Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Is all food created equal and what can be gained by ‘closed loop’ eating?
It has never been controversial to say that eating more vegetables is good for you. In fact, most of the popular dieting and government information being put out there today still supports this idea, and most would agree that eating a diet of mostly fresh fruit and veg is considered healthy. But even if we believe and act on this, is our food all created equal?
I will always advocate for eating more vegetables, regardless of where they come from in the world or how they have been grown. Vegetables (all plant foods) have the remarkable ability to fight and detoxify against chemicals and free radicals in the body, so eating plants grown using the standard methods (ie; non-organic, non-local) will still always be better then not eating fruit and vegetables at all. I believe strongly that it is ALWAYS better to eat fruit and vegetables then not to, the bio-accumulation (accumulation of un-natural chemicals and minerals) in plants is so negligible when compared to consuming any animal based foods that you will always come out on top. But once we have that under control, is there possibly more still that we could be doing to maximize our health when it comes to what vegetables we choose?
Yes, definitely! There is the case for organically grown foods over chemically farmed produce, and of course minimizing your exposure to residual chemicals or accumulated chemicals within plants through the soil and sprays we apply is definitely advantageous. It is better to avoid getting these things in your system to begin with. But taking this idea one step further to the idea of ‘nutrient dense’ farming is ultimately where I would love to see our food systems go.
Since the onset of industrial agriculture and intensive grazing systems came into play the nutrient density of our soil and therefore of the food we eat has been in dramatic decline. The goal of the modern farmer is to produce food that is consistent, high yield and cheap, not necessarily food that is ‘healthy’. By ’healthy’ I mean growing plants that are healthy, that contain the nutrients needed for that plant to thrive. It is the same nutrients needed by the plant the we (humans) need to thrive, the same nutrients needed in the soil for microbial life to thrive and so the loop continues. It all starts with the health of our soil!
We can label something as organic but still grow it in a mono-crop system, where the same crop is ploughed season after season, stripping minerals and nutrients from the soil and eventually depleting its nutritional benefit to both plant and person. This type of farming is spurred on (organic or not) by increasing dependency on centralised foods systems that demand quantity over quality and also the dependency on chemicals and pesticides to manage our food production rather than more traditional (usually organic by default) methods of producing food that concentrate on the health of the soil and ecosystem surrounding the food being produced to create the most advantageous conditions. Essentially growing all our food in one spot, transported to be processed, graded, packaged, and distributed back to us (often back to somewhere near to its origin to begin with). If we consider an alternative way of farming, a more closed loop system, producing and distributing food within community we could achieve a far higher food quality, freshness, and nutrient density, resulting in better health for all; producer; land; local ecosystem; consumer on all levels.
I believe in a food system where we consume calories locally, the waste and compost from those calories are add back to the soil locally, that soil is used to produce food locally and we then consume those calories again as food. A ‘closed loop’ system of farming that minimises waste and promotes health for our soil, our environment, and ourselves.
Not all food is created equal! When we consider this closed loop approach, we grant ourselves the opportunity to grow food that is as nutrient dense as possible. This is through creating biodiversity in our crops due to the smaller scale of our farms, the ability of growing and rotating crops and recycling organic matter back into the soil. Measuring and addressing soil inadequacy as it arises through nutrient management of the soil and promoting a healthy balance between nature (including ‘pest’s and other life) and their relationship to our land. By farming this way we can create stable and abundant food sources in our communities. Good for our local economies, good for our community’s health, good for our environment both locally and globally.
What happened recently when covid concerns broke out? The centralised food network (really all our centralised systems) suffered big time, we panic bought and ultimately suffered significant food (and resource) access problems… unless you are connected with your local community. The local farmers market suddenly became very essential and extremely popular (local food, in abundance, available locally), my local market garden could not keep up with demand. By building stronger local ties with food we can create a stable system, far more immune to global pandemics, recessions, and events.
Creating a food system that looks after our land, with an emphasis on community and closed loop farming can create nutrient dense food that will benefit all life connected to it.