Making a Case for Organic Farming
How Logan students are learning the benefits of whole food nutrition
According to a study conducted in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of people in the U.S. fail to eat a diet that has high nutritional value. Data collected from more than 17,300 Americans who were surveyed found inadequate nutrition across all age groups and genders, and recent findings show that that nearly 27 percent of Americans are now considered obese.
Given these statistics, it's not surprising that health problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease plague our nation's population. We are consumers of processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugars and low in essential vitamins and nutrients.
Stop and think about what you eat. Do you know where your food comes from? How can you be sure that what you are putting in your body is good for you? Organic farming is becoming one the fastest growing segments of America's food industry, and is making a strong case for long-term health benefits.
For Christine Mason, food security is not just a buzz word around her place of employment— it's a way of life.
As the farm operations manager for Standard Process Inc., a manufacturer of whole food supplements in Palmyra, Wisc., Mason oversees the daily functions of the company's organic farm where she manages 420 acres of certified organic farmland used to grow a variety of plants for Standard Process' high-quality supplements. Mason and her team of eight farmers follow strict
organic farming guidelines, including the use of organic and untreated seeds.
The team's farming records are so detailed that if asked, Mason can trace a bottle of Standard Process supplements all the way back to where the seed was planted on the farm and which tractor was used. “I can promise you our farming is done in the most natural way, and we have complete control of biosecurity and our food,” she said.
Having spent 13 years working in conventional agriculture before transitioning to her role at Standard Process, Mason sees the benefits of whole food nutrition and says the differences between organic and nonorganic farming are significant.
Most acres in the United States, she said, are genetically modified and the only way you know that you're not eating genetically modified food is if it's marked organic.
Organic means there are absolutely no synthetics, insecticides or herbicides, and Mason said Standard Process has zero tolerance for genetic modification. “Organic farming makes you stay in close touch with the soil and food,” Mason said. “You can't be healthier than what you eat, and what you eat cannot be healthier than the soil it comes from.”
That philosophy is a hallmark of Standard Process where much time and energy is put into monitoring the health of soil. Mason said conventional farms in the U.S. tend to be more prescriptive in using a certain number of units of nitrogen, while organic farms are more concerned with the soil itself.
“We focus on macro- and micro-nutrients in the soil and make sure the soil has a good exchange of air, water, flora and fauna,” she said, adding that Standard Process utilizes a system of well-managed soil, supplemented with biodegradable byproducts and optimum drainage. “You'll find that if you're killing everything living in your ground, the soil won't have much to give. Soil is good for life.”
As an advocate for organic farming, Mason is passionate about drumming up support and is active with her outreach to university students, businesses and nonprofit organizations. She serves on the Wisconsin Organic Advisory Council, speaks regularly at seminars, and is often a go-to source for dispelling myths and rumors about the methods of farming organically.
“The biggest misconception I hear is that science is not a factor in organic farming, when in reality, Standard Process regularly uses GPS and conducts tests every five acres to determine soil conditions,” she said. “We also employ a department of research and development that determines when vegetables have reached the optimal time for harvesting so we can maximize vital nutrient content.”
She said the fact that Standard Process knows what to plant, when to plant and when to harvest does not just make them an organic farm, but a farm making specific decisions based on nutritional requirements. “When people say it's all feel-good and no science, it's not true at all,” she said. “You can still use sound agronomy and be organic.”
With so much insecurity about food supply these days, organic farming gives consumers comfort in knowing the source of their food without having to guess what they are eating. Today, Mason has adopted this philosophy on her own family farm. Though she and her husband grow organic soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and other cover crops, they didn't always farm organically. The
turning point was Mason's pregnancy with her daughter.
“I didn't want the land around our house sprayed anymore. Having a baby really inspired me to think bigger,” she said. “Now, I feel good not only about our land, but our commitment to environmental and community stewardship.” Additionally, since making the switch from conventional farming to organic, Mason's husband Steve lost more than 70 pounds—another sign of whole food nutrition benefiting a healthy lifestyle and another reason why Mason's finds organic farming rewarding.
Chiropractic and nutrition
Chiropractic has long recognized the importance of nutrition in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and at Logan, students are not just learning about the benefits of whole food nutrition, they are being challenged to develop ways to incorporate it into a patient's overall comprehensive wellness program.
Twice a year, Logan College brings students to the Standard Process farm in Wisconsin to learn how organic farming contributes to a healthy lifestyle. They learn how Standard Process uses high quality raw materials to grow a variety of crops—including alfalfa, barley grass, beets, Brussel sprouts, buckwheat, kale, kidney beans, oats, pea vine and Spanish black radish—which are then produced into supplements.
They also discover how the right soil can bring out the best nutrients in the produce. The experience not only enriches the student's knowledge of whole food nutrition, but provides a basis for educating future patients about how food choice fits into the overall wellness model.
“Part of looking at wellness is in fact determining how nutritionally sound patients are, whether they are obese or undernourished,” said Dr. Elizabeth Goodman, Logan's dean of university programs. “It's difficult getting consumers to understand the significance and benefits of whole food nutrition, but as chiropractic physicians, it is our job to determine how we can help.”
Over the next few months, Logan will further deepen its focus on nutrition through a collaborative research project studying dietary factors related to obesity. Working with other academic institutions throughout the U.S., Logan will contribute evidence to the body of knowledge and help foster a greater understanding of nutrition related to this serious health condition.
Dr. Goodman said it is imperative that we continue educating ourselves in this area so we can find new evidence for how nutrition improves quality of life.
“At Logan, we are preparing our students through best practices taught in our curriculum, by analyzing evidence-based research on nutrition and finding data that demonstrates the value of consuming foods organically grown,” she said. “We are in a constant state of learning.”