Life lessons from my day on a farm

I’m just back from a week in New Hampshire and Maine. We went down for an Osteopathic conference my husband was presenting in the White Mountains. We also did a little shopping and I got to spend time with a few close friends I have in the area. On our way back we stopped and spent a night at Terra Madre, our friend John Bagnulo’s farm near Belfast Maine.

I’ve written about John before. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve encountered when it comes to nutrition, human metabolism, food and ecology. He has a Masters of Public Health and a Doctorate in Nutrition. He’s helped hundreds of patients reverse chronic disease through whole foods and is one of today’s foremost experts on food and health.

My husband and I have been so fortunate to learn from John for the past four years through his programs, retreats and in one on one consultations. What a privilege it was to visit his home, his farm, see him interact with his kids and to witness how he truly lives what he teaches everyday.

On the drive back after our visit, my husband I reflected on our time with John and a few lessons and learnings emerged from our 24 hour visit.

Life lessons from a day on a farm:

1. The value of growing your own food. There is something magical about planting a seed or a transplant, feeding and watering it and one day it produces food. Whether it’s a farm like John’s that supplies your family with most of it’s food or you have a small pot on your balcony with a few tomato plants, it’s rewarding, nourishing and just a great feeling to pick something that you grew and enjoy it in your meal. Plus you know what’s in the food and you know where it comes from.

2. Eating simple and whole. While we were at John’s we were blessed to share a few meals with him – fluke and scallops dropped off that afternoon from the local fish guy and a big salad from his garden, and then eggs the next morning from his hens with some fresh organic watermelon. This reinforced to me that meals don’t need to be complicated. Some protein, vegetables and fruit, gives you all you really need. Keep it simple. Knowing that John grew much of the food, nurtured with with his own hands and energy, that it came from his land we knew it was infused with love.

3. Get back to basics. Spending a day on the farm watching John work in the gardens with his 19 month old strapped to his back was such a stark contrast to how many of us live. There was barely any technology. His 6-year-old son was occupied with baseball games, digging in the dirt, swimming and being actively engaged in nature. The day was focussed on chores and physical labour versus shopping, fast food, materialism, commercialism and TV watching that many of us are consumed with. It was a good reminder to take a technology break from time to time, get back to nature and that getting your hands dirty and physical work is good for the soul.

4. Know your limits. While we were inspired and intrigued to bring more aspects of this back-to-basics living into our own lives, we also realized what our limits are. We’ll never have a farm the size of John’s. It’s just too much work for us and we admit we’ll never be full time farmers. But we are going to try some raised beds this year and see what we can get growing on our property. It’s all about setting realistic expectations for yourself and knowing what is doable and right for you and your lifestyle.

5. Supporting local. Continuing on with the theme of knowing your limits, we acknowledge there are many awesome local farmers and producers and sometimes you just need to leave certain things to the experts. We love the local farmer’s market. We love getting to know the farmers, talking to them about their practices, if they use GMOs, how they treat their animals, do their chickens roam free eating bugs and insects. So while we can’t do it all ourselves, we can feel good about supporting our local producers, that we are getting the best quality food we can and that we are helping them grow and thrive with what they do best.

Our takeaways from our day at John’s farm are:

• To get outside more enjoying nature and all the benefits that brings

• To be more physically active on a daily basis – and not necessarily at the gym

• To get a quote to have someone help us set up some raised vegetable garden beds

• To unplug from technology more regularly

• To continue eating simple, whole, local foods

I encourage you to get out this summer and visit a local farm. There are so many lessons and inspirations to be gained.

*This post was originally published in the Herald Community on June 18, 2014

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