—should be $5 to $10 a pound; less is suspect, and more is, well, high. The premium cuts, like rib eye and filet mignon, are likely to be around $30 a pound; more is common.

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When Climate Change Makes It Hard to Breathe

Author: Ashley Ahearn & Sahsa-Ann Simons | Published: December 5, 2017

Climate change isn’t just contributing to drought, super-storms, sea level rise and flooding. It’s also making it harder for many people to breathe, like 13-year-old Estefany Velasquez. Her family faced a tough choice because of her asthma.  

More than 24 million Americans have asthma.

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can lead to longer growing seasons and higher pollen counts, all of which can worsen asthma symptoms.

“Those are all expected to contribute to increases in some of the signs of airborne allergens that can trigger an asthma attack,” said Kim Knowlton, assistant professor in the climate and health program at Columbia University.

With climate change we’re also seeing more intense wildfires across the west, and in recent years, scientists have correlated those bad smoke days with an increase in emergency room visits for people with respiratory diseases.

Asthma rates are on the rise nationally and health experts and scientists expect to see that trend continue in the coming years as the effects of climate change take hold.

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Eating From Trees

There was a time when lots of our vegetables came from trees in our backyard or that of the neighbours. May be it is time we revisited those days

Author: Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty | Published: April 27, 2017

Imagine if we got our veggies from trees just like we do our fruits. This thought has been at the back of my mind through this summer while working with organic vegetable farmers during this unprecedented drought.

I realised that almost all the vegetables we want come from cultivated one-season crops that require a considerable amount of water and care and are vulnerable to pests, diseases and climate variations.

We expect these seasonal plants to provide vegetables consistently the year around: be it potatoes, tomatoes, okra, beans, gourds or cool seasonal veggies. Maybe it’s time to think differently.

We, in the south of India, are fortunate to have many trees with edible fruits. In fact, during my childhood in Kerala, the role of tree-based vegetables was significant. We consumed drumsticks, drumstick leaves and flowers in various forms; we made delicious poriyal, erisherri, kootu and other preparations with raw papaya. Summer food at my paternal grandparents’ home revolved around jackfruits, mangoes, grapefruit and breadfruit — raw, cooked, roasted, preserved or fried!

Jackfruit and jackfruit seeds played a stellar role with the whole family involved in cleaning the raw fruit, skinning the seed and sharing it with neighbours, so that the cut fruit is not wasted. Jackfruits converted beautifully into aviyal, kootu, and puzhukku (in which the raw fruit and seed are cooked together along with coconut). The seed was made into a delicious poriyal with drumstick; it was combined with roasted coconut into theeyal. The chakka puzhukku was also eaten as a rice replacement.

How can we forget the crisp jackfruit chips and the rich chakka varatti(jackfruit jam), which was preserved to be eaten for the next few months and used for making chakka prathaman.

Raw mangoes went into everything — the sour ones into pickles chutneys, sambar, aviyal, fish curry and mango rice or were salted away for rainy days. Apart from eating the ripe ones, we got pachadi and pulisheeri.

We also consumed the sour bilimbi (supposed to reduce cholesterol) that was made into an aviyal with small onions, added in fish curry, made into pickles and used in almost every curry that requires a souring agent.

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A Recipe to End Hunger: Food Policies that Adapt to Climate Change

New Online Course by UNDP, FAO and UNITAR provides tools on how countries can better prepare climate-resilient food systems

Author: Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca | Published: September 27, 2017

In our age of conspicuous consumption and excess, it frightens us to know that one out of nine people ­– or 815 million children, women and men – remain chronically undernourished.

And according to recent reports, the issue has been getting worse, with the number of undernourished people worldwide increasing from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.

So how do we build a recipe to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, making sure all people have access to sufficient and nutritious food year-round?

It’s not going to be easy. Climate change is altering age-old farming traditions, affecting livelihoods in local communities, and small producers who bring healthy food to our tables. It is also triggering massive droughts and floods that put our global goal of zero hunger at risk.

Even a 2°C global temperate increase will be devastating for farmers and the 2 billion extra mouths we will need to feed by 2050. The cost of corn – the backbone of much of the world’s diet – could jump by 50 percent, and crop production could decline by as much as 22 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. Droughts, floods and other large-scale climate disasters would put more lives at risk of malnutrition, starvation and uncertain futures.

As chefs who are also working with the SDG Fund as UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, we know that food is the essential ingredient of life. It nourishes young minds, builds strong bones and fuels our economies. On small farms across the globe, food and agriculture are the primary drivers of development and poverty reduction. Without more climate-resilient food systems, we risk even greater calamites and the unravelling of progress we’ve made in reducing hunger, protecting our planet and supporting developing economies to reach their full potential.

Major climate disrupters, such as the recent floods across Asia, landslides in Sierra Leone, and hurricanes across the Caribbean and the United States, take away lives, destroy productive assets and shatter entire communities. This cycle of destruction will only get worse as temperatures and sea levels rise. It also puts farming at risk, especially for poor, small-scale farmers who largely depend on rain-fed agriculture.

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World Hunger Is Increasing Thanks to Wars and Climate Change

Author: Leah Samberg, The Conversation | Published: October 22, 2017

Around the globe, about 815 million people — 11 percent of the world’s population — went hungry in 2016, according to the latest data from the United Nations. This was the first increase in more than 15 years.

Between 1990 and 2015, due largely to a set of sweeping initiatives by the global community, the proportion of undernourished people in the world was cut in half. In 2015, UN member countries adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which doubled down on this success by setting out to end hunger entirely by 2030. But a recent UN report shows that, after years of decline, hunger is on the rise again.

As evidenced by nonstop news coverage of floods, fires, refugees and violence, our planet has become a more unstable and less predictable place over the past few years. As these disasters compete for our attention, they make it harder for people in poor, marginalized and war-torn regions to access adequate food.

I study decisions that smallholder farmers and pastoralists, or livestock herders, make about their crops, animals and land. These choices are limited by lack of access to services, markets or credit; by poor governance or inappropriate policies; and by ethnic, gender and educational barriers. As a result, there is often little they can do to maintain secure or sustainable food production in the face of crises.

The new UN report shows that to reduce and ultimately eliminate hunger, simply making agriculture more productive will not be enough. It also is essential to increase the options available to rural populations in an uncertain world.

Conflict and Climate Change Threaten Rural Livelihoods

Around the world, social and political instability are on the rise. Since 2010, state-based conflict has increased by 60 percent and armed conflict within countries has increased by 125 percent. More than half of the food-insecure people identified in the UN report (489 million out of 815 million) live in countries with ongoing violence. More than three-quarters of the world’s chronically malnourished children (122 million of 155 million) live in conflict-affected regions.

At the same time, these regions are experiencing increasingly powerful storms, more frequent and persistent drought and more variable rainfall associated with global climate change. These trends are not unrelated. Conflict-torn communities are more vulnerable to climate-related disasters, and crop or livestock failure due to climate can contribute to social unrest.

War hits farmers especially hard. Conflict can evict them from their land, destroy crops and livestock, prevent them from acquiring seed and fertilizer or selling their produce, restrict their access to water and forage, and disrupt planting or harvest cycles. Many conflicts play out in rural areas characterized by smallholder agriculture or pastoralism. These small-scale farmers are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. Supporting them is one of the UN’s key strategies for reaching its food security targets.

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