work horses

As a boy, growing up on a farm in Oregon, we were very”hands on” with all of our farming. In fact, we even still had a team of horses to bring in the hay. There is much discussion today about whether our food is as good today as it was yesterday. There is no question but that the methods of growing crops and caring for farm animals has changed greatly. I loved that team of horses but when my Father bought a tractor we could do so much more in so much less time. When I was young we used cow manure from the barns to fertilize our fields of corn, clover and alfalfa. By the time I was out of high school we were using commercial fertilizers that we could apply as we seeded our crops. We began to use herbicides and pesticides. In fact, we even used DDT before it was outlawed for use around barns. We did not question then what was happening to the value of our foodstuffs. We were improving our production capability and like all other farmers we needed to improve our farms profits.


In the 1960s I began to see articles in magazines about the harmful effects of using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. DDT had been outlawed by then because it was too dangerous to be used around farm animals and plants being grown for human consumption. As an active agriculturist I knew that we were increasing our profits by growing field crops faster and with less loss from insects and disease. Sometime around 1970 I read a magazine article titled “Is Our Food As Good Today As Yesterday?” That question had not been one we discussed at the feed store or the local Farmer’s Co-op. I had begun to grow a few herbs and then at one point realized the value of growing an herb called comfrey and began to plant it extensively. As we began to sell comfrey products like teas and gels to health food stores I began to have more and more discussions with store owners about the value of the foods we were growing. Then I began to hear talk about soil depletion and what that meant to the nutritional value of the foods being produced on those soils. Had we all made a mistake by beginning to use fertilizers and chemicals for pest and weed control that none of us had been aware of?


As I began to attend workshops and meetings of health food store owners I was hearing more and more discussion of the subject, “Is Our Food As Good Today As Yesterday?” People who knew very little about growing crops were speaking out as authorities about how our foods were declining in nutritional value. Sometime in the early 1970’s I met Dr. Lendon Smith, MD of Portland, Oregon and we became fast friends. He was an advocate of vitamin C and over weeks and months of discussions with him I began to learn and understand more and more about what was happening to our foodstuffs, not only in the USA, but across the globe. As I traveled the world and met more and more well-educated people on the subject of nutrition I began to realize that the main factor behind this changing nutritional balance was that in our desire to increase growth and lower the cost of growing crops we had inadvertently stripped our soils of greater amounts of nutrients (especially minor ones) where we were growing our foods. One especially impressive study on this was done by Donald Davis and his group at the University of Texas which was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004. They found “a reliable decline” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron, vitamin B2, and Vitamkin C over the period 1950-1999 for 43 different fruits and vegetables.


One particular study for some reason caught my attention. It was one which had shown that in the early 2000’s a person would have to eat eight oranges to derive the same amount of vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one. Suddenly I began to fully understand and appreciate why even the American Medical Association was saying that we should alll be using a vitamin supplement. There are things we can do to raise the nutrition level of foods. One step is to feed our soils better by usng more natural fertilizers whenever possible. Alternating crops between fields can also often be beneficial. This is difficult but using fewer chemical herbicides and pesticides can also be helpful. This trip across these years of my own education has left me as an advocate for healthy dietary supplementation and vastly improved agricultural methods.

I am always interested in any comments you may have.


  1. Reading this fantastic blog post, I am agreeing with everything that is being said in it. To my surprise, as I thought that I was eating healthy, I a missing out on a lot of vitamins, even vitamin C. But also Iron, selenium and a lack of B12. It always surprises me how chemicals can do this to a body. Can you recommend a good vitamin mix to help support my health? thank you

  2. I am so happy I came across this post. 


    This post is so relevant to what has happened and is been happening to the food available currently.

    We had a pure naturally grown farm in the sixties and similar culture of farming. We did not have much food to sell to get money for our education. I don’t remember the chronologies in modernization but the last time I visited my husband’s (big farmers of the area) home in India. Being trapped in a pandemic at home for 18 months, I took responsibility for the rice production. 

    The seeds were bought and treated with some kind of poison before they were sprouted in a designated area. When they were about to be planted after 3 weeks to1 month as per the instructions a moist land using a machine and/or men depending on how far the lands are from the main road. We had to apply this poison several times (is it 6 or7) to protect them from some bugs otherwise once bugs arrive, you lost all the paddy. We used herbicides two times.

    Sure enough, we produce a huge amount of Paddy never seen before. Honestly, I was hesitant to eat that rice coming from the paddy. We discussed using the earlier seeds. There were a couple of farmers, who grow the old way and had some seeds. They grow it for their family only. But the husband’s family did not agree to follow the old seeds or low-yielding seeds. 

    I left India with  ~500 quintals of paddy properly packed for sale to the Government after saving for our family for the year and more.

    I understand what exactly you are talking. We could not do the crop rotation that year. We talked about it. I wait to see.

    Hope things around will change with better quality production by taking care of the soil. Thank you.

    1. Anusuya,  Yes, it has amazed me how the official government agencies have so heavily promoted the use of chemicals.  As I say in the post I fully understand that farmers must do certain things to make a profit, but we also must be conscious of what we are doing to the food supplies of the world. 

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