My Garden Life – July 2013

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My Garden Life  – July 2013

The Old Farmers Prayer (abridged)

 

Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet

 

On the farm I work each day

This is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds, each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out

 

I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons

 

All that will live is in the bosom of earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back to her someday!

 By Malcolm Beck & Robert Tate

 

Those of you that are regular readers on this site know what a difficult year 2012 was for me at my home garden and for my associates that worked with me at Nolan Elementary-Middle School (Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners).  Between the vandalism at the school garden that literally forced us to start over [1] and the oppressing heat that definitely affected farm and garden production across the country (record heat waves in the Midwest), 2012 was nearly a devastating year.  But through all that, my friends and I, fellow gardeners and kids survived and conquered our enemies, natural and man-made, to have productive yields at both gardens.[2] .[3] . [4].  So as the year ended I was feeling pretty doggone good!

One of the last things we did with the kids was a garlic-seeding lesson coordinated by what was then the Garden Resource Program.  We all met at a community garden in Hamtramck to do some clean-up work, drink some fresh pressed apple cider and learn how to plant garlic.  I’ve got to tell you…that cider was damn good…it was cold and tart and natural and cold and sweet and cold…it was fabulous.  One small cup was all I dared to consume.  One small cup…the nectar was addicting!  One cup more would have led to a jug and then just hanging out at the cider press.  This stuff was that good.  Of course we couldn’t keep the kids away from it, but we did manage to get them to focus at what was at hand.  It was a fun day and even I learned something because I was out there.

So I got some garlic from my good BUDDY John Adams and planted it on Nov. 4th along the back row of the garden.  Starting from the West/South end heading north I planted: Music (14); Japanese (13); Kilarney Red (27) and Chesnok Red (30).  Also buried pumpkin shells to add material to the soil.  I was ecstatic because I had a lot of momentum at behind me and I was feeling good about 2013’s prospects.

Two reasons I was feeling good were John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy[5] and Law Academy.  They both became members in the Project Sweet Tomato program.  They both had so much too work with, greenhouse (!!!), a more than cooperative attitude and importantly, the correct vision.  The teacher/coordinator, the newly retired Ms. Gwen Bouler was excellent to work with and when you see her garden you will know why [6].  Another reason for heightened expectations was the development of a fine relationship with the staff of Nolan Elementary-Middle School.  Nolan is an EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) project school and in this new environment there has been considerable growth and improvement in literally all aspects of the program…from administrative staff to the CEO Ms. Angela Underwood (principal) and her Parent & Community Involvement Specialist, Ms. DeAndrea “DeDe” Rogers to the teachers and most importantly the kids and their grade scores.  Wonderful things are going on over there and I am excited about its future.

There’s another garden-related program in the city that initially I was pretty high on.  The Detroit School Garden Collaborative, when I first heard about it I was ecstatic.  Six-raised bed with all the fixins’ would be given to Detroit Public Schools that applied for them.  There would be new jobs for students (paid-internships) and for adult assistants.  The gardens would grow vegetables that would be used in the school’s cafeterias.  There would be classroom programs, horticultural and agricultural education, nutrition, and community outreach.  Unfortunately they have had some problems getting it off the ground.  It is going to be a work in progress, and for it to succeed it will need help from a lot of organizations.

As the New Year started, when I am typically checking out my gear and determining what I want to grow (my seed catalogs were coming in almost daily), I found myself not counting the days, but procrastinating about what I was going to do and when I was going to do it.  The first thing off of my “bucket list” was germinating seeds indoors.  My excuse was I didn’t want to take on the process of converting my dining into a plant laboratory.  So to be sure, I cleaned up the dining area, got it looking regal and all that, but slowly but surely it got loaded up with seed packets and garden paraphernalia anyway.

Then came the cold weather crops distribution courtesy of my friends and mentors of Keep Growing Detroit (a spin-off from the Garden Resource Program) in April.  I thought I was going to regain my mojo but “po’ pitiful” me couldn’t get any traction.  The weather didn’t exactly help either (at this date a token excuse), but I did get out and plant carrots and for the first time since I began gardening here, I will be a carrot eating fool!!!  Yum, Yum Eat ‘Em Up!  That sound you hear is not thunder…nor a earthquake…neither a sonic boom, no that’s me taking a bite from a carrot pulled fresh from the garden.  I planted several varieties like:

  • Nelson
  • Danvers
  • Royal Chantenay

They are all doing very well, the stems, a parsley-like green…tall and flowing.  But, as exciting as the carrots are, I’m still not quite there.

The month of May kind of shot by for me and before I knew it, warm-weather crop distribution, courtesy of Keep Growing Detroit, was upon me.  I was picking up for my home garden and the Nolan School garden too!  I got there and instead of being excited seeing old friends and making new ones, I meandered from distributor to distributor and gathered my plants and split.  It was no big deal…it didn’t register on me then but upon reflection I should known then that there was a different feeling this year.

I shared my thoughts/feelings with several of my gardening friends and surprisingly was told the same thing.  Almost everybody I know, that is into gardening, considers this year to be an off year as for interest and effort.  They will get what they get but they don’t intend to work too hard to get it.  This behavior probably explains the lack of gardening conversations between my friends and I.  Everybody claims a lack of focus this year too.  They’ve got a lot of major projects going on elsewhere and something’s got to give if they are going to get them done in a reasonable space of time.  Something had to give and for many it was gardening.

I think that for myself, I have spent a considerable amount of time assisting the effort to get the gardens going at Nolan and John R. King.  Both of these school gardens got in before mine.  I was fortunate that some veggies that over-wintered in the garden gave me some of my earliest taste experiences.  I had lettuce and scallions in May and June, plus the garlic I planted last November has been harvested as I write this.  I didn’t really get anything in the ground until June 2nd.  I spent the entire day and the two days that followed (between rain storms) putting every plant I had in and planting seeds also.  So in spite of my laxity of energy and desire I have happily managed to get the following crops in:

  • Greens (All Greens Mix)
  • Arugula
  • Nelson Carrots
  • Napoli Carrots (Fall)
  • Lettuce (Mesclun Mix)
  • Spinach, Space
  • Yankee Bell Pepper
  • Early Jalapeno Pepper
  • Italia Sweet Pepper
  • Big Beef Tomato
  • Brandywine Tomato
  • Cherokee Purple Tomato
  • Black Cherry Tomato
  • Green Zebra Tomato
  • Paste Tomato
  • Marketmore Cucumber
  • Georgia Collard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Belstar Broccoli (Fall)
  • White/Green Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tenderbush Green Beans
  • Goldmine Yellow Wax Beans

For a guy that’s supposed to be experiencing an overwhelming feeling malaise this is no small undertaking.  There are 3-20 ft. rows of each bean type…17 tomato plants, 6 varieties14 pepper plants, 3 varieties24 cucumber plants (trellised)4 of each cabbage…6 collard greens…6 broccoli (plus 6 to be planted).  This year I didn’t plant two of my standards, yellow squash and zucchini, as well as a host of peppers (long/short cayenne, ancho/poblano, hot/sweet banana).  I also skipped on the tomatillos.  I guess the several containers of frozen Salsa Verde in my freezer should serve as a reminder of what I should not grow in the immediate future. 

Maybe I am slightly disaffected because there have not been the usual challenges as per seasons before.  I used to get so much fun looking out my office window, keeping watch on the squirrel population as they devastated my garden.  My BB gun has been in the closet now for two years.  Or the times when 50 to 100 birds, black ones with black beaks and iridescent chests, would land in my yard and walk from one side to the other eating and destroying (breaking) everything in their path.  They got a lot of insects but there was a toll to pay.  They would use the garden as a giant dust bath, just flipping and flapping…sometimes fighting around the garden.  Breaking whatever they could…collateral damage, right?  Of course there were the rabbits…my hip-hop friends that nibbled exclusively on young, tender shoots.  All of this has stopped.  Stopped virtually completely!  And I think I know why…my inflatable snakes.  The inflatable snakes from last year.  I haven’t had to put them out this year because no animal…bird or rodent…has come into my yard.  They stopped coming in last year and with the exception of one rabbit and one squirrel hopping quickly across the yard I have not see any pest/varmint in my garden this year.  Maybe they think that the snakes are still out there somewhere…lol.  I do miss the birds, especially the wide variety I did see, but I don’t miss the rest of them that’s for sure.

I ultimately think that I am slowed more than just a little because of the unpredictability of the weather, here and across the nation.  Last year, we were experiencing extreme heat and violent outbursts of weather.  A combination that was not conducive to high output at any level.  This year, with the somewhat mild winter, we were hit by a spring that was somewhat reminiscent of past springs (not as moderate as last year) and a summer that to me was kind of slow to take off.  Last year we had the heat and this year, so far, we’ve got rain…Rain…RAIN and plenty of it.  We have had more than enough rain.  Last year from June 1 through July 30, I hand watered each and every plant on almost an every other day basis.  Because of the heat, unfortunately I over-watered.  So far, this year, I have physically watered my garden only 3 times.  Imagine that…only 3 times (and one of those times it rained afterward).  Between June 1st and July 21st, 61 days…it has rained 29 times!  That’s almost every other day!  Perhaps, I and many others are feeling like we have no control…no control of the weather (how much rain can be too much rain)…no control over the care of the vegetables…no control of the overall outcomes.  All we can do is plants them…put them in that damn ground and nurture them to health and productivity.

Is this what our forefather’s faced?  The Scott’s brand or Miiracle-Gro didn’t exist!  Technology for them was a well that was not more than 10 steps from the garden.  Man, Woman, child, family and friends against the elements.  You didn’t get fancy or waste a space with something that wasn’t going to come close to expectations or needs.  It was about land management.  You had to seasonally rotate and manage crops so that you could eat all year.  Frigidaire?  What was that?  Kenmore?  Come On!  You better get your crops down into that “root cellar”[7] and let them set for keepin’!  Back then, you gardened/farmed with an ongoing desperation and frustration, so maybe that’s what I am feeling now.  As much as I would like to have it, that magically charged green thumb, it’s not going to happen.  I will have to adjust, think smart and adapt to whatever the elements and the environment give me. It looks like in several ways this year will be as good as last year and better too in specific areas.  My bean production should be up, while I am sure my tomato output will be down.  I will take a good bean yield any day! My cabbages are off to a slow start but the collard greens are doing quite rightly so.  Hot banana peppers are looking good and plentiful, jalapeno peppers are at standard and bell pepper plants are flowering.  I will have a good yield from my cucumbers; the plants right now look vigorous and strong.  I will need 101 different ways to prepare this vegetable if they hold to form. 

2013 photo 1

Cucumbers and plum tomatoes

2013 photo 3

All my little bean soldiers standing in a row!

2013 photo 4

2013 photo 5

A row of carrots planted between two rows of garlic

2013 photo 7

2013 photo 8

2013 photo 9

All of the garden scaffolding…can’t wait till the tomato plants fill them out.

2013 photo 10

These pictures were actually taken about 3 weeks ago and a lot has happened since they were taken.  I’ve got beans on the plants and tomato development and growth is improving.  Fall crops will get in next week.  I have come to like this garden.  It’s different…it’s practical…it’s creative.  Like most experienced gardeners and farmers, I will learn from this year, put it in my toolkit, and get ready for 2014.

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The Other Side of the Plate — The Meat!

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Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP s...

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP standards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers of this blog have experienced my thoughts, as well as others, on food (primarily vegetables) and nutrition.  So, today, after hearing about so many stories about “mystery meat” or “pink slime”, I thought I would help the meat industry by pointing out that all meat ain’t all bad!  Just like everything else we consume we have to continually be on the watch as for how our food is handled and prepared.

Because I am not so smart that I am an expert on everything I went online to WebMD and found a great article that was packed with a few things I needed to know.  You know how it is, you are at the supermarket in the meat department and you’ve got several choices to buy for your dinner.  The label on the chicken breast package says “Natural”, so do you think that it never had plastic surgery?  What does “Certified Organic” mean in the beef section?  Is it the same certification that is used in the produce department?  So, thanks again to WebMD we will all be able to make the smart choices when buying meet.

Grass-Fed and –Finished (beef, lamb, bison)

Grass-fed animals eat nothing but their mother’s milk, fresh grass and cut hay for their entire lives versus animals raised conventionally, which graze until they reach a certain weight, then are sent to feedlots, where they are “finished” on grain diets until they reach market size.

Health BenefitsSome research suggests that grass-fed meats are richer in omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than those raised on grains.

Eco-benefits:  Grass-fed-meat farms voluntarily certified by the American Grassfed Association (www.americangrassfed.org) do not use antibiotics (which can end up in water systems) or grains (which require land to grow them and fuel to transport)

Is it regulated?  A definition of “grass-fed” proposed by the USDA is still in a comment period.  Many, including the AGA, consider the USDA’s proposed definition too lax as it allows for hormone and antibiotic use and some grain feeding.

Keep in mind:  “Partially grain-fed” means cattle are grain-finished.  Not all grass-fed beef is organic.

Certified Organic (beef, pork, lamb, bison, poultry)

Organic standards prohibit all use of antibiotics and hormones.  (Hormone use in poultry and pork production—even conventional—has been banned since 1959.)  All food is vegetarian and certified organic—including pastureland—which means that it is not treated with pesticides or herbicides and cannot be genetically modified.  Animals have access to pastureland, sunlight and enough land for exercise, and grazing is done in a manner that does not degrade the land through erosion or contamination.  Animal cloning is forbidden.

Health benefits:  Since USDA-certified organic labeling requires that animals be traced from birth to slaughter (including feed sources and medications), problems related to animal diseases and human food borne illness can easily be traced to the source.

Eco-benefits:  Organic Standards ban the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, which leach into groundwater and ultimately end up in public water supplies.

Is it regulated?  The USDA regulates the Certified Organic standard and independent agencies that conduct farm inspections.

Keep in mind:  Organic doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed, however certified organic livestock generally graze on open-range land three to six months longer than conventionally raised livestock to reach market size.

Certified Humane (beef, pork, lamb, poultry)

This label guarantees that animals have freedom to move and prohibits crates and tie-downs in stalls, as well as, artificial means to induce growth, such as continuous barn lights for broiler chickens.

Eco-benefits:  Certified Humane prohibits the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, two factors in groundwater pollution.

Is it regulated?  Yes.  Certified Humane standards are endorsed by several animal-rights organizations, including the ASPCA and the Humane Society.  Producers are audited by third-party groups.

Keep in mind:  This label does not mean animals are certified organic.

Natural (beef, pork, lamb, poultry)

No additives or preservatives were introduced after the meat or poultry was processed.  (Certain sodium-based broths can be added to poultry and pork and be labeled “natural.”)  This term does not ensure organic feed.  The term “natural” is often confused with “naturally raised,” a term proposed by the USDA that would mean the animals were not given antibiotics and/or growth hormones.

Health benefits:  natural meats have no nitrites or nitrates, preservatives that have been linked in some children and women to various types of cancer.

Eco-benefits:  “Natural” has no substantial environmental benefit.

Is it regulated?  It is a term defined by the USDA but not regulated

Keep in mind:  “Natural” alone says nothing about how an animal was raised.

Most consumers—including myself—don’t have as many options when buying produce or meat.  Urban supermarkets focus strictly on what is selling or what the community buys as a whole.  The shelves are not loaded with esoteric items like pine nuts or artichokes and as for the meats; your best hope is that it is fresh and safe.  But as the urban culture changes and their tastes expand, it can’t be too far off that we will find ourselves having to make the choices that are presented here.  So continue to read the labels so that you will make wise choices on what you are eating and feeding your family…Bon Appetit!

Going Rogue…With A Raw Food Diet!

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Around this time last year I was having a conversation with a very talented friend that lives in Canada about gardening and one of the subjects that was discussed was why we were into gardening.  I stated my reasons which all sounded like the tried and true textbook reasons of a health-conscious man but my friend said that she was motivated because she wanted to focus on embracing a raw food diet/lifestyle.  She went on to recite a particular passage from the bible that Genesis 1:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.”  The implication is that we are to eat these things raw, without cooking or processing. Cooking is unnecessary!  Well for me, I thought that what I was doing with a lot of the food from my garden, some of which I ate raw, had me positioned to reap a lot of the benefits of a raw food diet intentionally or coincidentally!

But a television talk show showed me that I could do even better with greater benefits.

The Raw Food Diet vs. Diabetes

On a recent weekday afternoon I stumbled upon a segment on the Dr. Oz talk show where he and his guest had an animated conversation about the benefits of a raw food diet (more will be said about the benefits later).  The guest referenced/used a video that is called Raw for 30 DaysRaw for 30 Days is an independent documentary film that “chronicles six Americans with diabetes who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, live, raw foods to reverse diabetes naturally.”  More can be found, along with a trailer for the video, at: http://www.diet-blog.com/07/raw_for_30_days_can_diabetes_be_cured.php.

On this site you will learn that there are three variants of raw food diets: vegan, vegetarian and raw animal food diets.

  • Vegan raw food diets focus solely on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.  No animal products are consumed.
  • Vegetarian raw food diets consist of primarily of plant foods, but also include foods like dairy, honey, and eggs.
  • Raw meat diets focus on consuming animal products that can safely be eaten raw, such as organ and muscle meat, raw dairy, and sashimi (raw fish), but also includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but not grains. 

The Benefits of A Raw Food Diet

According to the site Death to Diabetes the health benefits of a raw food diet are:

  • Increased energy
  • Stabilized blood glucose levels
  • Improved skin appearance
  • Better digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of cancer

The raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet.  It is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and health-promoting chemicals called phytochemicals.  At least 75% of food consumed should not be heated over 116 degrees F. 

These properties are associated with a reduced risk of the abovementioned diseases.  A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations

There are specific cooking techniques that will make your food/meals more digestible and add variety to your diet.  Techniques, such as…

  • Sprouting seeds, grains and beans
  • Juicing fruit and vegetables
  • Soaking nuts and dried fruit
  • Blending
  • Dehydrating food

Here’s a short list of some of the equipment you will need to effectively execute a raw food diet.

  • A dehydrator, a piece of equipment that blows air through food at a temperature less than 116 degrees F.
  • A good-quality juice extractor for juicing fruit and vegetables.
  • Large glass containers to soak and sprout seeds, grains, and beans
  • Mason Jars for storing sprouts and other food

There are a few precautions for those interested in undergoing a raw food diet regimen.  The diet may not be appropriate for:

  • Children
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • People with anemia
  • People at risk for osteoporosis

People also need to be aware that certain nutritional deficiencies can occur on the raw food diet, including:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • B-12 (The Journal of Nutrition study found that a raw food diet increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency)
  • Protein
  • Calories

Critics of the raw food diet say while its true that some enzymes are inactivated when food is heated; it doesn’t matter because the body uses its own enzymes for digestion.  In addition, cooking makes certain phytochemicals easier to absorb, such as beta-carotene in carrots.

Obviously, this is one diet that is probably easier to do living on the west coast where access to a multitude of fresh vegetables is easy.  But it does make sense, even if I don’t go all the way with it.  One of the best reasons for having an “organic garden,” is that I can go out anytime and pluck something off of a bush or vine and pop that sucker right in my mouth where the flavor explodes on my tongue and makes my nostrils swell and my eyes bulge…not really, but it is pretty close to that.  You really can’t go wrong, since a diet that follows the recommended nutritional guidelines includes a lot of the strategies used as the basis of a raw food diet, any diet filled with high levels of fruit and vegetables along with properly prepared and portioned meat servings will position you to have a long and healthy life.

The Benefits of Organic Food – Update March 29, 2011

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Updated March 29, 2011 to add another voice to the discussion. See link to the article below: Are Fruits and Vegetables Getting Less Nutritious?

 

Last Memorial Day I was showing a friend my garden and she asked if there was anything that she could sample.  At the time the only thing that was ready were my radishes.  So I pulled one out of the ground for her, rinsed it off and gave it to her.  She bit into it and the expression on her face was sheer bliss!  She admitted that this was the very first time that she had ever had a vegetable right from the ground and the taste was fabulous.  It tasted far superior to the produce that she typically buys at her local supermarket.

 

Today, I got a question from a follower that asked if the soil in our community gardens was tested for toxins and chemicals, because she was concerned if the food was fit for human consumption.  Of course, I was able to assure her that it was tested and that we have a fine support system that is provided by our own Michigan State University.

  

  

To me, these two separate events are somewhat related because they create a forum on the topic of the health care benefits of organically grown food vs. “conventional” food that is readily available almost everywhere.

 

A growing number of consumers and especially those dealing with chronic illness are switching to organic food.  My garden is 100% organic and because of my diabetes and other health concerns, I believe that it is better for me.  There have been many discussions on the topic at several levels and food agencies around the world universally claim that there is no evidence of a nutritional difference.  I came upon an article by Shane Heaton (Organic Food News Quarterly) that more than suggests that a “more careful and thorough review of the science comparing organic and non-organic food reveals that, collectively, the available evidence does indeed support the consumer belief and claims by the organic industry that their food is safer, more nutritious, and better for you than non-organic food”.

  

 

  

Do organic crops, on average contain higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C, and antioxidant phytonutrients?

 

  

Official food consumption tables, including data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture, reveal that since the 1940s the mineral levels in fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy have declined substantially in conventional foods.  Combine this with earlier (pre-ripened) picking, longer storage, and more processing of crops, it should not be surprising that we may be getting fewer nutrients in our food than we were 60 years ago.

  

 

  

The artificial fertilization associated with conventional crops produces lush growth by swelling produce with more water.  On a pound-for-pound basis, organic food has more “dry matter” (i.e. food).  Partly because of this (and for other reasons too), there are higher levels of nutrients in organic produce.  By eating organic food it may be easier to achieve the recommended daily allowances for certain nutrients that you may not get otherwise.

We can expect also that phytonutrients, many of which are antioxidants involved in the plant’s own defense system, will be higher in organic produce because crops rely more on their own defenses in the absence of regular applications of chemical pesticides.  Higher levels have so far been found of lycopene in organic tomatoes, polyphenois in organic potatoes, flavonols in organic apples, and resveratrol in organic red wines.  At the time Mr. Heaton’s article was published a recent review of the subject estimated that organic produce will tend to contain 10% to 50% higher phytonutrients than conventional produce.

What about pesticide residue?

It is regularly claimed by the mainstream food industry that pesticide residues in foods are known to be safe on the basis of total diet surveys that supposedly find the levels of pesticide residues in our foods to be very low and within acceptable safety limits.  But monitoring programs consistently show that around one in three non-organic food examples tested contains a variety of pesticide residues, with far lower levels being found in and on organic produce.  Conventional food proponents also claim that rigorous safety assessments show that pesticide residues are no threat to human health.  Yet consumers intuitively know this is false.

  

 

Many pesticide-residue safety levels are set for individual pesticides, but many samples of fresh produce carry multiple pesticide residues.  Rules often do not take into account the “cocktail effect” of combinations of pesticides in and on foods.  Research is emerging confirming the potential for such synergistic increases in toxicity of up to 100-fold, resulting in reproductive, immune and nervous system effects not expected from individual compounds acting alone.

 

 How does this affect our children?

Children’s immature and developing organs, brains and detoxification and immune systems, plus their larger intake of food per kilo of body weight, combine to make them even more susceptible to toxins than adults.  American toddlers eating mostly organic foods have been found to have less than one sixth the pesticide residues in their urine compared to children eating conventional foods, lowering their exposure from above to below recognized safety levels.

 

The 1998 landmark study, written by Elizabeth Gillette and published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” showed how a combination of low-level environmental, household and dietary exposures caused subtle yet measurable developmental deficits in children.  The study found significant differences between two groups in both mental and motor abilities (with the children who were exposed to pesticides scoring at a much lower level), as well as an increase in aggressive behavior. 

 

And if you are a breast-feeding mother, you should know that a 1995 Australian study of breast milk found that infants are regularly exposed to several pesticides at levels greater than maximum recommended exposures.  In Canada, a study showed a direct correlation  has been observed between pesticide contamination of breast milk and the increased risk of otitis media (middle ear infection) in Inuit infants.

 

What about food additives?

 

Mr. Heaton’s article points out that artificial colorings and preservatives in food and drink are thought to contribute to hyperactivity in pre-school children, and while many still contest this issue, a study done at that time in the United Kingdom found that the proportion of hyperactive children was halved when additives were removed from their diets.  Many additives – such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavorings, MSG, hydrogenated fat, and phosphoric acid – are prohibited in organic food production.

 

So will you be healthier if you eat organic food?

 

  

A recent review of controlled animal feeding trials found significant improvements in the health of animals given organic feed and concluded:

 

“Reproductive health (and) incidence and recovery from illness are sensitive measures of health status and should be given appropriate weight.  Taking all of this into account, the available data are very strong with regard to the health benefits of organic feed and food.”

 

Similar tests with humans are problematic, though evidence is emerging here too!  An early observational study revealed that boarding-school students eating predominately organically for three years experienced a “very marked decline” in colds and influenza, more rapid convalescence, excellent health generally, fewer sports injuries, a greater resilience to fractures and sprains, clear and healthy skin, and improved dental health.

 

Summing it up!

 

  

So is organic food better for you?  In my opinion, as well as the author Mr. Heaton, the answer is yes.  Decreasing one’s toxin burden and increasing one’s intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can have a significant impact on health, especially when trying to improve or restore health.

  

 

Personally, since I have been growing organically and preserving the food for consumption during the winter months, I have never felt better.  Like the studies suggest, I have fewer colds and in general, fewer health issues to contend with. Eating organic is not the “silver bullet” though.  I have to make sure that I also get plenty of exercise, rest and maintain a healthy diet too.  I limit the amount of red meat that I consume and watch my daily sodium level.  I consciously try to make healthy choices throughout the day.

 

Yes, growing my own makes it somewhat easy for me to accomplish this, but non-growers can do it too.  First you have to move away from the notion that eating “smart” has to cost more.  Studies have shown that the average family spends five times more on junk food, take-out food, alcohol, and tobacco than on fruits and vegetables.  To make healthier choices they need encouragement and education (see my blog “Are You Fighting For Your Children’s Future” 2/14/2011).

 

The fact is that organic food is not a luxury.  It’s how food’s supposed to be, and a valuable part of any regimen intended to maintain, improve, or restore health

  

Update: Are Fruits and Vegetables Getting Less Nutritious?  (courtesy of Nutrition Diva)

 Click Here To Read the Article

 

 

For more information on organic food and organic gardening please go to the following websites:

Michigan State University    http://www.css.msu.edu./SPNL/

Grinning Planet   www.grinningplanet.com

National Home Gardening Club   www.gardeningclub.com

Organic Gardening  www.organicgardening.com

Urban Farm Magazine  www.urbanfarmonline.com

Christina Pirello   “Living the Well Life”  www.christinacooks.com

The Garden Resource Program   www.DetroitAgriculture.Org.

Project Sweet Tomato   www.projectsweettomato.com

Photo Credits:  John Adams (1, 2);  Jenni-ann Littsey (3, 4, 5, 6)