For quite a number of years now, I’ve been rearing and growing my own food (well trying to). I say trying to, because as any hobby gardener knows, growing your own food is difficult. Every growing year is different and it’s a constant struggle balancing environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, sun or lack of and rain or lack of. Yes, even here we have prolonged and very dry spells.
Lately I’ve seen quite a lot of commentary about how we are living longer now (than we did in the past.) We humans love trying to comfort ourselves that we are doing everything right and everything is all right with the world. Of course, the vast majority of times we are utterly delusional. And this is one such case.
The photo above is of my maternal great grandparents’ grave. As you can see they lived to a great age. Sadly two of their children did not, but one son did. Usually back then children died from something as simple as a lack of antibiotics. My maternal grandmother had 12 children (my mother is the youngest). She lived to the grand old age of 94. Her husband, my grandfather was in his late 80s. My mother is 87 and the only one still living. All her siblings (except one, a surgeon who emigrated to the US) lived well into their 80s and even 90s.
I digress slightly here to tell you a funny story about her last living sister, before she died. She was 97. We all thought she would make the tonne. She was funny, fiesty, witty and very, very well read. They all were. She awoke at 5am the day she was to die and asked her equally elderly husband (a few years younger) was it time for a martini. He said no, it was 5am not pm. She had got a taste for martinis from her brother who had emigrated to the US and who returned regularly for visits.
She later died quietly and we all felt sad he hadn’t given her a martini, her last. After her funeral I saw one of her grandchildren carrying a tray filled with martinis over to the others. I stood quietly with tears in my eyes and said ‘sláinte Ita, you taught them well!’
Obviously genetics play a part in longevity. The genes for longevity are in all 4 branches of my maternal ancestors. But I am fully convinced that nurture (nurture vs nature?) plays an equally important role. And by nurture I mean diet and lifestyle. We now have an horrendous diet in comparison to back then. We eat highly refined processed foods and a huge amount of refined sugar and carbohydrates. In addition, our intensively produced food is sprayed regularly with what I call ‘icides’ (pesticides and herbicides). Cide is Latin for killer or the act of killing. What kills pests is also killing us, albeit more slowly.
These ‘cides’ are killing the soil and all its inhabitants. These inhabitants (earth worms, microbes, beetles, insect species) all beaver away below ground synthesising nutrients essential for plant and crop health and indirectly for us. The simple fact is, our food is not as nutritionally beneficial as it was in the past. How could it be?
It’s not only food grown in the ground that’s less beneficial. Animals reared on this grain and grass produce food for us. If we need a healthy soil to grow our food, so do they. Ruminants (cattle) are herbivore. They never evolved to eat grain. They don’t need it. But we are impatient and want to fatten them up in a shorter time. So we feed them grain. We feed it to dairy cows who have been bred to produce vastly more milk than they ever needed to in nature. And because they produce all this milk they need more intensive feeding.
A huge proportion of the grain (and the protein soya) is produced in far flung countries and shipped here. Of course it’s grown in heavily-depleted soils and sprayed within an inch of its life. It has to be because it is grown as huge monoculture intensive agriculture.
It’s no surprise that beef from grass fed only bovines has healthier fat. Fat that we need for healthy brains and hearts. This fat has more saturated fat than trans fat. Trans fat is produced because the animals are fed an unnatural diet. Likewise eggs and pork from pasture-fed hens and pigs is also healthier. The latter are different to bovines though because they are omnivores. There is no earthly reason treated food waste couldn’t be fed to them and it would make eminently more sense than destroying rain forests in South America and shipping the ‘icide’ laden crops half way around the globe. Obviously this food waste would need to be real food and not the processed crap people pile into their trolleys (that I wouldn’t give to any of my animals here.)
So intensive animals apart from leading a miserable unnatural life produce food that is less beneficial for us. And in doing so are trashing nature, the environment and ecosystems. And we in turn are dying younger and from more disease.
The only winners as far as I can see are big food and big pharma. And don’t kid yourself that they care about the human race. The only thing they care about is their bottom line.
This is why I live the way I do. I appreciate not everyone can. People are time poor now or money poor. People have no space to grow and to buy real food is expensive. But it’s also true to say that many people can afford to but choose not to. Personally I’d prefer to spend my money on food rather than pharma.
Nothing in life is easy. But equally nothing in life is impossible. Humans have survived thus far by being resilient. We are facing a huge wake up call. If we don’t improve the way we produce food we will have nothing left to produce food from.
9 thoughts on “The Why”
Having just read this Blog I must say you are a clone of my husband Richard or maybe he is a clone of you ! You are definitely of the same mindset. We too try to produce organic , healthy food on our farm in Co. Kilkenny ROBINS GLEN ORGANIC PRODUCE. We are part of a group known as Talamh Beo that are all about Land, People and Community. There website is http://www.talamhbeo.ie if you would like to learn more. We are currently one of the lighthouse farm ( 16 around the country) who are involved ia a soil biodiversity EIP which is all about soil health. There are farm walks to learn more throughout the summer if this is of any interest to you. Thanks for your Blogs I always read and enjoy them. Keep up the good work. Eleanor.
Hi Eleanor, thank you. I do know of you. I believe we are quite close? I’m 20 km outside New Ross. I’d love to come and talk to you.
Great piece Margaret. As always, you have my admiration for not just talking the talk but for also walking the walk! Not to dis the talk – it’s a great read. Hope you doing well. Karen
Thanks Karen. All good. Call out some time soon for a chat.
Excellent piece. Well said. Within my state, there are many small farms that have chosen the old ways. They pasture all their animals and they forage, naturally. Many are organic/permaculture. My small town has two farmers’ markets and we have a local grocery-type market. They have local fare, seafood from our coast, fish from our mountain rivers and a variety of fresh, organic foods from all over the state. We have no shortage of supply but, inflation is pretty bad.
I was raised on my maternal grandmother’s farm. She had run a chicken farm before I came along. The outhouse was still functional. She had seven or eight gardens, three grapevines, several fruit trees and two nut trees. As healthy as her food was, she got bamboozled by her doctor & media. She was told butter was bad and she switched over to margarine & corn oil. She wound up with open heart/bypass surgery in her early 70s. She eventually had a stroke, paralyzed her right side and lost the ability to speak. She made it to 91 but, the shift in her diet created so many unnecessary problems for her.
She could grow anything. Of course, with years of a chicken farm, everything on that 3/4 acre lot grew well.
I miss that place. It doesn’t exist anymore. It was bought up by a retirement home/hospital company…and made my mom & her four brothers pretty well off. 🥺😥😢
My dad was same. Changed his diet and began eating low fat spreads and taking statins. Triple bypass surgery that my mother said they told him he needed because it was a new procedure and they wanted guinea pigs. Turned out at end of his life there was absolutely nothing wrong with his heart as she instinctively knew but that shit diet caused dementia and that’s what killed him. Everything absolutely everything is caused by diet.
I totally agree, I grow what I can and buy grass fed pork, beef and chicken. I’m also wary of GMO items. I read that wheat genetically modified for shorter stems to better withstand wind and storms also developed shorter roots so they don’t reach deep for minerals. Same gene, who knew? Therefore more wheat per acre but less nutritious. My aha moment came while walking my dogs past a corn field. Here in Wisconsin corn is mostly grown as animal feed. The corn was coming up nicely, one day something smelled bad, a couple of days later everything growing BUT the corn was turning yellow and dieing. Hmm, you’re going to feed that corn to your animals and expect me to drink that milk and eat that meat? I think not. Keep up the good fight.
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When you stop and think about it, it’s really crazy. Poisoning food! And don’t get me started on GM. Batshit crazy.