Mineral rich vegetables: celebrate agricultural research results
Mineral Rich Vegetables: Our Encouraging Agricultural Research Results
We’re thrilled to report that, after comparing mineral content of our kale varieties to the USDA baseline nutrient density results, we’ve got wonderful news. Although results from our agricultural research lab vary, based on size, our kales exceeded USDA numbers for numerous minerals. They include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, and selenium. As another example, carotene levels in a variety of our fresh carrots also exceed USDA requirements by significant amounts.
It can be hard to put this accomplishment into context—but that doesn’t mean we won’t try!
“You can think of conventional farming as a mining process,” says Bob Jones, Jr. “where the soil becomes more and more depleted—and then compare that process to regenerative farming where the soil gets healthier and healthier each and every year.”
This is accomplished, Bob explains, through the strategic use of biodiverse cover crops that encourage the microbiological population in the soil. “This is what unleashes the soil’s native population,” he adds, “given that this diversity hasn’t already been killed off.”
Rebuilding soil through regenerative farming is an intensified process and an expensive one. “What took fifty years to kill,” Bob says, “isn’t coming back in two. But enriching the soil is the right thing to do—and we do it precisely because it’s the right thing to do.”
Regenerative farming is a passion for us at The Chef's Garden, as well as a science, and here are more insights into both sides of the equation.
Passion for Regenerative Agriculture
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.” (attribution)
“At The Chef's Garden,” Bob says, “we truly believe that we are caring for our land for the sake of future generations. We’re going beyond not harming it, instead doing our very best to leave it in much better condition than how we found the land.”
Returning to traditional ways of caring for the soil can have enormous positive consequences.
In fact, a 2020 documentary, Kiss the Ground, shares how healing our soil can heal our entire planet. Our health, as humans, is intricately connected to the health of Earth—and this film clip allows you to visually see the differences between chemically treated soil and that which is regeneratively treated with love.
Where would you want YOUR food to be grown? Your children’s and grandchildren’s?
“The ingredients that create biodiversity of the soil in our planet are still there,” Bob says, “but it will take several years and lots of investment in both time and money to bring quality conditions back. Here’s one way to look at it: the potential for healthy soil around our country and world is still there but, in many places, it’s already on life support. So, we must encourage the explosion of biological growth. The more species you use to make this happen, the more the soil’s health returns.”
The philosophy of caring for land in this way may sound unusual today but it’s something our ancestors would have embraced—meaning in the United States and around the planet. Here’s a film clip of a man named Bob Randall, a Yankunytjatjara elder from Australia, who is calling for everyone to care for the land with “unconditional love and responsibility.” From his perspective, the land owns us, and we are its caretakers.
Now, here’s another angle on the same topic: the science of regenerating the soil so that we can grow healthy crops for healthy people.
The Science of Regenerative Agriculture
“Because of soil depletion, crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.” (Scientific American)
In this article, the scientific journal notes how the “main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows. Sadly, each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”
More About Soil Depletion
Before sharing more information about the solutions, here is a more detailed look at how crops have been providing Americans with less and less nutritional value.
One in-depth study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (2004) compared nutritional content for 43 crops, mostly vegetables, from 1950-1999. They found that, in six statistically reliable ways, nutrition value had declined—and they concluded that these declines were “most easily explained by changes in cultivated varieties between 1950 and 1999, in which there may be trade-offs between yield and nutrient content.”
This spiralling down of nutritional value has clearly been scientifically documented. Fortunately, now there is also growing attention being given on how to solve this problem.
For example, a November 2020 article in Food Bank News describes a highly encouraging pilot program that has shown how people’s health outcomes can be improved through nutritious food. Next up is a three-year randomized test to determine how healthy foods can benefit pregnant women and their households.
This program is, in fact, just one of many where food banks are promoting the consumption of healthy food as a “cost-effective replacement to medicine.” The ultimate goal would be to persuade health plan providers and governmental policy makers that food given to “treat food insecurity” should be reimbursable through health insurance.
So, unlike other food as medicine programs, this would “help close the loop on a missing piece of the Food as Medicine movement — a way to pay for it.”
What’s also needed: wide-spread regenerative agriculture.
Linchpin Role Played by Regenerative Farming
As Scientific American has pointed out, the goal of conventional agricultural—from the early 1900s on—has been to improve the efficiency of farming to feed more people. To maximize the yield of crops, a significant amount of chemical and energy inputs is typically used.
As people began to realize the problems with this type of agriculture, sustainable farming became a focus. With this type of farming, the goal is to sustain the soil’s current condition, not further depleting it. Although a significant step up from methods that strip the soil of its health, regenerative farming does much more. It improves the resources it uses, such as the soil.
We’ve published plenty of material about our regenerative farming techniques, including our use of cover crops. Here are some of the places this information can be found:
Our Farming Philosophy: Regenerative Farming for Healthy Soil and Crops
Benefits of Cover Crops, Carbon Sequestration & Regenerative Farming
Results: Mineral Rich Vegetables
And here’s the beauty of it all! Although we’ve long been focusing on growing vegetables that are both flavorful and nutritious, we’re still only getting started. We encourage you to watch our blog for even more information about the nutrition found in our mineral rich vegetables.
Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to taste the difference!
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