What is the most important ingredient in food? It would be impossible to answer this question, yet one of the most common additions to food is not necessary. I cringe when I read an article about making your garden better. Almost always the subject of fertilizer comes up. If I go to the store and ask for some fertilizer, they will want to know what I need: 12-12-12 or 6-12-6 or some combination of numbers. These numbers will represent the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. I don’t add any of these to my garden and many farmers are now finding out that they don’t need to either.
My first job in 1959 out of high school was applying nitrogen fertilizer to corn crops. Until just a few years earlier, farmers were lucky to raise 40 bushels of corn to the acre. By side dressing with a granular fertilizer containing nitrogen, their yield increased. Anhourus Ammonia was a gaseous nitrogen fertilizer made from oil that I was applying.. We encouraged the farmers to apply more than 60 pounds per acre which resulted in 100-bushel yields. Eventually, some farmers applied close to 200 pounds per acre with 200-bushel yields. No one can argue with the fact that the fertilizer grew stronger and taller stalks of corn and the ears furnishing the grain also increased in yield.
No one asked the question, “What about the nutritional value of the crop?”
The Rodale Institute has been growing crops in a controlled experiment using organic methods compared to traditional farming with chemicals for over thirty years. Vegetables and grain raised without added chemicals and artificial fertilizers have a substantially increased amount of minerals and vitamins. But going back to the Rodale experiment:
“Our food is less nutritious than ever. It doesn’t have to stay that way.
Conventional farming’s narrow focus on yields has led to a decline in the nutritional quality of many crops, making our food less healthy than it was just 50 years ago. Yields have never been higher and we have access to ample calories, yet we’re getting sicker. “Hidden hunger” is a reality for many, and diabetes and obesity are on the rise.
Plants get their nutrients from the soil.
Industrial agriculture has depleted soils worldwide and bred plants for size and rate of growth—not nutrition—in a narrow pursuit of ever-increasing yields. The food we eat today contains less protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin C than food produced just a half-century ago.”
My garden flourishes without the addition of the Big 3 fertilizers and I can supply numerous examples of farmers who have converted their methods and either limit or/and or totally eliminate added fertilizers and toxic chemicals. In addition, the ability of their soil to absorb water and flourish in drought conditions has increased. Expenses are reduced, carbon from the air is sequestered in the soil and yields are comparable to former yields. Using the example of the Rodale Institute, the food is healthier. To introduce you to farming without the addition of the Big Three, we can examine an example performed almost 90 years ago:
“In 1938, Dr. Maynard Murry began to examine why sea animals didn’t have diseases and/or cancer….Dr. Murry ran a number of experiments using food that had been fertilized with sea solids. In one study:”
“ Spraque Dolly Rats
Rats were obtained and were divided into groups of 25 control and 25 experimental. The control rats were fed controlled food while the experimental rats received the sea solids fertilized food.
Both the control and experimental groups were injected with cancer (Jensen Carcino-Sarcoma) which has been shown to be a 100 percent killer. All of the rats fed on the control diet died within 21 days of cancer. Nine of the rats that were fed the experimental diet died of cancer within 40 days; sixteen lived five months until they were sacrificed; there were no cancer "takes" in the sixteen out of twenty-five survivors that were fed experimental food.” ag-usa.net
You can read about this and other experiments on Ag-Usa, but you need to know that “sea solids” was a teaspoon of seawater per gallon of fresh water for his hydronic crops and on his farmed land, he just dumped tank loads of seawater.
To understand how this works, we need to think of how life started. First, there was molten rock we called earth. Then, as it cooled, water pools formed. As rain flowed down mountains and hills, rock dissolved into minerals. Over millions of years, the seas accumulated a wide variety of minerals. I am not sure how many or if anyone knows the total amount of micro minerals in the ocean, but the number is over 90. The know minerals and their concentration are similar to what is in our blood. In fact, as you go deeper into the ocean ( a mile or more), the ratio of this water that has resided undisturbed for hundreds of millions of years is even closer to the ratio of our blood minerals
After all, life started in these waters. Then as it graduated from micro-organisms to plant and animal life, life proceeded to establish in different forms on the earth. Should it come as a surprise that we mimic, our blood, the same ratio of minerals? After all, the plants that are grown on the soil are formed from the same rocks that dissolved into the ocean. Now, we find that the plants need these minerals and the animals need the same minerals. Nitrogen is not one of them.
Life is not just a bunch of minerals. Food is not just a bunch of minerals. Our soil should not be just a bunch of minerals. In order to demonstrate this, I will give you an example of how you can, just by looking at food, see the difference. Most people can also taste the difference. For you to understand, we need a few definitions:
- Organic Plants that have been grown without added chemicals or artificial fertilizers for a period of three years.
- Cover Crops Plants that are planted to grow during the time that the regular crop is not planted. Usually include legumes and crops with lots of plant fiber.
- Regenerative agriculture “Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing” ... Wikipedia
For our example, we will use the chicken egg. In the grocery store will usually be numerous brands just labeled as eggs. Then you may find some that are organic. Some of these organic eggs will be labeled as cage-free. As organic, we can expect the egg to be free of toxic chemicals and will have been fed a more nutritious grain for added health benefits. Some will then be labeled cage-free. What cage-free means is that the chicken was not confined to a space barely larger than the size of the bird itself. They probably have a limited space to walk around crowded among many other birds walking in their own feces. There may be some difference in the organic eggs that is visible. The yolk may be a darker yellow and the taste may vary some.
The real difference will be with an egg that is pasture-raised. On breaking the egg in the skillet, you will immediately notice that the egg yolk is a deep orange color. In addition, you will notice that the yolk will be thicker and less apt to spread from its rounded shape. In addition, many will find the taste to be different and of a better flavor. The difference is because of the added ingredients that the chicken gets from roaming in a pasture. A pasture is full of insects and within the soil are other nutrients including minerals and microorganisms. In addition, the chicken swallows small stones and sand to help it digest food in its gizzard.
Does pasture-raised make a difference in other food? Again, something that can be measured, beef that has been raised in a pasture, instead of finished in a feedlot, will have a greater amount of Omega 3. In fact, the level will be comparable to ocean fish which we choose to eat for the Omega 3. Grain-fed animals not raised on pastures, even those fed organic feed, reduces the amount of healthy Omega 3 (This applies to milk and meat).
This leads us back to Regenerative Agriculture. I know there are those who don’t eat meat or restrict the amount they consume and one of the reasons is that it takes more land to raise meat than land for plants for food. But lots of the world has land that shouldn’t be tilled. There are many reason. Sometimes it is because of insufficient rainfall, or excessive rainfall, poor soil and in many cases, land that is so steep that growing plants for food will increase the amount of soil erosion from either rain or wind. These areas can be utilized to raise animals. Consider the African Serengeti where millions of animals live flourishing under periodic drought conditions. In the US, we had millions of Bison who flourished while ranging on just pasture land.
With Regenerative Agriculture, native plants are reintroduced to pasture systems which greatly increases the number of animals that can be harvested. In addition, utilizing the cover crops on the cultivated land, that crop can be foraged for even more meat production. In addition, this method of farming animals, reduces labor, increases the soil health and even increases the ability of the soil to store water while increasing the ability to absorb excess carbon from our air. Some scientists estimate that if all farmers would utilize Regenerative Agriculture, climate change would be greatly reduced by the huge amount of carbon sequestered into our soil from this farming practice.
So, the use of Regenerative Agriculture gives us healthier food from animals, but what about our plant foods. In this application, we will find that life is much more than a group of minerals. Soil is alive. Soil may contain some of the same forms of life that our bodies contain. As with many things, we are just now learning how interconnected our bodies may be to the very soil upon which we live.
Which brings us to Cover Crops;
These crops are planted in the offseason, (many months for most crops), when the soil would normally lay bare and fallow. The cover crops utilize legumes which will produce as much as 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre while the land is lying fallow. Root systems grow 10, 20, and in some instances 30 or more feet into the ground harvesting minerals. Compare this to applied fertilizer which many times is only uploaded into the plant utilized 20% of that applied while the rest flows off the land with the excess rain to pollute our streams and oceans. In addition, the micro-organisms thrive as they are reintroduced into bare soil and are fed from the continuing living roots of the cover crops. In addition to creating humus that will retain more moisture, the roots of these plants help as they extend downward. The activity of this living soil dissolves rocks making the minerals available for the plants (same minerals that flow into the ocean).
The healthy plants naturally repel insects. They are less likely to suffer from a disease which is a result of poor nutrition for the plants from the soil. The cover crops which are not tilled into the ground reduce soil temperatures, as well as help, conserve moisture. The need for herbicides and insecticides is either reduced and in many cases eliminated. Costs are reduced as well as machinery and labor. And the food produced has access to all the minerals, not just the added Big Three.
We didn’t know that soil was alive with many organisms until a microscope that could magnify some 400 times ws invented years ago. There are fungi and many other creatures in the soil. Just as in our body, we have many unseen organisms that are not only in our body but unseen on our body.
“Recent studies have found that crops grown with regenerative practices contain higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Ergothioneine, a ‘longevity vitamin,’ stands out as one of the most important in the bunch….
Discovered in 1909, ergothioneine is an amalgam of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur. It’s an amino acid, which means that it’s a building block of proteins. Ergothioneine is believed to confer health benefits—it’s been shown to be an antioxidant, meaning that it counteracts processes that trigger cell damage, and it’s also been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Deficiencies in ergothioneine have furthermore been linked to an increased incidence of cognitive decline. In light of these findings, a researcher recently proposed that ergothioneine be classified as a “longevity vitamin.”
However, despite the fact that it is found in human tissue, our bodies don’t produce ergothioneine. It’s made exclusively by fungi, blue-green algae, and some bacteria and yeast. Ergothioneine enters our bodies through the food we eat, said Douglas Kell, a biochemist at the University of Liverpool. “We take this molecule into our bodies from our diet.” Civil Eats
This is one of the organisms that exist in a living soil made possible through Regenerative Agriculture practices. Many organisms and fungi exist in the soil that we may ont even be aware of when Regenerative Agriculture practices are followed. To encourage the proper microorganisms, their are products for sale on the market. Some of the attributes of different organisms include the following;
- Reducing pests by out-competing them on plant surfaces and in the soil, so they don’t get a chance to cause damage to your plants.
- Improving processes from germination to photosynthesis to fruiting, so you get bigger, higher-yielding plants.
- Helping plants to more efficiently use organic fertilizers, so they have all the nutrients they need to be healthy, and the food they produce is more nutrient-dense.
- Cleaning up dirty water and removing toxins from soil, plants and even septic tanks.
There are hundreds of trials that have shown benefits for soil health, composting and plant health.
Interestingly, it has many other uses as well:
- Helping decrease radiation from nuclear disasters, and toxins and smells from other natural disasters.
- Disinfecting buildings and hospital surfaces.
- Spraying on farm animals (and pets) to control odors and diseases, and to increase their overall health.
- Making a special fermented compost called bokashi that is really useful for composting your food scraps.”
These microorganisms and mycorrhizal fungi can be introduced into the soil with products on the market. This may be useful when converting to using cover crops and helping your soil to come back to life.
How many of these organisms, like Ergothioneine, enter and become a part of our body is still to be discovered. It would be nice to know that a cleansing and removal of toxins occurred within our our body just as in the soils introduced with Effective Microorganisms® as noted above. We do have choices. It has been found that if a person dines only on organic food, within less than a week, the amount of toxic chemicals in our body will decrease. See our article “Reducing Pesticides in Our Body” The questions remain;
- Is it because our body naturally eliminates pesticides?
- Is it because of something in organic food that causes this elimination?
- Is it because of the soil organisms acting up on cleansing our bodies like it does the soil?
And now we find that the “forever chemicals” may not be safe at any level. They are everywhere, even in the food wrappings. Now we can eliminate a portion of these from our bodies just by giving blood. Check our article “Cleanisng Our Bodies of the Dangerous PFAS CHEMICALS ”.
I grow much of my food in my own garden. I attempt to utilize Regenerative Agriculture methods, but in the back of my mind, I wonder about the minerals in my soil. The minerals in ocean water has come from all over the world. Some places have gold, silver, iron, copper and on and on. My soil has a lot of minerals, but certainly doesn't have them all. No matter how well I prepare my soil to be able to utilize these minerals, if they are not there my efforts can’t complete the work of totally healthy food. Dr Murry never developed a market for seawater as fertilizer. But today, I use a sea minerals fertilizer which includes all the minerals from the ocean. I use one called Sea-Crop. There may be others.
So what about the food we buy. Even if it is grown utilizing Regenerative Agriculture methods, never will it be on soil that has the entire range of sea minerals. I take a pill called Sea Minerals: Red Marine Algae distributed by Swanson. As it is developed from a product that lives in the ocean, it will have a substantial share of the total sea minerals. It is cheap and I don’t take one every day, just often enough to make sure I am not deficient in any one mineral.
“You Are What You Eat, Breathe, Touch…” We have many illnesses that were unknown in the years past and many affect our young. We know that many of toxic chemicals cause some of these. What we don’t know is “How little of each and in combination will have an effect on our health. We Eat, Breathe, Touch things all the time, we don’t have any way of knowing the accumulated effect.” Maybe this article will help!
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