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Natural Awakenings Bucks and Montgomery Counties PA

From Soil to Gut: Growing a Dirty, Healthy Life

by Craig Shelton and Donald Joergens

Our environment, health and future are in a tailspin. Our loss of balance with Mother Nature has resulted in a rapidly warming world where soils and foods are contaminated with poisons and depleted in life-bestowing nutrients and gut-strengthening, good dirt. Our bodies, weakened by poorly grown, nutritionally drained foods, are subject to more debilitating illnesses as we outpace our current “disease care” system.

Fortunately, Mother Nature does not require apologies—only the embrace of a dynamic balance within the natural order. The destiny of our children’s children, as well as the current states of life for all, are within our power to positively change.

Thankfully, strong activists are rising within the greatest vocations—the farmer and gardener, hoisting bags of GMO-free seeds upon their shoulders while firmly grasping the tools to make beds from which a new future of foods will arise. The movement toward suburban and urban agriculture—private home gardens in the suburbs, urban neighborhoods that reclaim disused lots for edible plants, organic family farms near and far—energizes personal and community commitment to working with nature as we move away from factory farming with potash fertilizer, dead dirt, corrupted seeds, deadly pesticides and gene-altering herbicides.

While this movement is a key step in the right direction, there are other vital concepts to incorporate as we move forward.

Grow Healthy Topsoil

All farms of 100 acres or more must be regenerative. Regenerative agriculture practices “grow” healthy topsoil instead of depleting it. It has been said that the most destructive invention of humankind is not the gun or nuclear power, but the plow. Turning of topsoil not only releases carbon into the air, but also doesn’t allow for its recapturing back into the earth. Regenerative farming doesn’t turn the soil. Instead it incorporates the proper utilization of herd animals, the management of a strong biodiversity within the root microbiome of cultivated plants and an improved water cycle of the land to compel biosequestration. Biosequestration captures and stores (sequestrates) the atmospheric greenhouse gas of carbon dioxide, a main player in global warming, and returns it back into the earth. This enriches the topsoil and all that is produced from it.

Protect the Microbiome

Root systems, including the fungal branches that connect plants one to another in a brain-like communication, have their own, extremely necessary microbiome. A microbiome is the collection of microorganisms necessary for the health of a particular environment. The vast diversity of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses within each of us comes from the microorganisms within the soil.

Microbiome also means the genetics and the potential expression for healthy responses or, more likely, unhealthy reactions from the community of friends living within our gut. What is less understood is that every plant also has a gut. The soil is the gut of the plant. Soil that is healthy supports a thriving microbiome, which can be passed on to us to refresh our own gut health. Our increasing knowledge about the impact of food on our health makes caring for our food supply from the ground up critical. Determining a scientific link between food and conditions like ADD/HD, autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, cancer and more is challenging, but those with the conditions often report improvement through a dedicated diet of food grown in healthy ways.

Everyone benefits when soils are a net carbon sink. Through our food choices and farming and gardening practices, we all have the opportunity to influence how soil is managed. Profitable agriculture, nutrient-dense food, clean water and vibrant communities can be ours… if that is what we choose.

Craig Shelton is CEO at AEON Holistic Agriculture, Inc., an organization formed to demonstrate that large-scale sustainable agriculture is more profitable and makes farmland more valuable than the dominant model of commercial agriculture in the U.S. today. In addition, he teaches about sustainability, agriculture and food at Princeton University. For details, visit


Dr. Donald Joergens is a New Jersey-based chiropractor who has been an innovative thinker for over 25 years. His discoveries within cutting-edge functional neuroscience and its connection with the natural world reflect his powerful understanding of how the principles in functional brain-based methods impact the lives of all people. For more information, visit


July 2019