Adam J. Brown: Healthy Soil Leads to Healthy Food | Company

By Adam Brown

Imagine if we had a food system that actually produced healthy food. Imagine if he produced this food in a way that regenerated the soil in which it grew. Imagine if we could eat every meal knowing these few simple things: What are we eating? Where does that come from? How it ended up on your plate.

There is a place at the north end of Torch Lake where this kind of regenerative food system exists. Where people work tirelessly to develop a relationship to the green land and the people they nurture. This place is called Providence Organic Farm. Founded in 2006, Providence Organic Farm focuses on living soils using organic farming practices, producing healthy crops and distributing them to the community.

It’s a place where the fundamentals of soil health are used every season with precision and care. You can see fields of various cover crop mixes, practices that minimize soil disturbance, live plants that grow as long as the sun shines, and mixed pastures grazed by several species of livestock. No good soil health management practice is overlooked by farm owner and manager Ryan Romeyn and his talented team. Romeyn understands that her soil is alive with a diversity of microorganisms and therefore how valuable these are to healthy soil function and to the health of her crops.

Soil managed in this way, like a micro-ecosystem, will create and maintain stable soil aggregates and allow water to infiltrate and enter the soil, making it available for plant roots. These soil organisms are also the drivers of nutrient cycling and the key variable in ensuring soil minerals reach plants. Without a healthy soil microbiome, agricultural systems simply will not function properly.

For nearly two decades, the soil at Providence Farm has been managed under the philosophy of “soil as a living biological system.” There is a saying in agriculture that healthy soil produces healthy plants. Controversy has long surrounded the issue of nutritional differences between crops grown organically or using conventional methods. There have been extensive studies dating back to the 1940s showing that farming methods can affect the nutrient density of crops. The Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, has been dedicated to educating consumers and growers about agriculture through rigorous research for 70 years. The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial is the longest and most notable study of the effects of farming practices on the nutritional quality of foods (Hepperly et al., 2018).

Since 1981, the Rodale Institute has grown the same crops in side-by-side plots in an ongoing field-scale comparison of organic and conventional practices. In 2003, soil organic matter and nitrogen levels increased significantly in organic plots. Vegetables grown in the two systems in 2005 also had large differences in mineral content; organic crops had higher amounts of total antioxidants and vitamin C. Organically grown tomatoes and jalapeno peppers had 36% and 18% more vitamin C, respectively. Organic carrots had 29% more total antioxidant levels students. In other words, this study has proven and proves that healthier soils teeming with biology produce more nutrient-dense crops. Feeding the soil (microbes) to produce healthier crops is probably not a mistake and a practice more growers should adopt, and arguably essential for a sustainable food system that can feed billions of people. on that pale blue dot we call home. And yes, the systems used by Providence Farm are scalable!

Providence Organic Farm distributes its organically grown products through a model Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program of several hundred members, retail and wholesale outlets. To complete their community food network, they recently added a natural food market and a bucolic café. If you need the most real and honest farm-to-fork experiences, then this is definitely a place to occupy with a big appetite. The menu is created with a deep passion in creating healthy meals. Owner and passionate cook Andrea Romeyn and her kitchen team are masters at transforming fresh, organic, nutrient-dense foods into delicious, hearty soups and more.

Vegans and carnivores can mingle with a delicious option to suit their palate. Visit their cafe for a pop-up menu to enjoy a unique stir-fry or authentic tacos. You can become part of the Providence Farm Family by consuming the foods that have been grown with great care, time and effort, and you will taste the passion that inspired their recipes.

When you sit down to a meal at Providence Farm Café, you are making a smart choice for your personal health and the future health of a model farm operation that needs to be adopted by many other growers in this country. You choose to eat a meal with purposely grown ingredients, ethically raised animals, and people who are passionate about your food. You vote with your food dollars to choose the best option for the overall health of your family and the earth.

You don’t have to imagine such a food system that produces healthy food, the ideal model works and is available to you right here on the shores of Torch Lake.

So grab yourself a warming bowl of earthy spoon soup, your staple organic veggies, grass-fed animal protein, or espresso drink and raise your cup to honor an essential food artisan in our region. Providence Organic Farm, Café & Natural Food Market is located at 5695 North M-88.

Adam Brown is a technician with the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program of the Leelanau Conservation District. He has a background in ecology and a BS from Western Michigan University in earth sciences with minors in environmental studies and biology. Before becoming a MAEAP technician, he owned and managed a certified organic fruit and vegetable farm with his wife Haley Breniser, called Undertoe Farm in Kewadin. He has a passion for sustainable agriculture with a focus on soil health.

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