Ep#27 – Changing The Food System for The Better

Buying fruits and vegetables is something we do every day. What if doing the same thing could actually reverse climate change, improve your health and help change the entire food system?

If there was a device that could tell you which fruits or vegetables had the highest nutrition, then you would naturally buy them. That would incentivise farmers to move to practices that aligned with Nature to improve their produce’s nutrition density. Well guess what, there is! Dan Kittredge of Bionutrient Food Association talks with me today about this revolutionary new device that is already in use today.

Either listen to the Podcast above or watch our interview below..

Learn more about Bionutrient Food Association here.

And be sure to check out the Real Food Campaign.


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Episode 26: Changing The Food System For The Better with Dan Kittredge

Hayley: Episode 27, Changing The Food System for the better with Dan Kittredge. 

Intro: Welcome to Thriving with Nature, a podcast that gives you the tools you need to live a modern lifestyle that helps regenerate our planet. And now, your host, Hayley Weatherburn.

H: Hello Thrivers and welcome to this week’s episode, I am really excited to share with you a special guest this week. We have Dan Kittredge of the Bionutrient Association. Thank you so much for joining us, Dan.

Dan: Thank you for having me.

H: Thank you.Thrivers, I just want to give you some context to what we’re going to be talking about this week. Something that really sparked my desire to have Dan on this podcast is the fact that he really likes to pinpoint on the food quality. We can get all caught up with permaculture, the biodynamic, is it regenerative, is it organic, what’s the word… But at the end of the day, we need to focus on getting high nutrient food. That’s the purpose.

So who is Dan Kittredge? For those of you who have never heard of this amazing man, Dan’s Kittredge has been doing organic farming for 30 plus years. Is that approximately correct?

D: I grew up on an organic farm. My parents got certified in 86, I think.

H: Wow, that’s fully certified. And of course, he’s the founder and executive director of the Bionutrient Food Association which is a non-profit organization. Is that correct?

D: Mmh hmm, yup. An educational organisation.

H: Yeah, and we’ll get into what I’m about to say. He’s part of something that’s going to revolutionise the food system in regards to measuring the food nutrients in our food. I’m going to get to that in a minute cause that’s exciting. That’s why he’s here. But Dan, I wanted to ask you, I first heard about you at the Soil Advocacy Training, through Kiss The Ground, with this amazing bionutrient meter, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but what sparked your desire to pin point “We need to look at the nutrient in the food.” How did you get to that point?

D: There’s a long or a short answer to that question. So…

H: Whatever you want to detail…

D: And how far off the deep end am I allowed to go? Yeah, well, sort of the most safe 3d answer to that question, when I got married and started trying to farm for a living, to provide for our family, I’ve been sort of through my 20’s, managing my parents’ farm during spring summer and fall and then travelling in the winter. And really, you know, I need much and I really wasn’t making much, which was fine. But then when I got married, and I had basically developed no other skillsets to provide for our family other than farming, I started thinking about the logistics of being a breadwinner. In short, I came to the conclusions that I wasn’t a good enough farmer to make it and provide for our family. And so I think like many farmers, there’s a struggle there about economic liability and my parents have been, and are still do run an organic farming organisation called NOFA Northeast Organic Farming Association, it’s 40 plus years old, is one of the sort of leaders of the movement here in North America. I not only grew up on an organic farm and my parents ran an organic farming organization, and I thought if I couldn’t make a living farming, maybe there’s more to it. That kind of background, I should be able to at least make a living.

So long story short, I looked at the fact that because the plants were sick. My yields were limited. Insects attacking a plant isn’t a sign of a plant being healthy. And fungus infestations on a plant is not a sign of being healthy. It may be normal, but it’s not healthy. And it doesn’t happen in nature and so what I had normalised, which was pest and disease pressure, I would say it was a sign of actual poor health. And so starting with that humility, hopefully, maybe I actually don’t know as much as I thought I did. Or maybe organic isn’t as great as I was told it was.

I started doing the workshops, the conferences, and reading books and you know, experimenting different practices. Staying within the organic structure, but sort of trying to learn more about what was going on. And foundationally, what I understood is that plants evolved in nature with the capacity to feed themselves through their gut flora, the microbes in the soil, the plants make sugar, they inject it into the soil to feed microbes, the microbes eat it, digest it, reproduce, go about digesting the soil, make nutrients available, feed it back up to the plant… There’s this beautiful virtuous circle that is how nature evolved in hundreds of millions of years to go and has been working just fine with no knowledge and no fertiliser in lots of places. 

Really, the issue was that I had been following a practice of fairly destructive techniques, which has, if you look back in history really worn out a lot of the world’s land. And even though we weren’t using chemicals, we still were engaging in destructive practices. So effectively, I started to change practices and the plants became healthier. The disease pressures went away, the yield went up, the cost of production went down, economic liability increased. Things like flavour, aroma, and shelf life increased. Soil health, soil organic matter, all these things improved and so I said, “Wow, I grew up in the organic movement, and I didn’t know any of these things. This is massive.” Cause here I am, able to make a living, working 20 hours a week on the farm. And I felt almost a responsibility to start sharing. So I did start to teach workshops and courses and effectively started an organisation and looking more deeply at leverage. What is the structure of the culture? What’s the structure of the food supply? In my 20’s, I did a lot of sort of organising and political stuff, deep thinking, and I wanna save the world. I wanna do something of consequence. Everything’s going the wrong direction and I came to the realisation that there seems to be some really intrinsic connection between plant health, soil health, environmental health, farming, and food quality. Nutrient dumping is the term we use now to roughly refer to it. Organic claims to be better, local claims to be better, permaculture claims to be better, biodynamic claims to be better, what is better? Everybody can claim it. But we don’t actually have an imperial metric for assessing it. And so that’s what got me into it. Seeing as a farmer, I can actually make a living and I didn’t need all these products. And it was beneficial for the environment. And it was healthier for my customers and my children. That seems like something that I can do to focus on a system that’s actually a solution that maybe other people would be interested in also.

H: Yeah, a hundred percent. Thank you so much for sharing. 

D: Yeah, that’s enough.

H: Yeah, no, I know, I appreciate it. It’s so interesting and I’ve interviewed a few people now, Dr. Laine Ilham, The Soul Food Web, Charles Massey who’s an Australian Regenerative Agriculture, there’s quite a few people who have gone through this journey of having sort of one understanding, then realising that we can — and this is my journey at the soil advocacy training. Actually if we just go regenerative, we follow nature and it brings back the nutrients and the microbes and everything together. Not only is it starting to thrive in your actual — rather than the usual mono crops where things get worse and worse and worse, and you’ve got to put more injections in, things are getting better and more thriving, and you’re becoming more profitable, cause the cost is low and the nutrients are getting higher. It’s like, it’s too good to be true.

D: It’s an topple bottom line.

H: Topple bottom line, I like that.

D: There’s so many symbiotic benefits that occur when you’re with nature. The thing is, you have to be able to work with nature and it requires a total shift in your mindset. From this colonised, patriarchal, whatever you wanna call it sort of power over, we will command nature what to do, to like receptive, humble, indigenous, “Okay, what’s the path? What’s the pattern? What am I being called to do right now?” It’s a paradigm shift 8:20. And so that’s the struggle. I think Arden Anderson, one of the elders in the movement always said “The biggest block is between the ears”. It’s not hard to transform land in very short order. It’s not expensive. It’s really really easy but you have to know what you’re doing. And you have to be humble and receptive, and that’s the issue. Foundationally, right now, a lot of farming is — even though I think farmers are becoming more and more receptive to this, the economics are what drive them. All the money from the government, and the insurance company, there’s a structure that they’re basically not forced to be in, but it’s really hard to disengage from it. So if it’s money that’s really pushing the structure, how can we use money to push the biological structure? And that’s where the focus on nutrient density comes in. Basically giving consumers and anybody in the supply chain the ability to say “Look, this is in the 80th percentile. This bag of carrots and look over here this is in the 20th percentile. Why would I choose the 20 percentile one that tastes worse and is less nutritious, costs the same, why would I do that?” But we all just kind of think that wheat and milk, carrots and cucumbers, like metal and plastic, are uniform. But they’re not. Their variations is hundreds or thousands of percent, not 50% but like 5 to 1 or 10 to 1. Like this carrot has much iron as that carrot, or this leaf of spinach has 15 times as much copper as that leaf of spinach 75 times as many polyphenols as that leaf of spinach. The nutrient variation in food is massive and that’s the thing that no one has ever bothered to document. There’s not really a strong, industrial incentive to do that science. So that’s part of our work, to sort of “Ok, we understand the variation exists but nobody has looked. So we’re going to go and start looking.” So we built a lab, and we’ve started working with growers across North America, now into Europe and the multiple labs and we’re basically saying “Send stuff in, tell us what you do. Send the soil in too so we can check the organic matter and biological activity and let’s start looking at this thing.” and so we built a little gizmo, when you flash a light at the crop, low and behold, you can see the variations.

H: Talk about this little gizmo, I think you’ve called it a Bionutrient Meter, is that correct?

D: Shy of any marketing or thought what to call it, yeah.

H: Yeah, I think Bionutrient Meter is good. It’s a spectrometer. Can you tell people who have never even heard about it. I’m going to share my screen and show a picture from your website of it.

D: You pretty much know what the end game is. On some level, it already made that agreement. So the only question is how good of a life am I going to be able to provide for that animal, or that plant as gratitude for what it’s doing for me. I don’t think I’ve seen the literature, I believe people have research to show that when they engage very closely to their plants, so like, it is personalised medicine by working directly and deeply with nature. Not by getting some processed product and a series of lab tests and everything else. That’s just a perversion of the process, the real deep process is to be in relationship with the plant or animal directly.

H: Exactly. I’ve currently got, like I said, the Living Supplement Garden. I’ve got one box that I’m fully connecting with and then I’ve got a control that’s very next to it. The energy’s very different, I’ll be planting seeds soon according to the biodynamic calendar and I want to measure it. And one of the tools I want to use is the Bionutrient Meter because I’m interested to see what potentially could happen.

D: Beautiful.

H: So it’s through that. It’s an exciting journey and like you said, I think there’s a lot of data in Russian. But I don’t speak Russian.

D. (Speaks Russian)

H: Oh, you do a bit.

D: The Cyrillic alphabet, it’s a whole process to learn it for us English speakers. The thing is, the Russians have figured a bunch of interesting things out. And the Germans, and the Japanese, and the Chinese, and the French. A lot of these cultures that have a solid scientific tradition, that have identified things that the English speaking world is kind of not aware of. It’s really exciting. If you look at the collective wisdom of all the cultures, and you can try to find integrations of it. As far as I’m concerned, we know everything we need to know to have profoundly expansive culture planetary health, it’s just a question of implementing it. How do we drive that.

H: I could talk to you for hours. There’s so many levels that you’ve talked about here. Quantum Physics, spiritual, it’s all up my alley. Yeah, I just really appreciate it, I know we’ve gone a bit overtime so I appreciate it. Time is precious during these days so thank you so much for taking the time to share you wisdom from the 30 plus years that you’ve been involved in this and for what you’re doing for the planet, I really think it’s amazing.

D: Thank you very much. It really was wonderful to e able to speak to people who are at the same wavelength and have an opportunity to do that.

Outro: Hey, if you enjoyed listening to my podcast, remember to subscribe to hear more. You also have to come check out The Living Supplement Garden, the garden that reads your individual body’s condition and grows the substances that it requires to move to optimal health and potentially healing your ailments. When we align with nature, we thrive with nature. I’d love to have you join myself and others as we discover the magic of nature together and strive to heal both ourselves and our planet. Go to ThrivingWithNature.com

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