Farmacology: Total Health from the Ground Up - June Book Review June 28 2017
If you take to the holistic approach to human health and farming, put Daphne Miller’s Farmacology on your reading list. Miller is a Harvard-trained family physician who has spent her career looking beyond what she calls her reductionist medical training in an effort to become a better doctor. She attended a variety of holistic medical conferences and workshops, and even investigated other medical systems---Chinese, Native American, Ayurvedic, homeopathic---but realized it would take years to practice these forms of medicine correctly. She was searching for a new worldview, but one rooted in biomedical science.
A serendipity encounter with The Soul of Soil, a slim book she picked up from a FREE box outside a local bookstore, set her on her path. In the book Grace Gershuny and Joe Smillie share their knowledge of soil to help farmers and master gardeners improve and care for their soils. Miller found the book’s detailed description of the nutrient exchange between soil, microbe, and plant curiously similar to the nutrient exchange that takes place in our own intestines. She connected that the carbon, nitrogen, and every mineral and vitamin that is a building block in humans is derived from the soil. In other words, not only are we nourished by the soil, we are of the soil. The Soul of Soil pointed Miller to farming for answers and specifically to farmers who farm sustainably.
In Farmacology she visits seven innovative family farms and various researchers. We read bits about the world of bacteria, fungi, and soil microbes, and about gut microbes that regulate everything from our metabolism to our immune response. A biodynamic farm in Washington State reveals to her the profound connection between healthy soil and a healthy body. She gains insights into raising healthy children from a Missouri ranch’s cattle-raising techniques. Two Arkansas chicken farms provide lessons in managing stress. A Bronx community garden grows more than nutrient-dense produce. In the pest management approach at a California winery, she sees the link to a compelling way to understand and treat cancer. An aromatic herb farmer unlocks secrets to healthy aging and sustainable beauty.
Miller is a medical doctor who is refreshingly down to earth as she explores what sustainable agriculture can teach us about health and healing. It’s clear to see that we ignore the life of the soil at our own peril. There’s a lot to chew on here.