My Farmers

by Inga Witscher

While driving down an old country road, I noticed a bumper sticker on an old beat-up Ford F150. It read “Who’s your farmer?” I figured the young man behind the wheel may have been a farmer himself due to the piled up feed bags and a few fence posts lining the bed of his truck. I asked myself who are the farmers growing my food later on that evening as I began to prepare dinner.

We always try to buy our pork in bulk, by the half or quarter hog, this way we always have something to take out of the freezer for dinner.  I begin to salt and pepper some pork chops, and think about the farmers that grew this food, from Deutsch Family Farm just over the hill in Osseo. Alison and Jim Deutsch take great care in making sure every pig on their farm is happy and well cared for by allowing the pigs to graze in the open air on organic pastures. It’s easy for me to stop by their farm to grab some pork. If Jim and Alison are around, we usually try to visit for a while and catch up on what’s happening. If they’re out in the field working, I simply get what I need out of the coolers from their farm store and leave some money and a note.

I set the pork chops off to the side and shuck cob after cob of Wheatfield Organcis sweet corn. Last spring, while visiting their farm near Durand, I helped Helen move their herd of Angus cattle to fresh grass. As we walked through the pastures, Helen stressed to me the importance of building healthy soils, “Literally my bones and my blood, my marrow, my DNA, they are built from this soil, my mother formed me here, I was built here, my very composition is of this soil.” Being with someone who had this much dedication to the land and the people eating from that land made me proud to stand beside her as a fellow farmer.

Who are the farmers growing my food? Ken and Jay are producing America’s first pumpkin seed oil near Prairie Farm. I quickly became a fan of Hay River Pumpkin Seed Oil after being introduced to it through a friend. In the early days, I would only use it to dress salad greens, and now I find we use it on almost everything, sprinkled into our popcorn, drizzled on ice cream, and at the end of summer, slathered on sweet corn. Beyond growing oil seed crop, Ken and Jay focus on building community. They contract out to local small-scale farmers to grow their special variety of pumpkins. Come harvest time, they look to hire people in their community for the hands-on harvesting of the pumpkin seeds.

I round out the meal with potatoes harvested from my own garden topped with freshly made butter from the cream of our little herd of Jersey cows and think, “Hey, I am the farmer growing my food too!”

To find out more about the farmers mentioned in this article and many more, please visit: www.aroundthefarmtable.com.

Food As Our Medicine

by Judy Meinen

Our magical, mystical, self-healing bodies — 70 trillion cells with all the wisdom, information, and ability to heal on all levels.

“You are what you eat,” a common saying and one our body takes seriously. Our health is dependent on how we feed and fuel our bodies. So what foods feed and fuel us and which ones subtract or bankrupt our supplies?

Green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce have almost twenty times more essential nutrients, ounce to ounce, than any other food, according to Dr. Linda Page in her book Healthy Healing. They help us decrease inflammation in joints, detox our bodies, and add calcium and vitamins to our diets.

The more colors, the brighter the better, is a good guide in choosing our fruits. Berries, apples, melons, pineapples, avocados, and other fruits help our digestive tracts, give us good energy, and add antioxidants to help our immune systems.

Proteins are the building blocks for our muscles and support hemoglobin production — the oxygen-carrying component in our blood. Good sources are lean grass-fed (no grain), no pesticides, antibiotic, or hormone-fed beef and chicken, eggs, legumes, walnuts, and almonds. Also, whole organic, non-GMO grains such as quinoa (keen-wah), wild or brown rice, and poi give long-lasting energy and provide B vitamins to support digestion and the making of hemoglobin.

Refined sugars have been known to stop immune function for up to four hours after ingestion. Artificial sweeteners confuse the pancreas and liver, causing a chain reaction of responses that break down our body and can lead to nausea, nerve dysfunction, fatigue, and depression. Limiting refined grains and sugars and avoiding GMO foods and artificial sweeteners will significantly increase the immune function and overall health of each and every cell. Your body will thank you!

Spring and autumn are good times to clean out our bodies and clean up our diet. Juicing is a great addition to any lifestyle. Juicing fresh organic fruits and greens assists the body’s ability to break down and utilize the available nutrients in our food for maximum health benefit. Enzymes, present in any fresh, whole food, are pre-packaged by nature to help us break down and use the food. Cooking, drying, and microwaving our foods kill the naturally occuring enzymes in the food. If we need to cook our food, taking a digestive enzyme will assist in the uptake of nutrients.

Listening to Your Body: Hunger and Pain
Consider that the body gives messages through all signals and feelings, of comfort and discomfort. Proactively “listening” to what these signals are will allow us to make healthy choices.

Our bodies will create a “hunger” message for a nutrient that it needs. Intense cravings may be an indicator of an allergy, addiction, or serious lack of a nutrient in the substance craved.  Our hunger is usually related to nutrient needs or thirst more so than caloric needs — that is why even after eating a good amount of calories, we may feel hungry an hour or so later — causing us to search out more food, overeat, and still not feel satisfied.

Enzymes and probiotics, or friendly bacteria, are necessary for correctly digesting food and extracting nutrients. Adding enzymes and probiotics to your diet is very beneficial for adequate digestion.

Pain is a messenger — killing the pain messenger may cause our bodies to send out a bigger messenger and we may experience a dis-ease process that the original pain “messenger” was trying to warn us about. When we treat our body’s messages as a warning or alert to check in and give it what it needs, there will be no need for the messenger. Pain, for example, is a message from the body that a lack of oxygen is present for some reason (swelling, injured tissue, nerve endings injured, etc). Responding to the “message” of the lack of oxygen (massaging, icing, elevating, resting, relieving the swelling) will eliminate the need for the pain messenger. Painkillers kill the messenger, leaving the body to continue to have the problem. Because the “problem” is not heard and addressed, the body needs to signal us again, louder each time.

Drinking water, eight to ten glasses per day, may help relieve tension and pain. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, chakra clearing, and progressive relaxation will allow your body to naturally send out healing enzymes and growth hormones to relieve the reason for the pain message.

Food is nature’s medicine. Our body will let us know if it “likes” a food or not; we just have to listen. Many good resources are available to help us choose which fruits and vegetables, proteins, herbs, and spices are right for us. Ask a health care professional what foods and portions are right for you and what resources they recommend. Healthy Healing by Dr. Linda Page is a text that I use in my practice and recommend.

Judy Meinen, RN, HTP, Reiki Master, does business as Angel Care Healing Touch. Among her other services, she offers the QXCI non-invasive biofeedback system that energetically scans and harmonizes the body’s stresses and imbalances. She will be teaching health-related classes as well as her psychic development workshops this fall. Please visit www.AngelCareHealingTouch.com, or call 715-832-7250 for more information.

Growing Power: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

by Melissa Ida

You could say that Will Allen’s food revolution was rooted in his family’s sharecropping background. Like many African Americans before him, Southern sharecroppers migrated to the industrial North to escape the plights and injustices that had plagued them and their ancestors for several generations. Born as the son of a sharecropper in Maryland, Will Allen grew up exposed to farming, yet pining for basketball. He experienced a successful, yet brief career of college and professional basketball. While playing basketball abroad in Europe, namely in Belgium, Allen found himself drawn to the farmers and the land in the countryside. He soon found himself taking up the practice of farming when off the court. He felt there was something both pleasurable and promising about turning up the fertile earth and tending to the fruits of one’s harvest.

In 1977, Allen retired from basketball and relocated to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, with his wife and three children. With some farmland on his wife’s side of the family, Allen farmed on the side while taking on jobs in the corporate world: first as a district manager for Kentucky Fried Chicken and later in marketing and sales for Procter & Gamble. His natural skill as a salesman shone through in the numerous awards he received from both employers. In 1993, he harnessed those worldly skills, along with his ardent passion for cultivating the land, and founded Growing Power, an organization whose two to three acre allotment has the distinction of being the final strip of farmland left within the city limits of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two years later, Will Allen’s organization became Growing Power Inc., a nonprofit center designed for building community food security systems and urban agriculture training.

In the twenty years since its implementation, Growing Power has seen its share of struggles and triumphs. With the help of dedicated volunteers, generous grants, and his own grand vision, Will Allen has started to shift the national paradigm of what an ethical, sustainable food system currently is to what it should be. Rather than just identifying the problems with our food system, Allen has sought out effective solutions that can and will work, with enough commitment and determination. His personal motto “Grow. Bloom. Thrive.” is reflected in the core values of Growing Power.

The foundation of his operation really does exist at ground level. With greenhouses containing 20,000 plants and vegetables, in addition to thousands of fish and a plethora of rabbits, ducks, goats, chickens, and bees, Allen’s practice of urban agriculture thrives on unique practices such as vermiculture, polyculture, and aquaponics. He fashions his own compost from red wriggler worms and food scraps, using worm castings as the fertilizer for his soil. The fish and certain plants there, such as watercress, share a symbiotic relationship: the waste water from the fish circulates to the watercress, which in turn purifies it and makes it reusable. Just as the plants and animals there thrive within an ecologically savvy network, so do the relationships between the workers of Growing Power and the people that come there.

Running Growing Power as a nonprofit organization, Allen relies on grants to help pay for its sixty-five staff members. Besides its employees, Growing Power is host to twenty-five interns and apprentices and countless volunteers and students. Its effect on community outreach has been empowering and impressive. By setting up an urban farm next to the largest low-income housing project in Milwaukee, Allen has been able to cater to the needs of the impoverished and malnourished. He provides healthy, fresh produce and meats at affordable prices within walking distance. Community members are more than welcome to volunteer in his greenhouses, where they can learn to grow their own food and better their own lives in doing so. The neighborhood’s youth has always been a major target for Allen, who believes that providing them with the chance to share a communal garden will create better, opportunity-rich lives for them. From juvenile delinquents to those using government food programs, children and teenagers from all walks of life can come to Growing Power and gain practical skills in self-reliance and environmentalism, such as composting, gardening, construction, sustainability, and cooking. These applications help prepare children for higher education and future jobs. By working in a social environment and combining mental and physical skills, they can see firsthand the results of their efforts and decisions in maintaining a sustainable food system. Literally, they are growing a better future not only for themselves, but for the rest of their community too.

Growing Power has thrived in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee. With only fast-food restaurants and convenience stores in the area, those with little to no income and lack of transportation have been hard pressed to find ways to eat healthfully. At one point, Allen stated that the only supermarket offering wholesome foods and fresh produce was three miles away from the low-income housing project, pointing out that three miles is a long way when you don’t have a car. Allen took it upon himself, then, to establish a way to provide healthy food at low prices for those most in need of them. By reaching out to community vendors and businesses, he worked relentlessly to sell his products at farmers markets, local restaurants, cooperatives, food shelters, and even through a mobile delivery service. His one-of-a-kind Market Basket Program is best described as a mix of a community supported agriculture program and a mobile grocery store. It delivers locally grown produce on a weekly basis to the neighborhoods of Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee. Most of the products come from Growing Power, Rainbow Farmer’s Cooperative, and other small-scale, family or locally owned wholesalers. In light of all his ambitious endeavors, Allen has achieved much.

Since 1998, Will Allen has been no stranger to praise. His countless awards and recognition include, but are not limited to, the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius award, being listed as one of Time magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People,” and being invited to speak on behalf of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative at the White House. He has been invited to speaking engagements all over the nation and has made notable media appearances on programs and networks such as PBS, WPR, and CNN. Just last year, Allen reached a milestone in his life with the publication of his book The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities, which gives an insightful look into Allen’s life and the history of Growing Power. Despite all his success and never-ending schedule of work and events, Allen remains firmly grounded. His vision for Growing Power is still expanding, with workshops, speaking engagements, and, of course, urban farming all in the works. Will Allen is truly one of the forerunners of the good food revolution. And if his remarkable journey proves anything, it is this: where there is a will, a passion, a vision, there is a way to achieve it.

Editor’s note: Will Allen will be speaking at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Forum Series April 17.

Happy Shake

Want a pick me up, make my day, keep me full, and help me stay healthy kind of breakfast?  Eat this!!!

• Liquid Base. Start with 1/2 cup water.

• 4 cups of loosely packed spinach.

• A Good FAT. You need the good fat for metabolizing the spinach and keeping you satisfied for hours. You may choose from 1

• Tbsp. coconut oil, 1 Tbsp. hemp seed or 1 raw egg. (You may want to start with a bit less water if using an egg.)

THE HAPPY PART …

• 1 Tbsp. Maca for stamina, endurance and mental clarity.

• 1 Tbsp. Raw Cacao for that HAPPY BLISS feeling.

• A great option for some additional alkalizing GREENS … Add 1 Tbsp. Vitamineral Green.

Blend all ingredients into your “green sludge”. Add 2 cups frozen fruit of your choice to your “green sludge”. BLUEberries+GREEN “sludge” = Chocolate BROWN!

Note: Superfoods like Maca and Cacao are very powerful foods. These foods border medicine. This is a good time to do your own research on these two amazing foods. Start in small doses and listen to your body.

Raw Maca Root: Incan Superfood
Maca root has been used in indigenous Andean societies as a source of nourishment and healing for thousands of years, and continues to be one of the most appreciated superfoods today. Used to increase stamina, boost libido, and combat fatigue, maca root has long been regarded as a highly adaptogenic food. Navitas Naturals Raw Maca Powder is the raw and natural form of this special root — gently dried and ground to preserve its vitality and nutritional structure. With an earthy taste that is slightly nutty with a hint of butterscotch, maca is easily blended into superfood smoothies, various milks, chocolates, or mixed into flour for dessert recipes. For more info see www.navitasnaturals.com.

Cacao: Chocolate Nutrition
Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder brings the chocolate factory to your kitchen, as it instantly transforms smoothies, desserts, pies and other countless recipes into the healthiest chocolate indulgence around. Put a spoonful into your next treat and see why this super food has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Plus, with no added sugar, Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder is an exceptionally healthy way to stock up on antioxidants and important minerals like magnesium and iron. Check out the cacao recipe section for great ideas and make your life as chocolate-y as you please!

For more info see www.navitasnaturals.com.

Your Food Cravings Unlock the Answers

by Maggie Christopher

Many people try to use willpower to improve their diet and lose weight. Unfortunately, most people end up failing because it is very difficult to maintain a self-induced willpower over an extended period of time.

Consider a different approach instead. Within your very cravings lie the keys to unlock true success for long-term health and weight loss. Trust and understand that the body is a brilliant machine that needs certain ingredients to run well. If you start to give your body what it needs, you will notice that your cravings will lessen considerably. For example, if you eat too much animal protein, you may start to notice sugar cravings. This is because your body wants to maintain a pH balance of 7.0 and it will continually try to adjust to reach this level. The Chinese philosophy of yin and yang comes into play with cravings. Animal protein is very yang, so you may crave yin foods such as sugar if your body is out of balance. Another example would be if you regularly crave fatty foods like ice cream or fried foods, this could be your body letting you know that you need to introduce more healthy fats into your diet such as nuts and avocados.

Many people get frustrated and feel out of control with their cravings which can lead to negative thinking because they feel they are weak and have no willpower. This is not the case, however. The body is actually very logical. You just need to know how to work together with it. It helps to simplify nutrition. The key is to get a healthy supply of vitamins and minerals from varied food sources because the body was made to extract nutrients from real food. So the more natural foods you put into your body (whole grains, greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, plant-based proteins, naturally raised meats), the fewer cravings you will experience. Did you read this last sentence and say, “But I don’t LIKE any of these foods!” That’s ok. You can slowly introduce these foods and you will notice that your cravings will lessen. Many people are overwhelmed with making changes to their diet. But remember, the reason you eat fast food, processed foods and desserts is because you have an intense craving. If you remove the nutritional reason behind the craving, you will find that you naturally opt for healthier foods.

In addition to learning how to give your body the nutrients it needs, there is another key component to understanding your cravings. Let me share an example. If you have a terrible day at work, do you think you will arrive home and want to eat salmon, brown rice and green beans? I doubt it. You might instead mindlessly eat whatever you have available in the cupboards or refrigerator. So your emotional well-being is tied to your cravings. There are four key areas to focus on when you want to reduce your cravings. They are career, exercise, spirituality and relationships. Think about it: If these areas in your life are not going well, you may find that you’re not eating healthy. If you want to be in a relationship and you are single, you may eat an entire sleeve of Girl Scout cookies to get some sweetness in your life. If you hate your job, you may decide to stop off for happy hour instead of going home and eating a good meal. The philosophy of yin and yang also applies to lifestyle. For example, if your day was too yang (too busy and stressful) you are likely to crave yin foods such as alcohol.

Many people want overnight results when it comes to reaching their health goals, but unfortunately this approach rarely creates long-term, healthy habits. Take it slow. Set small, achievable goals and continue to move forward. Health is not a destination — it’s a journey and a lifestyle.

Maggie Christopher is a certified holistic nutrition counselor in St. Paul. She specializes in digestive issues, sugar cravings and weight loss. Her program allows people to comfortably embrace a healthier way of eating and living. Call for a one-hour, complimentary consultation to learn more. Maggie Christopher, CHNC, www.maggiechristopher.com, 651.231.1360