Stephanie Anderson is an instructor of English at Florida Atlantic University. She grew up on a ranch, has worked as a writer and photographer for the humanitarian aid organization Cross International, and served as an editor for the agricultural newspaper Tri-State Neighbor in South Dakota. Her first book, One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture, is available now.
A Food Resolution Worth Keeping
It’s the beginning of a new year, and you know what that means: a fervent but usually short-lived interest in healthy eating.
Don’t get me wrong, I support food choices (and regenerative farming methods) that promote wellness and longevity, views I write about in my new book, One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture. But I think many people can’t stick to their resolution to eat clean in part because, in America at least, healthy eating is a type of fad diet. It’s something a person has to think about and make sacrifices and changes for. Health isn’t built into American food culture the way it is in other parts of the world. In the Mediterranean, prioritizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish is just eating. Same in Japan, where small portions are normal portions.
As Michael Pollan points out in In Defense of Food, Americans keep changing their minds about what foods are healthy. Remember when eggs were evil and now they aren’t? Our inability to intuitively know what’s good to eat makes us susceptible to trendy but unsustainable diets and bad science put out by food companies trying to sell us their latest products. Even when we do make good decisions—carrots instead of potato chips, for example—decades of industrial farming with agrochemicals and monocultures have weakened our soil, which means those carrots have less nutrition and taste than they would if we farmed regeneratively.
I believe the main reason we are so confused about food is because we lack a connection to its source. Few Americans think about where their food comes from or how it is produced, and even fewer know a farmer or rancher. Our food is not grounded in place and time; we eat things grown out of season and far from where we live. What we eat rarely reflects the environment or farmers around us, and that disconnect between land, producer, and consumer can make everyone involved complacent. Removed from the food chain, we tend to let price, convenience, and marketing gimics guide our decisions. It’s no wonder many of us fail to eat healthy in this convoluted and industrial food environment.
Let’s do something about this. This year, I propose a different resolution: making a commitment to food that is grown responsibly and regeneratively in your area.
First, get out of the big box grocery store. Check out the farmer’s market and local food stores instead, or join a community supported agriculture (CSA) group. Talk to farmers and ranchers who use regenerative methods to raise their crops and animals about buying directly from them, and consider gardening if that’s possible. Choose organic when you can, but keep in mind that some regenerative farmers, like Gabe Brown who I profile in One Size Fits None, are producing nutritious and environmentally responsible food without organic certification.
Next, get smart. Educate yourself about why industrial agriculture destroys the environment, worsens climate change, and produces food that makes us sick. Discover why regenerative and organic agriculture offers the promise of true sustainability. When you’re empowered with knowledge, you can make better decisions about what you eat and what political leaders you elect to shape food and environmental policy.
I recognize that in our current food system eating 100 percent locally and regeneratively usually isn’t possible. Many people face economic and location barriers, and the supply of such food isn’t adequate yet. But when people care about and demand food that nourishes both our bodies and the land, there’s hope that such food will become the norm. By prioritizing local, organic, and regenerative agriculture and pushing for continued change, we can transform healthy eating from a fad to a lifestyle—and that’s a resolution worth keeping.
 Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming and ranching that restores and improves resources like soil and water through biodiversity, responsible grazing, and natural nutrient cycling. Farmers and ranchers tailor their approach to their specific environment—a one size fits none model. Regenerative agriculture is much more than this quick definition, so I invite you to read One Size Fits None to learn more.