Good food isn't just about us. Here's how it nourishes the land, too.
May 4, 2023
If I told you that soil affects our bodies – that it can actually influence the way they function – would you be surprised?
On my drive home from work Monday, I heard a news segment on the radio broadcasting the health effects of soil on the human mind. According to recent studies, bacteria in the soil are so beneficial for our bodies that they can actually improve our memory retention.
Here’s how it works: when we come into contact with this bacteria, it triggers the release of hormones – notably serotonin – that help sharpen and improve our cognitive functions.
We don't need to actually dig in the soil for these benefits, either. We can access them just by breathing in the vicinity of healthy soil.
Although this was fascinating, I was most struck by the broadcaster’s response: “Seems kind of weird, doesn’t it? But I guess it must be true, if it’s science!”
I think this is a perfect example of how disconnected human beings often are from the natural world. It’s only weird if we think of the land as something apart from us, as something optional to either engage with or not. We forget to see ourselves as part of the natural world.
I would say – of course soil has a beneficial effect upon us! Like other mammals, we rely upon the land for our survival.
In fact, as this study demonstrates, when we divorce ourselves from the land, we do so at our own peril. We quite literally deteriorate both physically and mentally when we remove ourselves from the natural world.
But it also makes sense to me because growing food means engaging with the land. It means having to get dirty. And the beauty of this process, besides the food that we glean from it, is that this labor strengthens our bodies and minds.
This is especially true when I consider the chatter around lab-grown meat. I want to shout it from the rooftops: Food should not be a product that we view solely from the lens of human consumption.
What about the way that plant roots sequester carbon when we grow food? Or the way that animals create healthy, mineral-rich soil when they deposit manure? Or the way that healthy plants and livestock end up feeding diverse ecosystems that coexist peacefully on the farm as well – wild creatures like birds, pollinators, rabbits, ducks, and fungi?
We are part of the natural world. So is our food. And it’s to our health and benefit to recognize this, and consider how we can better connect with it.
Here's one idea for connection: visit your farmer! See the animals and the land. Get a good whiff of the soil bacteria in the air to sharpen those mental faculties.
We offer this the first Saturday of the month. The farm store is open from 10 am - 1 pm for shopping, you can take a walking tour of the farm, and we're available for any and every question you may have.
We hope to see you there. In the meantime, don't be afraid to get a little dirty - it's good for you, after all.