Here’s an article written by our founder, Tricia Sedgwick,about how food growing makes us “healthy by default”
As a nutritionist my relationship to food continually evolves. Over time, as I work with the land, visit farmers, grow food with children and prepare fresh meals from the garden, my connection to the land and the source of food deepens.
Admittedly the world of nutrition and food science has been known to entice me. I can find myself excited about words such as “bio-availability” and “enzyme inhibitors” and I like knowing what foods are high in trace minerals and which are alkalizing. Intuitively though, I have always felt that there is more to food then the science behind it.
It was early on in my path as a nutritionist that I noticed that telling children and people to eat green food and all things healthy was not the most effective. Yes, I was passionate about health food, about all things sprouted and fermented, but how could I get others to feel the same sense of loyalty to it?
That was when I started growing food with people. I let the growing process of food help others be inspired through the miracle of a sprouting seed and the creative process that brings food to their plate.
It is through the growing process that I have seen people get excited about fresh foods and make the shift towards a healthier lifestyle. In fact, it seems that regardless of age people are proud to eat what they grow, they prove curious about how it tastes and they learn to appreciate the fresh new flavors of the seasons.
My experience with food gardening has shown me that people are getting healthy by default. It makes sense that when we eat fresh plucked kale that the benefit of adequate calcium intake is just a natural consequence.
My research on food and traditions has also proved that for centuries people across cultures have had an intuitive connection with their food. The Mayans knew, for example, to add lime to the corn and when lime is added the vitamin B6 comes available for cellular absorption. In India, Africa and across Asia, grains and legumes were fermented, increasing the nutrient profile and absorbability of the food. These people were also connected to the process that brought food to their mouths.
The intimate process of working with people, the land and soil to produce highly nutritious food has children telling me that they love kale and parents reporting with excitement that they make kale smoothies – daily! It tells me something is going right.
When I looked up the definition of nutrition this is what I found: The process of nourishing or being nourished, especially the process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth and for replacement of tissues.
Hmmm… How interesting it is that our process has become so disconnected. How has our “process” become one where most of us drive to a grocery store to buy processed, boxed and packaged foods? Where we may or may not read labels to decide if it is healthy or not. And how has it become where we don’t even consider where the food originated, how it was grown or the process that got our food to store shelves,?
It seems strange to me that our process has become one where foods are mass – produced through mono-crop farming and chemically and mechanically intensified methods of growing “fresh” food that may just be genetically engineered. It’s perplexing that this same food is shipped to processing plants where food is often altered from its original state with the goal to have a long shelf life. Most of these edible products are then shipped a few thousand miles away to an assortment of grocery stores.
Often when I harvest from my garden to eat I am amazed at how such a simple thing like food has become so complex.
If nutrition is the process of being nourished, doesn’t it make sense to be a part of that process, to understand that intimate process of creating real food? Maybe we won’t all start growing 100% of our own food but we can get more involved in the process.
Whether we talk to the farmers at the market or we grow our own herbs and make conscious decisions about where our food is coming from, it’s a step in a more ethical and nutritious direction.
My process of nourishing my own body has not always looked this way; where I grow food year round, support local farmers, teach about nutrition gardens and support businesses like Urban Diggs. Rather nutrition has evolved into an “experience” for me, an experience that connects me to my community and nourishes my spirit as much as it nourishes my body.
I think the definition of nutrition - The process of nourishing or being nourished, especially the process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth and for replacement of tissues – invites a good question to ask ourselves, such as, “What is my own process of being nourished”?
Tricia Sedgwick is a Holistic Nutritionist and the founder of The World In A Garden, an educational urban farm & garden project. She is currently working with local schools to integrate urban food gardens and nutrition education and focused on food and water conservation with The Rain Barrel Project – www.theworldinagarden.com