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Soil to Soul: The Mindful Journey from Farm to Fork

June 26, 2024

Table of Contents

Soil to Soul: The Mindful Journey from Farm to Fork

Finding Nourishment Beyond the Numbers

Fifteen years ago, I traded in my fixation with food rules and obsessive body-comparing for something else – a life-giving relationship with food and my body. It was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done for myself, and it was also one of the hardest. But oh, was it worth it.

Gone were the days of counting calories, fat grams, and punishing myself based on what the scale said. In fact, I threw out that evil contraption altogether. If you rely on a scale to dictate what you eat and how you exercise every day, you’ll never arrive at true freedom with food and your body. I stand by that statement wholeheartedly.

As I wrote in a previous article, I couldn’t just wake up one day and stop counting. After obsessing about those numbers for years and having manic control over food, who can really do that? Not me. So instead, I decided to add in nourishing practices, trusting they would eventually crowd out the not-so-nourishing habits and mindset.

From Seed to Salsa: A Gardening Epiphany

One of the things I added in completely transformed my relationship with food. At the time, I had no idea it was going to be such a monumental experience for me. My newly-married husband and I created a vegetable garden in our backyard. We tilled the soil, planted seeds, watered them, and day after day, we waited.

Oh, my goodness, have you ever observed a garden grow from start to finish? I marveled at the process, like marveling at the miracle of life from conception to birth and beyond. From this itty-bitty seed into something so beautiful – not only did it taste amazing, but it nourished me from the inside out.

It brought new meaning to the term “Mother Nature” to me. Just as an expectant mom nurtures that life inside, I found myself nurturing this garden as an expectant mother. My hands in the dirt, watering, weeding, watching the small, tiny vegetables and fruits growing to completion, fiercely protecting them from predators, talking to them lovingly, harvesting that food, and getting as close to the source as one can – it was a very spiritual experience for me.

There’s something that happened the day I walked outside, picked a basket of Roma tomatoes, a serrano pepper, cilantro, and an onion, and walked inside my house and made a delicious bowl of salsa and ate it for dinner. Boom, something shifted inside. It’s the truest meaning of “farm to table, table to soul.”

What happened for me that first summer with my new garden was nothing short of transformational in my relationship with food and my body. No amount of therapy in an office or dietician recording my intake or weighing me on a scale helped my healing journey with food and body as did my first gardening experience.

Trusting the Wisdom Within

Spending more time in my garden, big shifts started taking place. Food was not a burden; food wasn’t the enemy or a stressor or a problem. Food lost its caloric value and was replaced with a different kind of value. Food took on the role of nourishment far beyond what you calculate on the plate.

Food became bigger than something I could measure. The earth, the sun, the seasons, and the farmers – the way real food requires harmony with earth, sun, water, and farmer to allow seeds to germinate, to flourish, and be harvested to give its life to nourish ours. Amazing, right? Completely transformed the whole story for me.

Gardening became my place of healing and of meditation. Ever so slowly, I began moving away from a distorted relationship with food and discovering something new. I began pausing and listening to my body, and trusting her more – asking her what she desired and letting her be more my guide than the “shoulds” in my head. She’s intuitive and smart, just as your guide inside is smart and intuitive for you.

A Spiritual Invitation to the Bigger Picture

A lot of people assume that I eat healthy because it’s the “right” thing to do to be healthy, or to manage weight, have better energy, and manage symptoms. A lot of people assume that my work is about helping people move away from snacking on tortilla chips and instead grab the kale chips because I’m just passionate about eating healthier.

But what I’m really passionate about is teaching women how food is a spiritual experience and invites us into something so much bigger. Do I love quality? Absolutely. Am I an advocate for real food? Of course. Do I care about you eating healthy food? I do. But I also deeply care about holding space for you to realize that eating, cooking, buying local, fresh, organic veggies isn’t a fad or a measure of good parenting and whether or not you’re doing good or bad.

It’s simply an invitation – inviting you to be a part of something so much bigger. To feel connected to a source of provision, to a creative act, to the larger story, to feel connected more deeply to nature, to the sun, clouds, rain, seasons, soil, people, earth. Something so much bigger than just yourself, and how food is not just a number or a bottom-line necessity. It’s also nourishment on a whole new level.

And quality and real food choices naturally follow. Bottom line, why do I do this whole thing? It’s a spiritual experience, every time I let it be. Calories and fat grams are just one way to look at food, but if you’re honest, that’s a really boring, one-dimensional way to look at food, and no amount of calorie-counting is going to provide you with the freedom you are truly looking for.

So I invite you into a whole new way to look at food – the much larger, more complex, life-giving story. This week, I invite you to visit your local farmers market. This is the best time of the year to visit. Pick up some veggies from local farmers and make a meal. Give thanks for all the hands that prepared the soil and grew and raised that food. Imagine the people who harvested that head of lettuce or pulled those snap peas or gently removed those raspberries from the earth, just for you.

Be mindful of the sun, the rain, the soil that gave life to those plants, and feel the difference in your body when you take the time to sit down and take notice of all that went into giving you nourishment from that one meal. And you are invited to do this three times a day, every day. It’s pretty spectacular.

Honoring the Circle of Life

I used to struggle with eating meat. I was a vegan for several years, and I didn’t eat red meat for almost 10 years. I learned about the inhumane practices of animals – stories of downer cows being beaten, chickens with extra body parts, and butchers cutting around cancer tumors and still selling the meat. It didn’t feel right to be mindless about knowing where my meat came from, so I stopped eating meat altogether.

The problem was, as a vegan, I didn’t feel great. Over a few years, I realized that my body felt better eating animal protein. So I went searching for farmers who had a reverence for animals and honored their lives to nourish ours. I encourage you to search where you live to find these thoughtful farmers who practice farming this way. These farmers exist, and they need our support in order to continue.

Before meeting these farmers, I did not eat pork, ever. After I met them, my family visited their farm, met their heirloom pigs, listened to their farming practices, and have declared that if we were to eat pork, this is the most wonderful, cleanest pork from animals who lived a happy life outdoors, roaming freely. Now, they visit our local farmers market every Saturday, and my family loves their bacon, breakfast sausage, brats, Tuscan sausage, and sweet Italian sausage.

They are also well-stocked with a variety of 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised beef cuts, including beef sausage and beef brats. Did I mention I was a vegan 13 years ago? Lol. When I think about how difficult it is to run a small, organic, local farm, I feel compelled to make sure you are aware they exist. Together, we can support them to continue to grow and thrive.

A Soulful Skillet Supper

Here’s a recipe that serves my family of 5. Feel free to adjust it to fit the needs of your family:

Ingredients Directions
– 2 pounds Crane Dance Farm Italian Sausage links
– 2 onions, sliced
– 4 potatoes, sliced thinly
– 2 packages shiitake or mini bella mushrooms, sliced thin
– 1 small zucchini, sliced
– 1 small yellow squash, sliced
– Assortment of green, red, orange, and yellow peppers, sliced thin
– 3 large handfuls baby spinach
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon dried basil
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 teaspoon dried parsley
– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– Freshly cracked pepper
1. Sear the Italian sausage links on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until fully cooked. Remove from skillet. When cool enough, slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.
2. Keep the sausage bits in the skillet and add 2 TBS water to deglaze the pan, then begin sautéing the onions in its juices. Sauté until glossy and translucent, stirring occasionally.
3. Add potatoes. Cook until softened, stirring often. Add mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and squash, and cook until softened.
4. Meanwhile, add garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl and stir to make a paste. Add to the dish and combine thoroughly.
5. Lastly, add spinach until wilted. Return sausage to the pan and heat through, then serve.

This recipe is one we use at the end of the week with whatever produce is left in your fridge. Other veggies that are worth experimenting in this dish include leeks, kale, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and more.

Embracing Our Interconnectedness

As I continue on my journey of healing my relationship with food and my body, I’m embracing the interconnectedness of all things. My quest to decolonize my plate is not just about me – it’s about honoring my Tlingit heritage, tapping into the ancient wisdom of my ancestors, and repairing not just my own body, but the landscape and our ecological relationships that have been severed due to the legacy of colonialism.

As Indigenous culinary anthropologist Claudia Serrato, PhD, so eloquently states, “Decolonizing work isn’t just for Indigenous peoples. We can all benefit from untangling ourselves from the web of colonialism.” By supporting local, Indigenous producers and reclaiming our connection to the land and the seasons, we’re not just healing ourselves, but the planet.

So, my dear friend, I invite you to join me on this mindful journey from Thornapple CSA’s farm to your fork. Let’s savor the spiritual nourishment that real, whole foods can provide, and in doing so, nourish our bodies, our souls, and our world.

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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