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Farm uses periodic testing to market nutrient-dense foods
By WHITNEY PIPKIN
HYATTSVILLE, Md. (Feb. 16, 2016) — After years of advocating for more nutrient-dense, whole foods on a national level, Sally Fallon Morell bought the farm to demonstrate firsthand the tenants she has long espoused.
Author of the 1996, best-selling “Nourishing Traditions” cookbook — which challenged the low- and nonfat health assumptions of the time, Morell bought a historic farm in Brandywine, Md., a few years ago as a respite from the food lobbying fronts in nearby Washington, D.C.
Fans of her work, which includes the founding with her husband Geoffrey Morell of the food advocating Weston A. Price Foundation, can now buy grass-fed eggs and meat and raw cheese directly from the farm or at nearby farmers markets. Or they can simply visit for the inspiration.
The farm manager, Brian Wort, shared at the Future Harvest, Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture conference on Jan. 15 about the methods he uses that the farm’s owners believe contribute to more nutrient dense foods.
He starts by defining nutrient density differently than the USDA, which defines the term more by what it is not than what it is: “nutrient density indicates that the nutrients and other beneficial substances in a food have not been ‘diluted’ by the addition of calories from added solid fats, added sugars or added refined starches or by the solid fats naturally present in the food.”
The Weston A. Price Foundation declared the definition “bizarre” when it came out in 2010, and the farm by the same founders prefers a definition that links the food more closely to its source.
Wort described the nutrient density for which he strives on the farm as the end product of a highly biological system, where the crop harvested has a measurably larger quantity of a broad spectrum of the minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients as compared to its counterparts.
That’s part of the reason the P.A. Bowen Farmstead where he works sends off its eggs and cheese and milk for periodic nutritional testing. He said he wants to ensure that each of those products of the farm’s grass-based system remains higher in nutrients than its grocery-store counterparts. He showed side-by-side comparisons of the nutrition profiles of each as conducted by both state and independent labs. Each of the products had higher levels of Vitamins A, D, E and K as well as a host of other markers.
How? “It’s really all related to the soil,” said Wort. “There is a symbiotic relationship between the bacteria in the soil and in our guts that’s used to digest what the soil produces. You have to feed your soil so you can feed your crops and yourself.”
For Wort, who’s focused on feeding the pigs, chickens and cows so that they produce nutrient dense foods, that means growing good pasture for the animals to consume through managed grazing. He also supplements their feed with grains bought from a nearby farm as part of a careful nutrient-rich concoction for the animals.
The farm doesn’t feed its animals the standard mix that includes soy, which Wort considers to be an endocrine disruptor. Instead, they get a mix of wheat or barley, sorghum, field peas and coconut meal. All that is mixed with water or apple cider vinegar to allow the grains to soak overnight and release more of their nutrients. Sometimes the mix includes molasses or sea minerals like kelp and algae as well.
The special feed helps draw cows into the New Zealand-style milk parlor, where they listen to Mozart and rub against a Norwegian brush specially designed for bovine massages.
Sure, Wort said, it’s not easy to make money making food this way — and the farm functions more as a demonstration project than an economic endeavor.
“So why do we do it? On this scale, I know the animals and I know the customers. I’m making sure they’re getting the best product I can produce — and that it’s nutrient dense.”