Casimiro began implementing permaculture techniques before he had even ever heard of the term. And his farm began flourishing as a result.
So, yeah, I did that. I’ve been the customer of a farmer in Pennsylvania for over 10 years and it suddenly struck me that it was high time we met. Well, that’s only part of the truth. I have indeed been ordering food from his farm—amazing meat, the best eggs with the most orange yolks, cheeses that are textured and tasty, and MUCH more—for a long while, but what motivated me was that I got wind of the fact that a fellow customer had dined at Peter’s house and I was just plain jealous. On our private Facebook group, she talked about how they ate a lovely meal and sang songs afterwards and I was as green as moss. I wanted to do that, too! I was encouraged by our farm liaison to reach out to Peter to arrange for a visit, so I did. I called him and asked if my husband and I could join them for dinner. Then the game of phone tag began. My farmer, Peter, is Amish and the Amish live simple lives, eschewing technology for the most part, so the telephone at their place is off in a separate building. So I called and left a message, making my request. And then he called me back and left me a message. Then I called back and left his adult son, Samuel, a message and then Samuel called me back and left me a message. And so on.
Eventually we connected “live” and it was a study of the different cultures we live in, though we are only a few hours apart. I would make a comment like “We can’t wait to meet you!” and then…pause….pause…pause….pause “It will be fun,” one would reply. I was rushed and citified. They were calm and country. I knew the visit would rock my world.
When the day came, as we pulled up, we saw two little boys hand-cranking ice cream. Peter greeted us and explained that the boys were his grandsons and that they were making it special for us and that it takes 1000 cranks till it’s done. We were humbled and touched immediately.
They took us to meet their cattle up on a nearby hill. Most of them were lying down. Samuel explained that when cows are content, they lie down. These certainly seemed to be at peace. We went to see the chickens. They were beautiful, clucking happily, pecking away at bugs and microbes and what not.
After the brief tour, they ushered us into their home. There, we were blown away. Peter’s wife, Sarah, presented us with a spread fit for royalty. Let me back up here and explain that earlier, in one of our phone tag messages, Peter said that Sarah wanted to know what we would like to eat. She could serve chicken, pork, beef, or fish. In reply, I left a message saying something like “We like everything!” Imagine my shock and surprise, then, when they set before us literally EVERYTHING! The meal included: peaches with cottage cheese, pork chops and sauerkraut, beef and potatoes, gravy, chicken and honey mustard sauce, peas and carrots, salad, pickles and cheese! And kombucha to drink. Oh, and rolls and butter. And, of course, the ice cream and apple pudding for dessert.
I couldn’t help but wonder if something was lost in the translation between my saying we liked everything and their thinking we wanted everything. I came to find out later, to my relief, that they often treat guests to multiple course meals like that. Regardless, we were moved by their gracious hospitality. Samuel had to leave the table (before dessert) to feed the animals. When he came back, he and his parents let me interview them (though they are generally private people--which is one reason I am not using their real names). So I pulled out my recording equipment and we got started. It was a halting interview, to be honest, since they were unaccustomed both with microphones and answering questions on the spot. But it still offered small glimpses of how they shifted to organic farming (the first in their community to do so), and the health and business struggles they’d faced over the years.
Afterwards, we did indeed end our evening with a song. I was so grateful for the life-giving service they do all of us with their work on the farm. It was wonderful to raise our voices as one. Food brought us together; sharing a meal and singing together solidified the bond. As we prepared to leave, they said, with concern in their voice, “You’ll be getting home around 9 p.m.!” We understood why they were worried when we found out that their day begins at 4:15 a.m. Our 9 p.m. was equivalent to their midnight!
All told, we were on the farm for some 4-5 hours but that brief time gave me invaluable insight on the important work of the farmer, the timeless (and often thankless) work of managing the land and animals to provide for the life and health of countless others. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever met your farmer and what your experience was like. And also let me know if you’d like me to post the interview as a podcast sometime. It wasn’t a perfect recording, but it was a perfectly amazing evening.
Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and fitness professional. She is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation and is the Wise Traditions podcast host. Wise Traditions can be found on YouTube, iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music and at westonaprice.org.
"I know and I promise that there will be a very huge U-turn for my community. We will be turning to where we came from." Dickson Gisa, a leader in his Maasai village, spoke these words to me in a conversation in his home just a few days ago. Dickson is the one who took the initiative to contact the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) a year or two ago. He had come across the WAPF wise traditions principles and they resonated with him to such a degree that he asked WAPF to send someone to his community because "we are all getting sick." So WAPF honored his request and sent me and Mary Gerke, a nurse and WAPF leader from the midwest, to his remote village in Matapato, Kenya, not far from the Tanzania border. This May, I returned to Dickson's community to follow up. What a joy it was to reconnect! I had the privilege of speaking once again about the importance traditional diets, while immersed in the gracious, welcoming Maasai culture. Along the way, I even got to enjoy some of the very traditional foods they have always embraced! But, best of all, I was able to see the changes the community had already implemented, as a result of last year's visit.
Nowhere was this more evident than in Dickson's own home. His wife, Joseline, gave up her job as a preschool teacher last year to develop a garden on their land. She grows traditional greens, kale, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, bananas, cassava, and more! Her harvest is so abundant that she has enough for her own family and then some. Members of her community come buy food to sell at market. Dickson told me that Joseline made this choice very deliberately so that their family could avoid purchasing food from the shops/grocery stores.
At every turn, their were positive signs. The youth group, comprised of 18-30 year olds, affirmed that they wanted to continue the traditional foods "campaign." And after my presentation to the community members, the pastor stood up and suggested that all women present begin cooking traditional foods again "starting now." (Dickson told me later that when they learn of something that is good, they try to apply it to their lives right away.) On Sunday morning, the pastor spoke of incorporating wise tradition principles into their church programs, and a church elder testified, "Just like we need to change our attitude toward God, we need to change our attitude toward feeding and health."
Apparently, Dickson is not the only one who is convinced that the wise traditions that have been handed down for generations are a God-given gift that offer life and health and promise for the future.
I can't wait for you to hear my conversation with Dickson, which I recorded with my podcast gear. I hope to publish it sometime this summer on the Wise Traditions podcast. You can listen to all episodes by simply going to the westonaprice.org website and clicking on the podcast link on the right-hand side bar. Or, better, yet, subscribe to the Wise Traditions podcast via iTunes, Stitcher (if you have an android phone) or the RSS feed (also on the westonaprice.org site's podcast page). You will certainly be encouraged, as I have been, and you will learn a thing or two about health and wise traditions around the world!
Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast. She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.
"The program sort of links up very, very well with indigenous knowledge systems. The idea of conserving the environment is not a new phenomenon; it's not a new idea. Our forefathers actually had some songs which were so emphatic on environmental conservation. They actually had some proverbs that had a lot to do with environmental conservation. They also had taboos which were so emphatic on conserving certain aspects [of the environment]."
I have been in all sorts of fascinating conversations with people since arriving here in Zimbabwe. But this one caught me by surprise--especially when the person I was speaking to broke into song! It all went down when I was interviewing John Nyilika, a training coordinator for the Africa Centre for Holistic Management. He pointed out how holistic land and livestock management relies on and honors traditional knowledge. The moment he began to speak of ancestral wisdom, my "wise traditions" ears perked up.
Here are some of the ancient truths he shared.
A taboo - It was said that it was taboo when you find two kudus in locked horns and fighting, it was actually taboo to kill both. You were only supposed to kill one. The idea was to make sure that the remaining one would remain in touch with all of the cows, female kudus, around. That taboo ensures conservation.
A proverb - We have traditional healers and they use some roots. The traditional healer will actually tell you to get to a certain tree--say, a marula tree. You just dig the root of the tree and just get a small [piece], say, about 15 centimeters of the root, and cut it off. And if you want to be healed by that root, please make sure to cover up that area and you don't have to look back. After covering up, don't look back and go away. Cover it up and go away. That aspect of covering up was to ensure that the tree would continue growing.
A tradition - If you needed a bark from a certain tree it was suggested that you get to the eastern side [of the tree.] You look for a tree which does't have any scar. Just get to the eastern side, and just get a palm-sized bark from the eastern side. And you also go to the northern side, just get another palm-sized one, you see? And you leave the tree. [This] was to avoid ring-barking the tree and killing the tree. And looking for a tree which doesn't have a scar was to make sure that you don't continue using the same tree, [to avoid that] at the end of the day, the tree would die.
A song - There were also some songs. There were also some weeding and harvesting songs that have a lot to do with environmental conservation. This song which I will sing is on conservation. It can also be turned into a wedding song, but the words can also be used for environmental conservation. "Londolozani, londolozani, londolozani’mvelo londolozani …." In short, it actually says we should not cut trees indiscriminately. We should not burn the forest, and so on. We should conserve our environment. And as people, you know, they will be rejoicing, drinking beer, and singing these songs, and dancing--at the same time, the children will also be hearing these songs. Initially it was just a wedding song, then they put these words to the song to enhance conservation ideas. To "lundulose" means to keep very well and even it goes [applies] to the bride and the bridegroom: you must not abuse her, treat her very well, treat him well.
These certainly sound like wise traditions to me. How about to you?
Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). She is also the host of the WAPF-sponsored Wise Traditions podcast (on iTunes, Stitcher, and westonaprice.org). She is traveling in Zimbabwe and Kenya as part of the WAPF international project initiative.
I'm a city girl with a country heart. It's been a cool transformation over the past 7-10 years. Most of you know my story. I exercised a lot and gave very little thought to what I ate. Then I started to realize that rather than just throwing anything down the hatch, it might behoove me to fuel my body with real food. So I started a quest to find nourishing, nutrient-dense foods for me and my family. It led me to the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose focus on real, whole foods made a lot of sense to me. Things didn't change overnight in our household. But gradually, little by little, real foods made their way into our home. We started eating eggs and yogurt for breakfast instead of cereal. We chose real fruit over Del Monte Fruit Cups; quesadillas over cheese-flavored tortilla chips.
As we made these changes it slowly dawned on me that real food came from real people growing and raising it. And what's so fun is that in recent years, I've had the wonderful opportunity to meet the people growing the food. When I'm with them, I feel like a starry-eyed fan, and if I didn't have sufficient self-control, I would indeed pull out a sharpie and ask for an autograph. Unlike Hollywood stars, these guys don't entertain, they provide genuine sustenance for the masses! They are worthy of adulation, truly!
Last October, I connected with Jesse Straight, the lead farmer at Whiffletree Farms in Warrenton, Virginia. Jesse is a young farmer who graduated from UVA (where my daughter went to school.) He had no plans to become a farmer, but he picked up a book by Wendell Barry that changed the course of his life. He decided to farm and he never looked back.
In November, I had the privilege of meeting Will Winter, a farmer and advocate for holistic health for animals and people! He told me that he used to be a vegetarian because he saw a disconnect between caring for animals and going home and eating them. Now he is a consultant for Thousand Hills Cattle Company and he is the owner of Lucky Pig Farms!
And in just a couple of weeks, I am going to meet Joel Salatin, farmer extraordinaire of Polyface Farm and the author of "Folks, this ain't normal!" Joel challenges the way we look at our food, animals, the government, and, of course, each other.
If I sound like I'm ga-ga over farmers and name-dropping a bit, well...I am. I admire their hard work and the food I have the privilege of enjoying thanks to them and others like them. Are you intrigued by their lives? Do you want to learn more about the adventures of raising and growing food? Come meet Jesse at a get-together at my house, here in DC, on Saturday, Jan. 23. (Comment below and I can give you details.) Can't make that date? Get to know these gentlemen through my podcast! My talk with Will Winter just aired (and you can hear from Jesse and Joel in future episodes). Soon you'll be ga-ga, too, and boasting (or blogging) "I met a farmer!"
Do you have foodies in your life? Foodies are those who...1) you think are praying over the food, but who are in actuality bowing over it to get just the right angle for the picture they are taking 2) eat so clean the word "McDonalds" causes them to break out in hives 3) are more likely to know who the big-name farmers are than the name of Kanye and Kim's latest baby (It's Saint. I had to google it to find out, though.)
Yup, it takes one to know one. So as a self-identified foodie, here are few things that I think would be just peach-y under any foodies' Christmas tree next week!
Homemade jellies or jams - Always a winner! My husband made rhubarb jam a few weeks ago. It's not hard (he tells me)! If you don't want to go to the trouble, buy some fresh jellies and jams at a farmers market. As long as the label doesn't say "Welch's" and it's not from a huge supermarket chain, it shouldn't offend your foodie's sensibilities. On the contrary, they should see the gift for what it is: a truly sweet gesture!
Beeswax candles - Candles are so festive and perfect for this time of year! A lot of candles out there have artificial scents that are stressful for the body. Why not give your foodie a candle made from beeswax? Beeswax is 100% natural! Such candles can most certainly be bought at just about any farmers market or craft show. Brownie points if you can make the candle yourself!
Himalayan salt - You can get small containers of this beautiful pink salt to spice up your food. (I received some as a hostess gift once, and I thought it was just perfect.) Or you can get the bigger salt stones that are said to ionize the air and reduce the effects of pervasive EMFs and RFs (electro-magnetic frequencies and radio frequencies) from wifi, phones, etc. I've been thinking about getting some stones for years, but have yet to do so. (I hope Santa is reading this list!)
Homemade granola - Foodies need something to go with their yogurt and raw milk. Homemade granola makes a great snack on its own, too. Use organic ingredients and your foodie will be over the moon with delight. Make it the regular way or go old-school and soak the oats overnight before baking. It makes the granola easier to digest. (See my own recipe from some posts back). Put your granola in a mason jar and tie it up with a cute ribbon or homemade card...and voila: foodie heaven.
Homemade body scrub - A Christmas ago, my daughters and I whipped up wonderful batches of homemade body scrubs. The ingredients were simple--sugar, essential oils, cinnamon and vanilla. We put them in little mason jars and they were just lovely. It wasn't hard to do and it was really fun to give out such a sweet-smelling, natural, homemade present. And bonus: we even had enough left over to use ourselves. Whenever I showered, I felt like I was one giant cinnamon bun! (No wonder people followed me around when I got on the metro!)
A membership to a farm-friendly organization or CSA (community-supported agriculture group) - There are lots of groups out there that provide healthy, local food and/or support organic farming. Subscribe your friend to a group that he/she knows about or one they may never have heard of before! The Weston A. Price Foundation is one. And there are certainly others. Find a group that your foodie loves and give to it in their name. If they get food from it, that's a bonus! If they don't, they'll love that you are spreading the "foodie love!"
That's it for now. Comment below if you decide to make one of the above or if find a good deal on one. I've got to get going on some of these ideas myself. I hope your foodie finds your gift just fabulous!
Last weekend, I went to see "The Martian" with Matt Damon. (Point of clarification: he plays the protagonist, Mark Watney, in the movie; he did not accompany me to the showing). I was expecting to be entertained by the movie; I did not expect to be inspired. But I definitely was!
Here are five out-of-this-world health tips from the movie!
- Farming is critical to survival. My high school had a club called Future Farmers of America. Even back then, I was like, "Whaaat?!" I didn't understand what the club was about, nor why anyone would even think about joining it. Farming seemed so foreign to me, a young suburban girl who only went to farms in October...for hayrides. Now, all grown up, I realize that food doesn't magically appear in my neighborhood grocery store. It has to come from somewhere. For us to be able to eat, someone somewhere has to cultivate land, tend to crops, care for animals. Farming is critical to our survival. Mark Watney figured this out pretty quickly, too!
- Passion and purpose makes everything worthwhile. With death a possibility at every turn, Mark sent a message to his parents. “I am dying for something bigger, more beautiful and greater than me." What are we committed to? What are we living for? Is it "bigger, more beautiful, and greater" than we are? If so, it will certainly be worth living and dying for. If not, begin to seek out possibilities. What cause or movement moves you? Passion and purpose turn the most grey, dull life into one that is vibrant, colorful, and pulsing with possibilities!
- Spice up your life. I confess that I have a tendency to stick to the tried and true garlic and onions to spice up my dishes. When I'm feeling adventurous, I'll add a dash of cumin. But I am slowly and surely learning to expand my "spice life" horizons. I recently discovered turmeric, a wonder spice that has been used for millennia in India. It has been identified as a help in fighting cancer, improving eyesight, and reducing joint inflammation, among other benefits. Spoiler alert: desperate for seasonings, Mark pulverizes some painkillers and puts them on his potatoes. Don't let this be you! Spicing up your life with real life-giving spices will not only improve your health but also please your palate!
- Never, never, never give up - Mark faced obstacle after obstacle, challenge after challenge. If he had given up early on, that would've been the end of the movie (and I would have felt short-changed)! Instead, he soldiered on. Happily, he didn't have to tackle all of the obstacles at once. He faced them head on, one by one. This should be our approach as well. When I feel particularly overwhelmed or out of control, I clean my kitchen (or my living room). If one room is clean in my house, and if at least one thing is done, it gives me the sense that maybe I can do the next (bigger) thing, too. The idea is to keep pressing on, and not try to take on too much at once. Just put one foot in front of the other (and pray to God you do not get caught up in a Martian wind storm!)
- Remember you are not alone - Though separated by miles (light years?), Mark turns to his friends for support, words of encouragement, and a laugh or two. We need each other desperately here on earth, too, don't we? When we feel all alone, we must resist the temptation to cocoon. When we push ourselves to reach out to a friend, their words of reassurance can go far in restoring our perspective and hope. (My own daughter did this for me just yesterday, when I was in a low spot.) Speaking of reaching out, prayer is another wonderful way to reach out for help. Mark utters a prayer out loud, at one moment in his journey. I'm pretty sure there were lots of unuttered prayers going on, too.
Did you see this movie? What did you think? What movies have you seen that have inspired you, health-wise or other-wise?