Several months ago I was given a book recommendation by the farmer who runs the CSA that we joined this year, Fertile Ground Farm. Shortly after talking with her about Farmacology I put a hold on it at the library.
(It’s of course also available online but you should really buy it from your local book seller, if you care about the future of books and publishing and do not want them to be destroyed by the Amazonian beast’s every widely-reaching tentacles that would like to crush and devour all local businesses and become the one-and-only purveyor of all consumer goods, which in this case here in KW means a place like Words Worth Books.)
Anyways! Although Farmacology came out in 2013 it has remained popular at our local library so when I finally got a copy a month later I could only keep it for three weeks. Luckily since I was so enthusiastic about the book I was able to get my own copy from the publishers along with two copies to send out as giveaways, boo-yah! It turns out that this is my first time giving something away on this blog that is not just for local readers and is not homemade by me.
More importantly though, I wouldn’t host a giveaway for something that I wasn’t totally excited about, and this book is just that kind of something! So enough about the giveaway, and on to the book.
Several years ago, family doctor Daphne Miller decided to embark on a journey to visit innovative family farms to explore what sustainable agriculture can teach us about health and our bodies. Her journey took her to a wide variety of farms with their respective farmers, and each helped her to see a different aspect of health and healing.
The book has already been widely and positively reviewed by influential food and health writers, including Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Alice Waters, and it’s worth checking out a few of those reviews. Thus, rather than walk you through the whole book in summary form, I would like to share with you a few of the things that have influenced me since reading the book. A few of these I was already in favor of but now have more support for, and others are brand new!
- Don’t Wash All Your Veggies
More and more people are talking and writing about probiotic bacteria and their importance in our lives these days, and the discussion often involves fermented foods. However, we can also get some good members of the microbiota from our local environment straight from the soil. The easiest way to do this is by NOT thoroughly washing all of our veggies.
I have been incorporating this into my diet lately by only lightly washing the veggies from my garden. When thinning carrots and other root vegetables I’m even making sure to eat a few of them right after picking them, after just rubbing off some of the dirt. This has meant a few mouthfuls of grittiness, but I’ve also enjoyed the absurdly fresh bites!
- Buy The Ugly Veggies
For the last 100 years or so farmers have been selecting and breeding vegetables and fruits mainly based on appearance. This is because consumers have demanded produce that looks perfect and can withstand massive amounts of transport.
Sadly appearance is pretty much the worst indicator of health and flavor when it comes to fruits and veggies. In previous generations seeds were selected from the fruits and vegetables that had the best flavor, as well as from plants that had the most vigor and ability to survive and thrive.
It turns out that flavor is an important indicator of nutritional content. Furthermore, plants that have gone through some hardship actually produce more nutritional compounds which are found in their fruit.
The problem is that grocers and markets reject produce that has too many blemishes. Ironically these are likely the ones that have the most flavor and nutrition! Luckily, in some cases these fruits and vegetables can be purchased as “seconds” or “#2’s.” What’s awesome about these seconds is that they are not only healthier but also cheaper!
- What’s Good for Animals is Good For Us
In recent years there has been much more awareness about the horrific conditions within factory farms. Not only are these conditions unethical simply regarding the treatment of animals, but they also create environmental problems. Furthermore, the meat, dairy, and eggs produced in factory farms is not good very healthy. This is one reason that my family has started getting eggs from our CSA that are not only free range but also pastured. Access to pasture ensures that the chickens are healthy and happy (this is actually research-based) and that their eggs have much better for us.
However, what was cool about this chapter of the book was that Dr. Daphne explores the parallels between stress for animals and humans. It turns out that the same things that help chickens to be healthier and happier are true for humans!
It may seem intuitive, but access to the outdoors, and not being “cooped up” all the time inside will help us to have less stress in our lives, and lead healthier lives. This is one more reason for us to shoo the young assistants out the door every day and encourage them to dig in the dirt.
- Garden in the Front Yard
In a chapter focused on gardening Dr. Daphne explores the health benefits for whole communities when gardens are public and visible. My family has always done some (or all) of our gardening in the front yard and we were quickly made aware of how this would become a talking point with many of our neighbors (or in some cases something that was discussed without us present). Sometimes the reaction has been skepticism (that was more an issue in Atlanta than here in Kitchener), but mostly it’s a positive reaction.
What we weren’t aware of was the fact that community gardening can actually have trickle-down health effects within a community, affecting even individuals who aren’t involved in the gardening. For example, children who participate in gardening at school end up influencing their parents to eat healthier. And neighbors of people who garden also end up eating more fresh vegetables and fruits.
After reading this chapter I’m more inspired than ever to continue ripping up the front yard and boulevard and filling in the space with delicious and healthy edibles!
- Use Plants for Skin Care
Lately I’ve been kind of annoyed with the endless talk on homesteading blogs about essential oils. Part of my annoyance stems from the fact that all the people talking about the amazing benefits of these oils are also trying to convince their readers to buy them. There’s really nothing wrong with selling a product, and I should be happy that the products are all-natural, and good for health. Maybe my other problem with it though has more to do with my own skepticism about the benefits of oils.
However, I am a little more open to essential oils, plant-based health products, and skincare after reading about Dr. Daphne’s own experience with a funny discoloration on her face. Her own personal health journey that begins with a lightening cream and ends with an atomizer. In the end through trial and error she finds that what works best for her skin (and doesn’t destroy it like the chemicals she begins with) is a simple mist of distilled rose geranium, in the form of a hydrosol.
Part of the reason that plants are a better source of health and beauty products is somewhat of a mystery. Researchers often think they’ve found a compound that is responsible for some cure or health fix but when it’s used in isolation it no longer works. The health effects particular compounds from plants often only work when they are accompanied by all the other individual components of the plant.
Since reading this chapter I’ve felt inspired to begin learning more about herbs and plant-based healing, and to start making hydrosols. I’m going to see what I can put together based initially on designs like this one from Mama Rosemary.
So, that is just a little bit of what I’ve learned from this book but it’s not really why I enjoyed reading it. Dr. Daphne is a great writer and teacher, and this comes through in the book. It’s an easy read yet full of tons of awesome and interesting information. Rather than being preachy, the tone of the book is humility, humor, and open-mindedness. The reader is left feeling inspired without feeling criticized. I can’t wait for you to read it and tell me what you think!
The giveaway is thanks to the folks at Harper Collins and I’m grateful to them! I was not compensated with $ for this review but I received a copy of the book in addition to the giveaway copies. I plan to pass that copy along to friends and family (first dibbs anyone?). The giveaway is open to anyone in the US and Canada, and there will be a winner in both countries.