When people ask us how we grow so much food in one tiny townhouse, we tell them to start with the soil.
What is soil anyway?
The aim of this Soil Life article is to help you:
- Become Aware of Soil Life
- Learn About the Connection between Soil Life & Healthy Living
- Take Next Steps to Cultivate Soil Life
1. Become Aware of Soil Life
"In a single tablespoon of soil, there are 50 billion microbes alone."Vermont Organic Farm
Soil is not merely "dirt," resulting from ages of weathering down rocks.
While it is true that the mineral components are an essential part of the soil mix, the soil is a living ecosystem below ground that supports an ecosystem above ground.
Various micro-organisms: earthworms, bacteria, fungi, etc., make up and build soil.
Fertile soil is soil that is teeming with life.
Just like we humans have recently discovered the "microbiome" in our guts, we have recently found the biology of the soil.
The two go hand-in-hand because whatever we eat and introduce into our gut microbiomes comes from the soil where these foods were grown.
Below is a short sneak-peek into the world of soil life presented by the California Academy of Sciences.
2. Learn About the Connection Between Soil Life and Healthy Living
"The soil is like our gut."
Food Poisoning & Allergies and Soil Life
We often don't think about the connection between soil and gut health.
But this connection led our family to begin to grow our food.
When my husband Dave and I were first married, we ate fast food like nobody's business.
At that point in time, Dave would get regular "food poisoning" episodes about four times a year. "Food poisoning" meant more than just indigestion, but vomiting and diarrhea that followed a hearty restaurant meal.
Poor guy. I felt sorry for him, having to always suffer after what should have been a fabulous date. He always seemed to have a sensitive tummy.
Then we had our first child, Zoe. Being new parents was fascinating. We wanted to do everything right: breastfeed her, aim for a natural birth, wear her in a wrap.
However, she started exhibiting severe eczema rashes on her cheeks and arms by month three. We took her at once to a slew of doctor's visits. We saw pediatricians, gastroenterologists, allergists and learned that she was allergic to:
- Tree nuts
Restricting her (and since I was breastfeeding) and my diet and learning how to cook allergy-free meals was like taking on a new job.
This challenge was tough for us first-time parents.
And even with the dietary changes, Zoe would still break out in rashes every time I nursed her.
Nursing made me feel very guilty for having caused the rashes in the first place. So I kept a copious log of everything we ate.
I bought one of the few allergy-free cookbooks available in America in 2006 and started cooking.
Where could I buy xanthan gum, flax seeds, or gluten-free flour?
Back then, there was no gluten-free flour.
You'd have to find rice, oat, or corn flour.
Nowadays, we can get gluten-free flour and those other items almost anywhere!
Food Allergies a Second Time Around
Our second child, Ethan, came along 22 months later. And it was as if the same thing happened all over again.
By six months, I knew those eczema rashes that wouldn't go away were signs of an allergy. And true enough, Ethan turned out to be allergic to:
- Tree nuts
Again, we had a "gut" feeling that there was something very wrong with the food that we were eating.
Discovering the Soil - Gut Connection
As we researched what we could on the Internet back then, we discovered a rise in allergies, specifically peanut allergies, among children.
A more recent study shows that there has been a 21% peanut allergy rise since 2010. You can read about it HERE.
Zach Bush, a medical doctor and soil health advocate, often speaks about the soil and body connection on his website and podcasts.
A significant reason soil isn't healthy is that pesticides persist in soils when applied to plants.
Here are some scientific studies which show that there is a link between pesticides in food and food allergies:
- The connection between the chemicals called dichlorophenols (DCPs) and the presence of a food allergy
- First US study showing pesticide-induced anaphylactic allergy
- Link of Organophosphates in inducing food (plant) allergies
Some allergies are, of course, caused by genetics.
Either they are inherited or arise as a combination of genetic mutations and environmental factors.
Pesticides introduce toxic chemicals into our food system and kill the life in the soil.
But it's the animals, fungi, and plants in the soil that can heal the soil from pesticides and nutrient loss.
3. Take Next Steps to Cultivate Soil Life
What is Wrong with this Food Picture?
From further research and experiencing first-hand that eating fast food led to increased food-related illnesses in our family, we decided to start growing our own food. We thought homegrown food that we harvested ourselves might be different from what the conventional food system had to offer.
Since growing our food for more than five years, we have found Dave's bouts of food poisoning disappear!
Little by little, our first two children have outgrown specific food allergies, though they still have allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.
And the four kids that followed do not have any food allergies!
Is this a mere coincidence?
When co-founding Permaculture Gardens, Dave and I didn't set out to create a website to find the causes of allergies or health problems linked to food. Instead, we aimed to provide an educational resource to empower you to alleviate these problems; if not eliminate them through permaculture gardening!
We show you:
- How to grow $700 worth of produce in as little as 10x10 square feet.
- How to build soil by Composting in Your Garden and
- How we helped heal some of our children's allergies by growing and eating our own food.
The fight is not over, though.
We hope to help empower more families who are struggling as we once did. Families with illnesses who do not know that the answer may very well lie in their backyards.
We hope you will join us on this garden journey.
Become a Grow-It-Yourself Member
And get the step-by-step help you need to:
- Grow the most abundant & nutritious food
- Teach our children where food comes from
- Grow an organic garden without using pesticides and chemical fertilizers
- Save more on groceries