These Two Easy-to-Grow Garden Plants also Help Control Diabetes

August 3rd, 2015


I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 10 years ago right after a back operation.  I learned that a propensity for diabetes can be triggered by an assault to the body, like an operation with anesthesia. Fortunately, I have been able to manage diabetes with regular exercise and a better diet.  

My diet was always pretty good, with mostly vegetables and grains.  But I often binged on too much food at one sitting.  Plus, I loved overindulging with carbohydrates, especially from processed foods (cookies and candy, breads and snack foods (Smart Food is almost a vegetable!), pasta and breakfast cereals). Carbohydrates are important for your body as your digestive system converts them into glucose (blood sugar). Your body uses this sugar for energy for your cells, muscles, and organs.  But diabetes reduces the ability of the body to manage this conversion, dumping excess glucose that can’t be processed into your blood rather managing the glucose to power your body.

Now, I eat much less processed foods and more whole and unrefined foods, especially vegetables, nuts, beans, certain grains (quinoa) and tubers (sunchokes), and unrefined fruit. In fact, my vegetable and nut consumption has probably tripled.  We buy the nuts in bulk, but we still grow most of our vegetables in our garden or get them from a CSA I helped to start 25 years ago.  

There are two plants I count on from my garden that are easy to grow and that I have found to be especially beneficial in managing my blood sugar: kale and sunchokes.  Read the rest of this entry »


June 29th, 2015

Almost everyone experiences stress and spells of anxiety.  Stress can come from any event or thought (a ”stressor”) that makes you feel tense, frustrated, or angry.  Anxiety is stress that continues after the stressor is gone and can be a feeling of fear, unease, and worry. The source of these symptoms is not always known.  The source can be specific and personal, like family, employment or financial worries, or more general like news about the economy, terrorism or weather events.


Stress and anxiety can become a serious issue if they begin interfering with your daily life. The American Psychological Association reports that 40 percent of all adults say they lie awake at night because of stress. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States, or 18% of the population. Only about one-third of sufferers receive treatment but the cost in the US is still almost one-third of the country's $148 billion total mental health bill, according a study reported in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.


There are many ways to manage stress and anxiety, including lifestyle changes like eating a balanced, healthy diet; getting enough sleep and regular exercise; meditating and deep breathing; recognizing the factors that trigger your stress.

These techniques can be used along with medical treatments for anxiety, including psychotherapy and drugs like Valium and antidepressants.


But our gardens can also offer effective treatment for stress and anxiety.  For thousands of years we have prevented and treated everyday ailments with plants anyone can grow. But our power has gradually been surrendered to profit-driven health-care.  Is now the time for each of us with gardens to begin growing our own ‘health revolution’?


The most credible, peer-reviewed laboratory research today continues to prove that the plants people have been using as medicine for generations are very effective cures for common maladies and support robust health. The pharmaceutical industry devotes its resources to synthesizing, engineering, and patenting the components of these plants, so that you can be dependent on its products and your health can be mined as a steady source of revenue. Meanwhile, the science shows that medicinal plants work best in their natural state, minimally processed and with all of their essential oils, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds intact and acting in concert.


We know healthy diets start with whole foods and organically grown vegetables and fruit.  Is this also true for specific medical conditions, including stress and anxiety?  This has been our experience, and the research backs it up.  Here are the top 5 plants we grow and use in our garden when life’s challenges seem to overwhelm.


Read the rest of this entry »

Cuba: feast to famine to future food system

June 1st, 2015


Burlington College course visit to Funez agroecology “polyculture” farm

Over a decade ago I visited Cuba to learn more about their "second revolution".

The first revolution was political. The second one was a response to economic pressures, forced on Cuba by the US trade embargo and then the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. This economic crisis profoundly affected Cuban’s basic needs, especially food. During the early 1990s imports of food from eastern Europe as well as agricultural machinery, fertilizers, pesticides and other needed inputs for Cuba’s industrialized agricultural system stopped abruptly. Cuban agriculture had to change or the people would starve. And change needed to happen fast.

Cuba acted; adopting decentralized farming policies that encouraged individual and cooperative food production. Soviet-model state-run farms were replaced with thousands of new small urban and suburban community gardens (organoponicos), market gardens (parcelas) and patio gardens.  Access to small-scale farming was increased as millions of acres of unused government lands were made available under long term lease to farm workers.

These land use and production changes helped to stabilize Cuban diets even as the average Cuban lost about 20 pounds during this “special period”.  And Cuba’s food system achieved this new balance without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, tractor fuel, and other petroleum inputs because there were none available. Cuba was forced to provide food production inputs from compost, bio-pesticides, animal power and other “old ways” made better.  Economic realities forced Cuba to become a world leader in sustainable agriculture and “agroecology”.

Read the rest of this entry »