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Mixed Feelings

As a farmer, its hard to know how to respond to these times.

Personally, I would like to think everyone is over-reacting. I would like to down-play everything. That is just the way I habitually respond to intense things (and esp media driven things). But that is how I always react to strong things--I bring the energy down. Sometimes that is not a good thing. Sometimes a strong reaction is right and good. Maybe forceful or quick action is what would be appropriate. Sometimes tears and perhaps even fear are rightly called for. My nature would suppress those overwhelming feelings and head back to the safety of calm and rational thought. Let's not get too excited. Lets stop and think this through.

If I dig a little deeper into myself I see a confusing tangle of thoughts and feelings surrounding the recent drama in the world. Ultimately that mass of thoughts and questions just circle back to one thing. And that is pressure.

I feel pressure.

Because this virus is why we farm. And now we need to farm even more. The stakes are getting higher. And they will get higher still.

Our world is incredibly unhealthy. True nutrition was abandoned long ago. Our soils are dead which results in our food being empty of nutrients resulting in our bodies being shells of what they are meant to be. Our health as a culture is paper thin. Like deadwood in California, its just waiting for a spark.

Furthermore, it is fairly obvious that our health system is failing to reverse the trend of declining health. Sure, life is generally longer, and small illnesses are better understood and therefore don't kill like they used to. But chronic illness is high and getting higher. I am not saying that the past was better or science and medicine are all useless. What I'm saying is that there is a growing problem under the surface that is mostly just deferred. Life has been generally lengthened, but we have become very vulnerable to any new infection.

There seems to be this naive idea in the world that we have almost solved all diseases. People seem to think that if doctors could just figure out the last few problems like cancer we would be in the clear. The belief seems to be that vaccines have (mostly) eliminated most diseases and there are only a few left to figure out.

But this is obviously not how it works. In nature, when things are unhealthy, they get eliminated. In our garden, when plants are not robustly healthy, they get sick and attacked by bugs. I won't get into the science, but weak plants actually give off signals that attracts bugs who in turn eat them. Healthy plants not only don't call for the bugs, but their chemical make-up makes them unpalatable to the bugs. The bugs will literally die if they try to eat the healthy plants. Diseases interact in a similar way--they will only afflict and spread when the host plants are unhealthy. In fact, a completely healthy plant can live unharmed in the midst of a crop that is being attacked and killed if it somehow has access to all the nutrients it needs.

Not only that, but pathogens mutate and change. And there are many many viruses and bacteria that are in our environment that we have never studied or identified. New diseases can and do and will rise up when the opportunity presents itself. We've seen several "new" diseases spring up in the last 20 years. And many of them spread very quickly. Especially in areas where food access is strained and therefore nutrition is poor. Those places are ripe for a fast spreading virus to take hold.

Well, increasingly, our country is becoming a place that is ripe with malnutrition. Our virgin soils were plowed up late and they kept us strong for a long time. But we have abused our farm land and our health is flagging as a result. New health threats will continue to come and cut deeper every time they do.

Why do I paint this doom and gloom? I certainly don't like to. I do it because the longer deep nutrition is ignored and quick fixes are utilized to keep disease at bay we only defer the problem and intensify its eventual reckoning. More new diseases and viruses will spring up. And they will always multiply at an exponential rate as long as there are adequate hosts available to them.

Our population is wide open for this. And physically hiding in your house is only so practical and can only work for so long. Instead we must build truly robust bodies that don't have to hide because they don't succumb to the virus even when exposed. That is totally possible. There is a lot of really good science and information about building deep health. Most of it hinges on quality food and time.

Health must be built up over time. They say the best time to plant a tree is yesterday. Because trees take a long time to grow. Well health takes time to grow too. So start eating better food yesterday.

All that brings me back to the pressure I feel.

Growing nutrient dense food for people seems so important right now. It felt important before. That's part of why we do this work. But now it feels more urgent than ever.

I don't like to act out of fear. I don't farm because I am afraid of the future or future diseases.

I farm because I love the work. And I love bodies. And I love our physical world. It's all just so mind blowingly beautiful and interesting. I can read nerdy soil science books for days--they fascinate me. And I sometimes privately think I should be a flower farmer because truth be told, I think flowers are incredible. That fascination and love is why I farm. I honestly didn't really know or care much about nutrition when I started farming. I learned all that after I was hooked.

But now, when I look up from my farming, I am overwhelmed with how badly it is needed. The intricacies of human nutrition and all that goes into producing healthy food is beautiful to me. And the sight of failing bodies racked with illness and the fear that surrounds it all is utterly tragic. I am pulled so hard both ways. If I could just give some of this to some of them...

But blogging about it only adds to the noise. What I need to do is exactly what I know how to do. Which is keep farming. Rain or shine. That's where my thoughts keep landing: keep farming. That's the pressure. Keep farming.

I'm not really afraid of the virus. We are well provided for in so many ways. But as a grower of healthy food, I do feel pressure. Lots of pressure. Sometimes it feels like too much pressure.

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