Our Relationship With the Natural Environment we Live in is Paramount
Our current industrial farming practices are unsustainable.
Nearly all vegetables are takers – not givers – of nutrients from soil. Therefore, farmers need to constantly replenish their soils to keep them from going fallow. Historically, farmers would accomplish this by rotating their crops: planting restorative nitrogen-fixing legumes in some fields to give them a year off from production. However, this practice is no longer possible in today’s climate where time and costs are paramount. So today’s farmers use external fertilizers between and sometimes during planting.
This is not an acceptable method of producing plants for consumption because it is in antithesis to which fosters an healthy relationship with the natural environment we live in. For starters, those external fertilizers are not providing the plants with the actual raw ingredients to grow into the phytonutrient and antioxidant packed powerhouses meant to sustain us. Furthermore, both our internal microbiome and the greater biome of the environment is missing out on the incredibly beneficial process of biomass production that occurs naturally in nature and is a critical step in producing healthy plant food in an agricultural setting.
External input-intensive monocropping is an ecologically unsustainable means of feeding the world’s growing population. In 1967, there were 3.5 billion people on the planet. In 2018, there were well over 7.6 billion – twice as many humans needing to be feed. During the same period, scientists estimate we lost one-third of our arable land to erosion or pollution. Moreover, much of the arable land in agricultural production today is being used to support the demands of the growing global meat consumption. In the next 40 years, the population is expected to increase by 3 billion people. These 3 billion people would require a landmass the size of Brazil in farmland to be fed. This amount of farmland does not exist. So there is a flaw in our current production of food. What about our consumption of it? And are these two things interchangeable?
Consuming natural food in a manner that promotes a beneficial relationship with the environment can be addressed in a number of ways. One of the best things we can do is to bring into our diets the economical, nutritious, soil-replenishing plants of the legume family. While legumes pull nutrients from the soil as they grow like most plants, they also pull nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil, leaving it a bit more fertile for the next crop. In some cases, legumes also have constituents that are not good for us when we digest them. However, the process of fermentation reduces or entirely removes these anti-nutrients and toxins while also unlocking the nutrients for us.
There are 13,000 species of legumes, but humans have chosen to eat only about two dozen of them. All beans are legumes, but not all legumes are beans. Legumes include the entire bean family plus other ferment-friendlies like chickpeas, lentils, mesquite, soybeans, and peanuts. Legumes are an excellent source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. In incorporating legumes more into our diet, we’re taking a small step towards a more sustainable food system. And as we keep in mind the health of environment we’re inadvertently improving our own health in the process.
Shockey, K., & Shockey, C. (2019). Miso, tempeh, natto, & other tasty ferments: a step-by-step guide to fermenting grains and beans. Storey Publishing: Pages 3, 37-38.