Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm Life for my Little Oak Tree

What happens when a dietitian mom leaves the city and starts a farm? Happy 2nd Anniversary Amanda and family. The world is truly a better place with the Mellowsprings!! Thanks for bringing the readers back to earth at this time of year. – Laura Cipullo

 

Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm life for my little Oak Tree
By Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD, CEDRD, LD/N
Eat from the Earth Nutrition Counseling, LLC
Mellowspring Family Farms, LLC

This month marks the beginning of our 2nd year as farmers. I say it this way because this is just the beginning! This lesson feels similar to being a parent – the end of the first year, is really the beginning of the “two’s”. That is when our journey to becoming farmers actually started – when our little acorn had his first birthday.  Within two weeks of his birthday, we were packed and headed for our farm in the mountains.  Nevermind we had never actually visited the land we were leaving everything for, we just knew that this was what we wanted for our family, namely our little acorn.  Amazing how the world shifts to make room for the potential in the smallest little things, like acorns.

Our decision to start a family farm was multi-fold. We wanted to spend more time together as a family, with shared focus and energy. We wanted to give our little acorn something to grow into. And we very much wanted him to appreciate nature. One of the reasons that I love the basic concepts of food and eating, is because it is so tightly intertwined with nature. The way that we engage with all of our foods can connect us or disconnect us from the world around us.  We knew that we wanted our little acorn to take pride in his process of becoming a mighty oak and that would require living into nature in a deeper way.

Our first year of farming is full of practical lessons & adjustments in things like fencing, gardening our new land (with a toddler – ie. kamikaze gardening!), chicken coops (free range chickens poop everywhere!), fencing, livestock guard dogs (bark all night!), fencing, pigs are some of the sweetest animals (once you get used to the smell, seriously the smell!), free range turkeys (bark like purse dogs!), Jacob sheep (you can literally tell their baa’s apart!), oh and did I mention fencing…fencing! I think farming vastly involves fencing, re-fencing, and moving fencing.  All of this to say, there have been so many lessons. Again this is just the beginning of two city kids, raising a farm boy to the best of our farming ability.

The rewards of this first year have been countless in our connection with nature, our community, the animals, and one another. But, the greatest reward that we continue to experience on a daily basis are the moments that my husband and I look at one another and our eyes smile together because in their reflection our little acorn is living his normal life, his farm life, and doesn’t know anything different. The view from his carseat rivals any good farm truck, with a hatchback full of chickens, pullets, turkeys, lambs, pigs, and dogs at various times.  All the while, he plays with his little toes and sings songs because this is his norm.  He has napped with a LGD pup on his lap en route to the vet’s office and the world paused for a moment in our eyes.  He helps big kids see that our dogs are sweet even though they tower over him and weigh over 100# now by kissing their faces and crawling around on their furry backs. Our dogs guard our little acorn with vigilance and compassion by standing over him and demanding that others keep a distance.

 He runs after the sheep for fun, helping mama and papa corral them in to new pastures, yelling “lambies” and laughing hysterically. He grabs the ram by the horns through the fence to kiss his nose because that’s how papa catches him (and because he isn’t allowed to play with the rams inside the fence during breeding season).

 

He sticks his hands through the slats on the pig paddock to pet the “piggies, snort, snort” as mama goes running to catch up, yelling not to reach into the piggy area!  He talks to the piggies and laughs when they escape into the yard and play chase with the dogs.

 

He collects eggs from the chicken coop and even pretends to lay eggs himself; he even recognizes the special “eggs” sound that the hens make when laying. He also gobbles up eggs for breakfast (& sometimes dinner) and tells the hens, “thank you for your eggs” when he gathers.

 

He knows that chicken and chickens are the same thing. He knows that piggies make bacon (yes, we eat bacon), and he knows that turkey is kind of like chicken.

 

He eats like a farmer, plays like a farmer, and knows how they work together. He leads hikes with the chickens and turkeys into the woods and calls for the dogs to keep a watch. He tastes leaves off the trees and shares these new flavors with friends who may be visiting.  He picks berries and grapes off the land and has them eaten up before we get back to the house. (No need for canning this year!)

 

As we start our second year as farmers, I am so glad that I can look to him to learn what living on the land, in union with our plants and animals truly means. His life is a reflection of the purest loves. His decision to live into this life has helped him to put down deep roots. His life is not a response to the world’s concerns about food sources, food ingredients, or factory farming. His life is about connection, love, and appreciation. It reminds me of one of my favorite thoughts – Notice how a tree sends its roots deep into the earth.  May we also learn to nourish ourselves in ways that are not just leaves & branches meant for others to see.

Raising Children With Different Nutrition Needs

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN with Elyse Falk, MS, RD, CDN

A Real Mom’s Question

How should a parent handle instances when one child has a HUGE sweet tooth, and is underweight but the other kids in the same family are a normal weight or overweight?  For example, at dessert time, all the kids want ice cream – maybe one child shouldn’t have a ton and the other really could use it.  How does a parent deal with this situation in a way that doesn’t create food issues?

Two Real Moms’ Answers

Focus on Equality

First and foremost, everyone should be treated equally at the dinner table. In order to prevent any type of discord between the kids, you’re far better off teaching them the importance of nutrition and their health in a more neutral setting.

Regardless of weight, children need to focus on eating balanced meals and snacks. Sweets, like cake, cookies, and candy, are what we like to call “sometimes foods,” because they are foods that are okay to eat some of the time.

The child with the huge sweet tooth has to learn to eat an array of flavors – not just those made mostly of sugar – otherwise they may develop nutrient deficiencies or simply close their mind to the idea of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, eggs and low-fat dairy. Even an underweight child should not make sweets his or her primary source of nourishment. Instead, teach them to focus on increasing the amount of nutrient-dense foods they consume throughout the day. Young children need to learn to eat the kind of food that’s necessary for their bodies, and observe healthy role models who guide them, so that they can grow into confident eaters.

Reassess

Did your family’s pediatrician recommend that your child gain weight, or are you assuming this? Do your children’s height and weight fall into in the same percentiles on the growth chart? If so, it is probably safe to assume that both of your children are at appropriate weights. In general, the focus should not necessarily be on gaining weight. Instead, it should be on eating enough nutritious food on a daily basis. Consider seeking counseling with a registered dietitian.

If your child’s weight is truly beneath their height on the growth curve, your child has not grown in a year, or if a physician prescribed weight gain, then you’ll need to focus on increasing the quantity of food your child is consuming while simultaneously looking for ways to add nutrient-dense foods to their intake (this refers to a small serving of food that is high in calories). As Mommy Faulk reminds, children have smaller stomachs than adults and often can’t consume large amounts of food at a time. Because of this, they may need to eat smaller, nutrient-dense meals more often.

You may also want to ask yourself: Is my child a picky eater? Don’t forget that, just because school sets aside time for lunch doesn’t mean your child is eating. Perhaps something happened at school that is causing them not to eat, or maybe they don’t have enough time to eat. This may be the problem, especially if your child has lost a significant amount of weight in the past 2 months (>/= 2%) and could possibly put them at risk of developing an eating disorder. In other words, in order to remedy the situation, it’s essential to first determine why your child is not meeting their nutrition needs.

Quick Tips to Increase Intake Without Increasing Quantity

  • Add 1-2 tbsp of wheat germ to yogurt, meatloaf, cereal, muffins, etc.
  • Add an extra slice of cheese to their sandwich.
    • Add granola to low fat yogurt or allow them to eat it plain.
    • Put peanut butter on their muffin.
    • Make smoothies with protein powder and lots of berries.
    • Add a morning snack of raisins or nuts at around 10 a.m.
    • Provide a snack of crackers and a spread like hummus before bed.
    • Encourage healthy fats such as avocado, olives, olive oil, nuts, and nut butters.
    • Have all-natural nutrition bars and packaged low-fat milk available on the go.
    • Let them have a mini-meal when they get home from school, like a sandwich, grapes, low-fat cheese, hearty soup, homemade English muffin pizza, etc.
    • Add olive oil to whole-grain pasta and veggies; let child dip whole-grain bread into olive oil with their meal.

Behaviors to Implement

  • Talk to the school to help your child to remember to eat.
  • Help your child relax before meals and decrease anxiety to prevent emotional fullness.
  • Encourage your child to help choose the menu.
  • Do not discuss food issues and/or weight at the table.
  • Focus on your child’s behaviors around food and commend them for trying new foods or practicing self-care.
  • Make meals an enjoyable time so they are not rushing to finish and leave the table.
  • If the pediatrician is concerned, have them talk to the child with a parent in the room and explain why they need to get more nutrition.

To Breastfeed or Not To Breastfeed?

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a previous post from a guest blogger, Allison:

 

Guest Blog: Breastfeeding versus Bottle-feeding
By Allison Brooks

Photo Credit: nettsu via Compfight cc

Moms may differ in their opinions and or choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed. I personally think it should be the woman’s right to choose. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding both have pros and cons. We hear the many pros of breastfeeding such as less illness, possible greater intelligence of the child and so on. Many organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) promote breast-feeding here in the USA and abroad. However, I question whether this is always appropriate especially if the mother is deficient in micronutrients, deficient in essentially fatty acids, malnourished, stressed, had multiple births in a short period of time or perhaps is not the right choice for the mother. I was breast fed for 3 months and choose to bottle feed my children.

Below, guest blogger Allison Brooks shares her point of view at an international level. Allison studies biomedicalization in Bolivia. Here she presents an example of biomedicalization on breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding in third world countries. Allison shared with me that she too was bottle-fed.  Feel free to comment and share your opinions as well. All are welcome.

Biomedicalization of BreastFeeding: What is healthy here, might not be healthy for all

Biomedicalization is a term used to describe the way in which natural life processes, human conditions and problems are defined and treated as medical conditions. Aging, childbirth and breastfeeding are good examples of normal life processes which have come under the authority of doctors. Biomedicalization may bring benefits, but there are also costs. Philosopher Ivan Illich was one of the first to use the term “medicalization,” which he argued actually caused an increase in social and medical problems as a result of medical intervention. One example is the drive by manufacturers of baby formulas to supplant breastfeeding with formula.

When a mother dies in childbirth or cannot breastfeed for some reason, infant formula may be the only choice. However, in the underdeveloped nations of the world, breastfeeding serves a number of critical purposes. Breastfeeding protects babies from infection, provides them with near-perfect nutrition and acts as a natural birth control for the breastfeeding mother. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, ear infections and respiratory infections than infants who are fed formula. Breastfeeding also triggers beneficial hormone secretion in the mother, and the milk changes in amount and constituents to meet the needs of the individual infant.

The Nestle baby formula promotion of the 1970s urged mothers in less-developed countries to forgo breastfeeding in favor of formula, stressing convenience and nutrition. Nestle used strategies such as sending a new mother home with free samples; once the samples ran out, the child was habituated to formula and the mother’s milk had dried up, so the family had to buy formula.

Problems with this sort of infant nutrition quickly became apparent. Formula must be mixed with water and water in poor countries is often contaminated. Mothers could not read the instructions on water sterilization, or did not have the means to boil the water. Formula-fed babies were much more likely to die of diarrhea or pneumonia as a result of infections. Poor mothers would often mix inadequate amounts of formula for each feeding to make the expensive formula last longer, resulting in malnourished babies.

Nestlé’s marketing activities were considered so unethical that a boycott was launched by a group called the Infant Formula Action Coalition. In 1981 the World health assembly adopted Resolution WHA34.22, which bans the promotions of breast milk substitutes. Although Nestle agreed to accept the code, in 1988, formula companies were accused of repeating the unethical tactics and the boycott, which was still in force as of 2011, was launched. Other companies such as BordenSimilac and Wyeth have come under similar criticism for marketing methods that imply formula and breast milk are nutritionally equal. Most physicians and international organizations such as WHO and UNICEF recommend now breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

But the effects of biomedicalization do go way beyond the idea of breastfeeding. Pharmaceutical companies push new rules on societies regardless of their cultures, everyday. This is easy to see in America, because we are the only country that allows pharmaceutical companies to run ads and develop an image for people to follow. Without regards to the culture, the environment and so on, sometimes these “better” medications/therapies can actually be harmful for the people. With new drugs entering the system to promote beauty or health, or a better life-expectancy for cancer, traditional practices are be dropped by the wayside, and people and cultures are being negatively affected.

 

About Guest Blogger Allison Brooks:

Allison says “I was bottle-fed too, that’s why I say what is healthy to you might not be healthy to others (cultural relativism). Thats why I don’t push my beliefs onto people, I state what I know and allow you to do what you please, with no judgment.”

Allie went to the University of Mississippi. She earned her degree in biomedical anthropology and  is now studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures, but as it relates on other societies as well. She loves to guest blog on her time off to past time and spread the word. When she is not at her computer, Allie enjoys riding her  horse, Lilly and playing with her ducks, Alvin and Shirley.