Attending farm-to-table dinners and joining and sharing information in the Facebook group are great ways to help!  But before we give our support, it is important to ask, why should we support a sustainable food system?  How does this system relate to our health?  Dr. Daphne Miller, Brown University and Harvard Medical School graduate, author of Farmacology: Total Health From the Ground Up, and internationally recognized speaker in the emerging field of health ecology, shed some light on this topic at a talk she did at Google in May 2013 where she discussed her book describing the link between farming and medicine: “We have all this data now telling us that if it is a bio-dynamically rich soil, if there’s a lot of worms and a lot of microbes that are just teeming in that soil and there’s a lot of actual DNA in the soil that you grow a more nutrient rich and more varied crop.  We have a lot of data now showing us that microbes in the soil have everything to do with the value of the nutrients that come out of it.  And I don’t know if you guys are familiar with a study that came out of Stanford about nine months ago saying that organic is no better than conventional.  It’s because they were asking the wrong question.  If they had been asking about the soil, if they were asking, “Does microbial rich soil and well cared for eco-soil produce healthier vegetables?”, their study would have had a totally different result.  Isn’t it amazing in science when you ask the wrong question, you really go down the rabbit hole?  So we have lots of information about this.  This is not disputed at this point.  But what we don’t understand – and we have lots of information that nutrient rich foods make for healthy people.  We have that information too.  But we haven’t completed the arc – from soil to our bodies.  How do we relate to soil?  What happens if I put my patients in that eco-cycle?  What happens if I put you in that eco-cycle?  To your health? And these are the kinds of cross-disciplinary big picture questions that we need to start asking and not get caught in our click and grow bubble – you know putting the plant in the box or the human on the drug.  So I called lots of scientists – I asked them this question:  What happens to us when we get connected to healthy soil?  Can we actually turn our health around?  And most of them there was silence at the end of the phone.  I talked to people in health.  I talked to people in agronomy. But one day I called Justin Sonenberg.  And he’s a microbiologist at Stanford.  What Justin and his wife Erica do – they’re a team in their lab – they study the microbiome which is that massive colony of bacteria that lives in our intestine – two pounds of us is bacteria that we don’t own in terms of it not being part of our DNA but that we’re discovering more and more has everything to do with our health.  It has to do with our propensity for allergies, it has to do with our level of immunity, it has to do with our metabolism, it might even have to do with whether we are heavy or thin.  These are all things that are related to the microbiome, and if you’re interested in reading more, Mother Jones has a fantastic article that just came out I think last week that’s specifically on it.  It’s one of the best pieces I’ve seen. But there’s more and more coming out about how much these little bugs in our gut sort of rule our health. And what we’re discovering is that a certain percentage of these we inherit the same way we inherit property or our grandmother’s candlesticks – you know they come to us within our family lineage.  But there’s another percentage of them that we get from our environment, and we get from a variety of places including the places where our food is grown – the soil and water – water is you know the oceans are where our food is grown as well.  Sometimes we don’t think of that as the water equivalent of soil, but it is.  And so Justin said you know we’re just starting to discover how the microbes interact with our microbiome and what effect that’s having on our health – and that that might explain at least a good part of what happens to people like my patients in terms of their health and then they enter the farm cycle.  But I’m just going to share with you some of the research that’s coming out of this.  And this is new stuff, guys.  This is you know I’ve gone from ancient farmers to you know sort of cutting edge microbiology here. But what we’re starting to discover – and this is a study that just came out a couple months ago – is that when your food is grown in soil that’s been mistreated, that’s been dosed with antibiotics and pesticides and fertilizers, the bacteria that’s encouraged to grow in that soil – first of all it becomes very monotonous – you don’t get the huge variety – you tend to get fewer types of bacteria – and they develop antibiotic resistance.  And then what happens is they hitchhike on your food into your gut and they give information – sometimes it’s just a segment of DNA – to your microbiome – and they actually can convert good guys – they can convert the nice candlesticks that you got from your grandmother into antibiotic resistance bacteria. And so we’re starting to discover that you know we’ve known that when you dose animals with antibiotics that that affects your own resistance.  We’re starting to discover that soil is a whole other piece of this.  And we just don’t even know what other kind of negative inflammation can come in from having your food grown in negative soil.  We’re just starting to code these strands and figure out what this little visible exchange is that’s happening.”