It’s a Miracle Every Time

Mac Stone

GEORGETOWN It’s a miracle every time a baby is born. I am fortunate to have witnessed, even participated in, hundreds of these momentous occasions. (The livestock type, just to be clear.) The choreography of organic chemistry at the cellular level is mind boggling. Between shifting hormonal waves and muscular gymnastics, babies eject themselves, going from safe and warm to weak and vulnerable, the umbilicus broken. Within minutes they scramble to their feet and root around Mom’s belly, yearning to reconnect. Once attached, the newborn suckles perfect food, colostrum. Not just milk, mind you, milk loaded with extra fat and antibodies, as colonization of the microbiome begins. It’s a miracle every time. Our hand in all this is taken very seriously, and it is not for the faint of heart.

A farmer’s calling is integration of animal and plant biological systems. The behavior of animals in a farmer’s care is based entirely on instinct. The number one biological principle to a newborn is “you are what you eat.” From that first jolt of colostrum to milk to grass and clover, eating is all they know and all that matters. If that part goes well, usually everything else does too. When something goes terribly wrong, farmers are thankful to have veterinary medical assistance on-call. The first thing the vet will look for is the body condition of the patient. The second thing is the collective condition of herd or flock mates, followed by an assessment of the animal’s food. When Mom is otherwise healthy, the vet has more treatment options, greatly improving chances of a full recovery.

We see this in the plant world as well. We feed our soils through crop and cattle rotation, incorporating plant materials, and growing legumes that capture nutrients from the air. We are actually enriching the diets of the tens of thousands of species of good bacteria, fungi, yeasts, molds, and microscopic insects. Our underground jungle behaves as a singular living breathing organism, and in my case, we call it Elmwood Stock Farm. By maintaining a robust balance of microbial life in the soil bank, our food crops grow strong and produce wholesome nutritious leaves and fruits. No toxic synthetic fertilizers or pesticides are indicated.

We know that plant pest and disease defense mechanisms are a complex array of pheromones, hormones, nutrients, and biomes. Strong, sturdy plants repel marauding insects and invasive viruses. Weak, unthrifty plants don’t have the capability to muster a fight and wither away. Alternatively, sap-sucking insects thrive on excessively fortified plants, due to the abnormal succulence they impart. We also know that dairy cows confined to intensive input grain-fed systems produce unfathomable volumes of milk for a few short years before being considered unworthy. Conversely, dairy cows on forage-based organic systems produce large volumes of heart-healthy milk for nearly a decade before retirement.

One has to be careful making analogies between humans and cows, sows, or ewes; but they are, in fact, Darwinian first cousins. So, when we see optimum nutrition working well in the natural world, it stands to reason that it would work well for people. Actually, the testimonials that other farmers and I can share are priceless. Customers beam with joy about how good they feel having joined our weekly organic produce subscription program, known as CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture.) Local organic farmers want to help folks put their dietary best foot forward. Pharmaceutical band aids can be a thing of the past. Interestingly we have data to back up such anecdotal stories, as the best defense against disease is a good offense. {www.uky.edu/ccd/sites/www.uky.edu.ccd/files/Rossi%26Woods_CSAVoucher_StaffPaper_11092018.pdf}

“Our underground jungle behaves as a singular living breathing organism… a robust balance of microbial life in the soil bank”— Mac Stone

Whether you are a medical professional reading this, or someone patiently awaiting their care, consider how you can be the best you that you can be. Start eating better. Join a CSA. Choose organically grown. Not only will you enjoy great tasting meals, you will become much more considerate of your diet. Your microbiome will thank you. Better yet, encourage your friends and co-workers to join a CSA and share in a weekly delivery. University of Kentucky, Lexington-Fayette County Urban Government, and several other businesses are showing leadership by offering workplace wellness benefits in the form of vouchers that incentivize employees to join an organic CSA. The data shows those employees will not only miss fewer days of work for illness, but their insurer will pay less to fix what ails them on the back end. Contact Organic Association of Kentucky, {https://www.oak-ky.org/ky-farm-share-coalition} and inquire about the farm share program. You and the people you know and love will all feel better.

From what I can see when I am out and about these days, we are not looking so good as a flock. Some huge percentage of disease in this country is diet related. Let’s start off with a diet of real food. Then, when something goes terribly wrong, medical teams will have more options to offer to foster a full recovery. You don’t have to take my word for it, but maybe pay attention to Mother Nature. It’s a miracle every time.

Mac Stone, his wife, Ann Bell Stone, and extended family operate Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott County, Kentucky. Mac was the executive director of marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, administering the Kentucky Proud program among many others. He is former chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board. His focus is on farming and marketing organic foods for the family and working with nonprofit agriculture and food organizations. Mac can be reached at 859.621.0756.