So why farming? On a food page? On a medical page?
The connection between food and good health is easy to see. But many of you may wonder why a doctor would care about farming. Why include sustainable growing, regenerative farming and permaculture on a health and medicine website?
In order to explain, we’ll begin again with a personal story from Dr. Frances Koe, MD:
My interest in farming began similarly to my interest in nutritious food. I was a young wife and a soon-to-be-mother. I got married when I was young, and did not know what career path I wanted. However, I knew I loved reading, and began to learn about growing food.
My husband and his family were avid gardeners, as were many people who lived in the country. They owned a large section of land, and each member of the family lived on their own parcel. I was a city girl who’d grown nothing. I remember sitting on their porch and learning as they taught me to shell bushels of peas for the first time!
Although I loved feeling like a part of something, like I belonged to this enormous family, I remember they did not garden organically. They gardened conventionally with a tiller, chemical pesticides, and synthetic 8-8-8 fertilizer to supply the needed potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus.
Soon, gardening became more than just a fun hobby. It became a necessity for my young family as well. Our family went through lay-offs and periods of time where work was scarce. I started having children, and it was hard for me to work with tiny babies at home. My contribution to our family’s budget was to grow as much of our food as I could. However, I was in search of a more natural and affordable way.
I picked up a book called Ruth Stout’s No Work Garden. Next, I researched and read everything else I could get my hands on. Finally, I used mulch in our garden and it became a joke amongst my then-husband’s family, because that wasn’t something they did.
However, one year in the 1980s, there was a severe drought that lasted for 5 months. I had mulched my garden heavily in advance. I remember driving down the road and seeing all the dead and withered gardens. When we arrived at our house, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, okra, and other veggies were still alive and flourishing on those mulched plants. My husband stopped teasing me then!
That was the start of a lifelong passion for farming and gardening. It was so different from my previous reality as a city girl, and I couldn’t get enough. I loved seeing bales of hay laying in the fields, freshly rolled and golden. Gardening is my passion, and I loved to sweat and get my hands dirty. I was in love with the soil. I even loved shoveling cow manure, because I knew the tremendous growing potential even that lowly ingredient held.
Over the years, I could not always have a sizeable garden because sometimes we moved, or it just wasn’t possible. But I dreamed about moving one day to a piece of land I owned and learning how to homestead. I was a stay-at-home mom, and I homeschooled my children. I wanted to do anything I could to save money and live inexpensively. Homesteading and gardening played a huge part in that.
I met a friend who was working to be a homesteader and was using solar panels. Immediately, I knew I wanted to learn to use them too so that I could save money on my power bill. I also knew I wanted to have animals so that I could raise my own eggs and meat. What I didn’t know was that these things would make me healthier. I also didn’t know at the time that I’d become a single mom and go to medical school!
My goal was to buy a piece of land that I could work and live on until I die, remaining active and healthy the entire time. I wanted to live on a mountain so that I’d have to walk up the hill to get to my bed, and I’m fortunate in that my life has brought me all I dreamed.
I want to share the journey with my patients. My life’s mission has been, and continues to be, to teach as many people as I can to live a more vibrant life through good health and nutrition. And now, as I learn more about regenerative farming, I want to teach this and regenerative food and regenerative health to all my patients.
Regeneration. You’ll see that word, in one form or another (regenerative), here a lot on Agroshare. The concept of regeneration is central to our goals and philosophy. Merriam-Webster defines regeneration as:
1. An act of regenerating, the state of being regenerated
2. A spiritual renewal or revival
3. A renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system (such as a forest) after injury or as a normal process
A definition is easy enough to understand, but what does it actually mean? Especially when being incorporated into the spheres of Food, Farming, and Medicine, why use this word?
We use the word regenerative because we think the concepts of food, farming, and medicine are all interconnected. We want to help people to not just live, but live well.
Our focus is on regenerating these three areas of life because our soil, our food, our environment, our communities, and our bodies have been suffering. They are all desperately in need of revitalization, renewal, regeneration. We use this word because it is our deepest wish to leave the world a better place than we found it.
We don’t need just quick fixes, band-aids for our failing health, or depleted soil or nutritionally deficient food choices. We need a deeper, more comprehensive renewal of these areas of life, and that’s where Agroshare comes in.
When asked what regenerative farming, food and medicine means to her, Agroshare founder and practicing physician Dr. Frances Koe, MD, said this:
“We don’t just want patients to maintain their health as it is, especially when it is failing. Our aim isn’t to fix it where it stands. Instead, we want a more thorough improvement, to restore their health and their existence on all levels. We want to rejuvenate their bodies and their lives. We want to return to how we are meant to be as healthy human beings. As a country, and especially as a state in Alabama, our health is failing. It is my belief, however, that our bodies were designed for health.”
“We want to teach people how to not only regenerate their health, but to maintain it. More than just their health, we want to teach people that their food systems and environment can also be regenerated. That you can have a positive impact on yourself, your community, and the surrounding land, even if you only have a small piece of it. Rather than wanting those who come to us to survive, we want to see them thrive!”
If you’ve done any research into the health or farming fields, or even just spent a little time on social media, you’ve heard words like “sustainable,” “naturally grown,” “permaculture,” “soil regeneration,” and “food forests.” These are all separate topics, but they have similar goals: to affect our environment, soil health and biodiversity, food systems, and ultimately, our health in positive ways.
However, we don’t just want to sustain the environment, to stop any further degradation of the land, soil and food. We want to revitalize, to regenerate, our little corners of the world (and the land and food systems in our state) in order to affect a lasting change that can benefit not only us but our grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.
Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel on this page with farming and gardening. Instead, we will discuss the reasons to start a garden, or even a window box of edible plants, or transform your current plot with more restorative practices. Hopefully, the information you find here will support you in your efforts to grow even a small amount of food for yourself. And finally, we hope to show the connection between growing your own food, feeding yourself and your family well, and regenerating and restoring your health.
Check back frequently for more resources, updates and farming news!
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale Lemon balm, scientific name Melissa officinalis, is so easy to grow, it is almost foolproof. Like most other members of the mint family, lemon balm spreads easily after it becomes established. It does well in...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale Stinging Nettle, scientific name Urtica dioica, and commonly known as nettles, has a long history of folk usage for food and medicine. For hundreds of years, nettles have been used to treat lung issues. The...
The following recipe for keto-friendly Lime Pie comes from my (Dr. Koe’s) friend and patient, Peggie Griffin. Ms. Griffin is passionate about protecting the natural and agricultural heritage of Alabama, as well as promoting nutritious, locally grown food. She...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale I did not realize how lonely some people get as they age. There is often a lot less interaction with family members who have to work and are tired after spending long hours at their job all week. These folks...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale The diets of our parents are far less nutritious now than in the past. The lack of proper nutrition is causing chronic disease to manifest more frequently in the older population today than in previous...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale When you take on the role of caretaker, it isn’t just the person’s physical well-being that you need to address. Before I began to care for my elderly father, I did not realize how much time it takes to...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale My dad was living independently until he fell about four years ago. Perhaps this story sounds familiar to you. So many families are dealing with their elderly parents now differently than they have in the...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale When it comes to gardening, I am addicted to composting and mulching; I love mulch! I also have a fondness for all-natural materials and the understated beauty they have. To me, there is something so...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Editing and Photography by: Breanne Brazeale Alabama is not only beautiful; it is also incredibly rich in its biological diversity! I am so fortunate to call this place home. Over the years, I have learned that my property on the...
Written by: Dr. Frannie Koe, MD Edited by: Breanne Brazeale October 1st was the 15th anniversary of opening my clinic, Wills Valley Family Medicine, in Collinsville, AL. I can hardly believe it has been 15 years! The following is a story I have often told. The first...