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Return Nutrients to the Soil


"About half the people admitted to Canadian hospitals are malnourished. Their situation tends to grow worse during and after their hospital stay.

There are many reasons nutrients in the soil are not reaching the consumer's table. Harry Jurke, a Lloydminister, Saskatchewan farmer told me that in the economic crisis of the early 1970s he started raising sheep. However, he had problems with "white muscle disease" (otherwise known as birthing problems).

One day he was going to spread commercial nitrogen fertilizer on his sheep pasture. When his neighbour asked him why, he realized that he didn't know. So he stopped.

In a couple of years he no longer had birthing problems. Again he didn't know why. A few years later he met a veterinarian who told him that commercial nitrogen fertilizer prevented selenium in the soil being released into plants. Lack of selenium caused the white muscle disease!

Selenium is a necessary mineral in the diet for many reasons but particularly because it protects and enhances the immune system. Since Canadian farmers use millions of dollars worth of commercial nitrogen every year, consumers have to buy selenium in health food stores!

Return to Stone Milling

Traditionally wheat was milled into flour by water-driven or hand-cranked mills. Stone milling is the only process that saves all the nutrients in grains. It grinds the wheat slowly enough to prevent the wheat germ (an important source of vitamin E) from going rancid.

There are many home-size stone mills and a few commercial-sized mills that will produce (hopefully certified organic) stone ground flour in the community. However, the large commercial companies mill mostly white flour (often bleached) with practically no nutrients. In fact, because of flour's lack of nutrition the Canadian Food Inspection Agency insist that the following five nutrients be added: thiamin (0.64mg per 100g), riboflavin (0.4mg per 100g) niacin (5.3mg per 100g), folic acid (0.15mg per 100g) and iron (4.4mg per 100g). It's sad to think that here on the prairies where we produce the highest quality wheat in the world, the nutrients don't get to the consumer's table. (If anyone is doing research on how chemicals, processing and preserving prevent nutrients from getting from the soil to the customer's table, I'd really like to know.)

In 1969 I met a dairy farmer from Trenton, Ontario at the Founding Convention of the National Farmers Union in Winnipeg. She told me that she had a herd of prize Jersey cattle that produced the highest quality milk possible. But, I'm sorry to tell you that, because the Department of Health insists that milk must be pasteurized, a lot of the calcium and other nutrients are completely destroyed. Over the years I have heard this from many other sources. European countries have had certified whole milk (not pasteurized) on the market for many years. However, it's only lately that a few Ontario and Quebec farmers have been able to market certified whole milk and more recently certified organic whole milk but it's still pasteurized! Mothers have been telling their children for years to drink lots of milk to build strong bones but there is very little calcium available in de-fatted milk!

Natural Recycling

My dog Po is a good and determined nutritionist and recycler. When you give all dogs a bone, they may eat it all, and return their waste to the soil. If it's a big bone they may eat some and bury the rest. They know that they must return the calcium and other nutrients to the soil.

If humans were ever programmed to recycle nutrients, they have now forgotten how. Today our food products go to large population centres and the surplus nutrients pass through the consumers body into rivers with the help of flush toilets. Most humans don't eat bones. They carefully put them in the garbage, which goes to the dump. The rats in the dump have a good supply of calcium, while people suffer from osteoporosis and other illnesses.

Acres USA, A Voice for Eco-Agriculture is an excellent environmental organic agricultural newspaper. It recently published a list of weeds to help farmers and gardeners do a soil analysis. Weeds indicate soil problems. For example dandelions indicate a low calcium content and let you know that organic matter is not decomposing. It's time we got back to caring for the soil. A living earth is the basis of health.



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