When talking with farm visitors about the needs and health of the soil—what it requires for nourishment, exercise and rest—we often use our own bodies as an analogy. This connection is a genuine one. In a time when diet-related diseases are more common and conventional Western medicine is divided into specialized silos, more people and doctors are asking for holistic health care that takes into account how our food is grown and the health of the ecosystem around us.
Studies that examine the nutritional benefits of organically produced crops as well as integrative medical-research clinics are both on the rise (as are the number of small farms). As Stone Barns Center experiments with an alternative approach to conventional agriculture—one that is regenerative and grounded in ecosystem health—this same lens can be placed on the way we practice medicine.
We have recently engaged groups of medical professionals to visit Stone Barns for daylong field trips. In November 2015, 25 first-year medical students from Columbia University participated in on-farm soil-science learning and a discussion of how food could be better integrated into their medical school curriculum. In October 2015, medical residents from Yale School of Medicine explored the resilient growing practices and animal husbandry techniques that keep our system and soil balanced and functioning.
Together, we are making the connection between farm health and human health, while exploring how doctors can incorporate a farm-driven diet into their medicine chest. We are deepening these collaborations with more field trips and programming scheduled for the coming year with Columbia’s medical center.
To broaden the conversation to the public, Stone Barns launched a new speaker series, The Prescription: How Better Farming Leads to Better Health. In 2016, this series brought leading thinkers to Stone Barns to talk about the relationships among soil, taste, nutrition, bacteria and our brains. In May, David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé, authors of The Hidden Half of Nature, discussed the microbiome; In June, Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect, considered flavor’s importance to nutrition; and in July, Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, author of The Dirt Cure, related healthy kids and healthy soil. Use the links above to learn more and listen to their lectures.
Given the same kind of care, we can grow a healthy population and the food we need to feed it.
Originally published on April 28, 2016