Some of you got into paleo to get killer abbz. That’s fantastic. But if the food you’re eating comes from a broken system that is destroying the planet, it’s time to think about something more important than your 6-pack.
“To be interested in food, but not in food production, is clearly absurd” – Wendell Berry
My good friend, Diana Rodgers, has a new book on sustainability and nutrition coming out in March, and I was honored to write the foreword for her, especially since it follows a preface from the king of sustainable farming himself, Joel Salatin. The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook is an important book, full of practical advice and thoughtful ideas about how to live a healthier life through a deeper connection to your food. Plus, writing the foreword gave me a chance to articulate some of my own thoughts about sustainability and why it’s so important.
Here’s an excerpt from the foreword:
I’ll be honest, for most folks who follow my work on diet and nutrition, [sustainability] was a tough pill to swallow. All kinds of emotionally loaded things are dragged to the surface when we talk about sustainability, including politics and values. I built my following as a strength coach and nutrition geek—why on earth would I get into the quagmire of food politics? Well, because it’s really important, and in my opinion, if we don’t explore these ideas, our society (and perhaps the world) could face some very difficult times in the future.
The fact is we need to get more people producing food in a decentralized, sustainable fashion. Easy(ish) to say; quite another thing to actually get folks doing this. Diana Rodgers and I have talked about ways to train farmers, land trusts, political action groups, and the need for a basic manual to help people like me who have a strong interest in all this to actually start putting ideas into action. The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook is that manual.
The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook is
your field guide to changing the world.
That may sound like a lofty goal for a book, but think about it this way: Some of you reading this will maintain a modest garden at home, supplementing your family’s food with fresh, nutritious produce, and possibly even raise a few chickens, goats, and other critters. For some of you, however, this book will be your gateway drug to changing what you are doing with your life and opting to become part of the sustainable food system.
Almost fifteen years ago, I came to believe that the Paleo diet would transform medicine. By all accounts, that process is well underway, and we are all the better for it. I am similarly convinced that a decentralized, sustainable food system will largely supplant the current factory farm–based model. It will take time and there will be significant push- back, but like the Paleo diet, it makes sense. The Paleo diet works so well because it takes its cue from nature and human genetics and focuses on the foods we were designed to eat. Similarly, biodynamic, sustainable food production emulates how ecology has functioned since the beginning of time.
I am incredibly excited for this book because it not only offers an important perspective on the Paleo diet, it also is an introduction to how to integrate the healthiest food we can eat with the healthiest and most sustainable practices of production.
Pre-order it today and then visit her blog to redeem a special offer (by March 10th), plus you can check out her podcast and videos. Check out Diana on her farm (which I’ve visited, it’s amazing!) here:
Hi Steven, I would classify permaculture and HM differently. I studied and worked at both in Australia. Seeing them in action, personally, I see HM as very acheivable widescale program because it is relatively simple (and revolutionary). Permactulture, to me, has remained a very fringy idea for 40 years because it is far too complex, too expensive, and it is unnecessarily confusing for many to adopt. In essence it is a quaint hobby for a handful of people. In action, it does not really provide the benefits it claims to. Therefore I beleive in supporting local organic, HM, biodynamic farming and farmers. Only a tiny portion of people will be able to produce meaningful amounts of their own calories in a garden. This again is why I like directing energy toward the sustainable farmers who will produce 99% of our food intake. Thanks
Diana Rodgers says
Hi Matthew and Steven,
Just to clarify, I do not classify myself as either permaculture or HM. We are a working farm using pasture based techniques with our animals and organic techniques with our vegetables – in a financially and environmentally sustainable way. The book is to encourage folks to have a closer connection with their food, whether it’s growing it themselves or simply by being a better consumer so they don’t ask questions like “is this a grass-fed chicken” at the farmer’s market, or go up to any random dairy farmer and ask for raw milk. It’s critical that folks understand the basics. The other parts of the book (recipes and living tips) are designed to inspire folks to get back to a simple way of life and scratch cooking without making it hyper palatable “paleo” versions of a SAD diet.
I’m going to be moving into a condo soon and I want to start a little garden on my balcony. I might get this for recipes and tips!
Me: Wannabe homesteader who lacks the courage to step away from the suburban rat race. I have, however, spent several weeks interning at very small organic farm in Central PA, and have also helped process chickens at P.A. Bowen farm, the farm Sally Fallon owns. (Sorry…I know she might be persona non-grata around these parts in terms of the politics of what we’re all trying to achieve via real food, but don’t let that detract from the fact that she’s doing a lot for local food literally in her own backyard.)
Aaaaanyway, as someone who isn’t quite ready to make the leap to farming more regularly, I do what little I can — fermenting projects, supporting local producers at farmer’s markets, and still volunteering at local farms when opportunities arise. It keeps me connected to that world, and I really do feel my life is richer for those experiences. I’m currently renting in a house with housemates, and unfortunately, our backyard is all concrete, otherwise I’d love to make a go at a vegetable garden. I tried my hand with a few things in pots last year and it was a total bust. So until I have a little more land at my disposal, I’m happy to put my money directly into the hands of the producers who get up at oh-dark-thirty to transport their wares.
But I’ve had an idea for a while now that I’d love to get Robb and Diana’s thoughts on. This first occurred to me a few years back, when the economy was especially terrible and unemployment seemed even worse than it is now. I figure, we’ve got lots of people who *do* want to leave the urban rat-race, sprawl, and cubicle existence, and would love to be farming. And we’ve got school children eating garbage, per the school lunch program. Call me crazy, but I see multiple solutions there: we could get more people doing the farm work, raising both animals and plants. Then, we’d need people to transport the food from the farms to the schools (or restaurants, office cafeterias, etc). And we’d also need more people in those places *preparing* the food – it takes more hands in the kitchen to peel, chop, prep, and actually COOK REAL FOOD, than it does to open a can or frozen box of ConAgra/Cargill/Sysco mass-produced “semi-edible things” and pop them into an industrial-sized microwave. I just feel like there are a lot of jobs that *could* be done, and a lot of people who *could* be employed doing them, and they might even enjoy this kind of engagement more than staring at spreadsheets and sitting through meetings, waiting for 5:00 to come.
Maybe this is pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I say bring back the lunch lady! And the lunch guy! You could really go nuts with this — schools could find ways to partner with parents’ workplaces to allow parents to volunteer in the lunchroom, say, once a month. People could even get out to a farm once a month and get their hands dirty — anything to start connecting people more closely to their food supply. ‘Cuz let me tell you — one day spent using tweezers to pull stubborn pin feathers out of recently dispatched chickens, and you’ll never wonder why pastured chicken goes for upwards of $5/lb. But the entire way we think about “work” and “productivity” would have to change. So might some of our bottom lines, how much money we think we “need,” and the lifestyles of being surrounded in “stuff” that so many of us are accustomed to. If stuff should ever hit the fan, you can’t eat dollar bills. (Or flat-screen TVs, or designer handbags.)
I feel like implementing any of this on a massive scale would require a fundamental shifting of perspective, and maybe even a wholesale change in the way the U.S. economy works — particularly the corporate model, with its extremely short-term focus and fixation on quarterly stock prices. And et’s face it: that is likely never going to happen. At least, not in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean more of us can’t get involved in some way, however small. Look at how the Paleo/ancestral health movement has exploded in the last few years — from the ground up. Heaven knows it aint comin’ from the top down. A lot of people, each making a small contribution to more sustainable farming, would add up to something pretty big.
(And then again, maybe I’m just projecting…for every person out there like me, who actually kind of enjoys the smell of manure and the sounds and smells of animals, because they remind me of LIFE and fertility, there’s another person who wouldn’t be caught dead accidentally stepping in a pile of pig sh*t.) 😀
Robb and Diana, I really appreciate what you’re doing to bring these issues to the forefront. Robb, I’ve especially enjoyed watching your transition from “just” looking at diet and exercise to moving toward these larger ideas and trying to get some of the rest of us to come along. For some people, this whole Paleo thing really *is* just about “abbz,” and to each their own, but for those of us who are interested in creating something more enduring and inspiring than a new record low in body fat percentage, you’re really lighting a fire under us. In case no one’s ever officially acknowledged that, let this serve as a collective thank you.
I think it would be great to have local food in schools like you said, and even get the kids involved in helping. They have gardens at some of the schools around here, and the kids actually enjoy helping with them and eating some of the produce they grow.
Yeah, I think some Waldorf and Montessori-style schools have gardens, which is great. Now we just need to spread the idea to the high school level! And maybe even the workplace…for example, where I work, there’s a huge outdoor courtyard in the middle of the building, and it’s a really nice area for people to be able to sit outside for a bit, or even do a few walking laps, but there’s no reason all that grass that’s mostly for decoration–because there are signs saying “keep off the grass”–couldn’t be used to produce some food. Imagine the kind of stress relief it might provide us office monkeys to step outside and do some weeding, pick some tomatoes…
It’s funny, though. It’s easy for me to picture these kinds of things, but for other people, they’re such foreign concepts, they can’t wrap their heads around it. There are dedicated areas that are cordoned off for smokers, so you can smoke all you want, but heaven forbid you should take your shoes & socks off and walk barefoot on the grass for a few minutes. (I actually did this once, and no one said anything. I did get a few funny looks, but mostly, I think they were jealous, not disapproving. :D)
I definitely think that it would be great for people to start using plantable space in their yards, at work, public spaces, etc for growing edible plants instead of just lawn and decorative things. Imagine all of the food that people could grow if they planted edible things instead of a manicured lawn, and put the time and resources into the garden they do to their lawns.
I couldn’t agree more, but it’s the prevailing view that a “nice” landscape is a well-manicured one (denotes power and plenty), as long as you aren’t the one maintaining it. That would be “work”, and nobody likes work…
My hope is that books like Diana’s can help enlighten the unwashed masses to the joy and beauty that come from getting dirty, raising one’s own food, and in some ways taking back the land and our ties to it. I’m one weirdo that finds messy, productive landscapes far more attractive than manicured ones, but it can be a difficult sell when someone asks “who is going to maintain this, or pay for the maintenance?”. Until folks start stepping up to answer that question en masse, we can only change our own plot and work from there!