Regenerative agriculture should be an agricultural paradigm that is intent on regenerating public health to the same degree as regenerating soil health. After all, every farmer knows that the health and performance of livestock is directly correlated to the quality of their nutrition. The same is true of people as well.
Public health is in significant part a responsibility of agriculture, whether we choose to accept it or not.
In the June 1936 issue of Cosmopolitan, Rex Beach wrote an article on the research of Dr. Charles Northern, who extensively studied the connection between soil health and human health. The article was then submitted into the Congressional Record of the 74th Congress in the Senate.
Here are some highlighted excerpts, you can find the entire article below. We have made remarkably little progress in following up on the described research in the decades since. Are you aware of any more recent research on this topic? I would like to find more.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that a carrot is a carrot – that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn’t; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain.
It is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99 percent of the American people are deficient in these minerals and that a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease.
The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren’t worth eating, as food.
Some of our lands, even in a virgin state, never were well balanced in mineral content, and unhappily for us, we have been systematically robbing the poor soils and the good soils alike of the very substances most necessary to health, growth, long life, and resistance to disease. Up to the time I began experimenting, almost nothing had been done to make good the theft.
A cageful of normal rats will live in amity. Restrict their calcium, and they will become irritable and draw apart from one another. Then they will begin to fight. Restore their calcium balance and they will grow more friendly; in time they will begin to sleep in a pile as before.
He showed that the textbooks are not dependable because many of the analyses in them were made many years, ago, perhaps from products raised in virgin soils, whereas our soils have been constantly depleted.
Recently the Southern Medical Association, realizing the hopelessness of trying to remedy nutritional deficiencies without positive factors to work with, recommended a careful study to determine the real mineral content of foodstuffs and the variations due to soil depletion in different localities. These progressive medical men are awake to the importance of prevention.
Dr. Northen went even further and proved that crops grown in a properly mineralized soil were bigger and better; that seeds germinated quicker, grew more rapidly and made larger plants; that trees were healthier and put on more fruit of better quality.
“A healthy plant, however, grown in soil properly balanced, can and will resist most insect pests. That very characteristic makes it a better food product. You have tuberculosis and pneumonia germs in your system but you’re strong enough to throw them off. Similarly, a really healthy plant will pretty nearly take care of itself in the battle against insects and blights- and will also give the human system what it requires.”
For instance, in an orange grove infested with scale, when he restored the mineral balance to part of the soil, the trees growing in that part became clean while the rest remained diseased. By the same means he had grown healthy rosebushes between rows that were riddled by insects.
He had grown tomato and cucumber plants, both healthy and diseased, where the vines intertwined. The bugs ate up the diseased and refused to touch the healthy plants! He showed me interesting analyses of citrus fruit, the chemistry and the food value of which accurately reflected the soil treatment the trees had received.
“Soils seriously deficient in minerals cannot produce plant life competent to maintain our needs, and with the continuous cropping and shipping away of those concentrates, the condition becomes worse.”
‘One sure way to end the American people’s susceptibility to infection is to supply through food a balanced ration of iron, copper, and other metals. An organism supplied with a diet adequate to, or preferably in excess of, all mineral requirements may so utilize these elements as to produce immunity from infection quite beyond anything we are able to produce artificially by our present method of immunization. You can’t make up the deficiency by using patent medicine.’
“There was a time when medical therapy had no standards because the therapeutic elements in drugs had not been definitely determined on a chemical basis. Pharmaceutical houses have changed all that. Food chemistry, on the other hand, has depended almost entirely upon governmental agencies for its research, and in our real knowledge of values, we are about where medicine was a century ago.”
“Disease preys most surely and most viciously on the undernourished and unfit plants, animals, and human beings alike, and when the importance of these obscure mineral elements is fully realized the chemistry of life will have to be rewritten. No man knows his mental or bodily capacity, how well he can feel or how long he can live, for we are all cripples and weaklings. It is a disgrace to science. Happily, that chemistry is being rewritten and we’re on our way to better health by returning to the soil the things we have stolen from it.”
“It is simpler to cure sick soils than sick people – which shall we choose?”
Rex Beach, “Modern Miracle Men”, Document No. 264 in Senate Documents, 74th Congress, 2d Session, vol 18-48, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1936, p. 1-9.