Zach Bush, MD
The first step I took after leaving university, in 2010, was setting up a clinic in rural Virginia that served a county that was lacking access to local food systems. This has become the norm throughout rural and inner-city environments and all over the world – from the Midwest of the US to pseudo-industrialized cities of rural Africa, South America, Asia, and beyond. The perception of wealth and convenience of the colonial cultures has stripped communities all over the world of food independence and enslaved billions of people to the consumption of highly processed, artificial foods and beverages.
In just three short generations we have forgotten what fresh water feels like when you drink deeply, we have forgotten the smell of our grandmother’s kitchen, the laughter and nourishment baked into the food with patient care every day. We are forgetting what it feels like to be alive, to nurture life within us.
This crisis – at the intersection of collapse – food, humanity, and planetary health provoked me to explore the root causes of chronic disease, and subsequently, discover the insidious pharmaceutical codependence that controls Western society, and is quickly being exported into every corner of the earth. I started asking the deeper questions of why is disease so prevalent? Why does disease occur in families in patterns that we know are not genetic? What are the common things about family environments that are coding for chronic disease across generations that is signaling an environmental injury? What is the source of the environmental injury? Where is the root cause of deficiencies in our human biology that are making us so vulnerable to the acute and chronic diseases we see today?
The culmination of this curiosity in the beginning years of my journey led me to an unlikely place – the farm.
We started a documentary film project on the impact of herbicides, specifically on human health in the Mississippi tributaries throughout the northern and Midwestern states, and down into the southern regions of Louisiana and New Orleans. The goal was to expose the impacts of the increasing concentration of Roundup (glyphosate) in the water system of the Mississippi river and its impact on human health in the form of cancer. (The last 90 miles of the river are now called ‘Cancer Alley’; the region presents the highest rates of cancer in the entire developed world.)
On that journey, we set out to tell the importance of organic agriculture as a solution, but at the very first big farm education event we attended, we witnessed soil testing demonstrations between conventional and organic soil systems, only to discover that the soils that were organic were often less nutrient-rich than that of their conventional counterparts that followed chemical-based agricultural practices.
Realizing organic wasn’t sufficient was a big moment of crisis for me and pushed us all to explore ‘regenerative agriculture’ – a management practice of soil systems and crop production, based on wisdom of Indigenous and Black farmers, that maximizes biodiversity and adaptation at every level.
And what’s inspiring me right now, 4 years after we launched our documentary and our non-profit Farmer’s Footprint, is the entire scope of stakeholders within the food industry that are gathering at the table, many for the first time, to talk about the power of regenerative agriculture.
On any given week, I could speak to a small family farmer in the middle of the United States, and then minutes later, speak with the CEO of some of the biggest food companies in the world who are trying to figure out how to pivot the largest, most toxic food company in the world to become part of the regenerative solution.
This is encouraging because if change doesn’t involve every stakeholder, we are not going to succeed. We are at such a tipping point for human and planetary health that we need a full metamorphosis of both food systems and human health systems.
We need to see ourselves as part of the complete tapestry of a successful transformation to regenerate the planet.
To do so, we need to stop the mudslinging and start building positive relationships at the human level if we’re going to solve the problems at the scale and speed in which we need to – it’s going to take everyone. So if you are feeling compelled to take action and be a part of this regenerative story of healing, consider personally supporting Farmer’s Footprint today. I can’t express just how important today is to the capacity and quality of the work our team can do in the coming year. We are in need of your help.
We are touching the lives of farmers daily, we are documenting the stories of land stewards making the transition from conventional to regenerative land management, we are building a community (over 8,000 strong) of people who have committed to creating a regenerative future, we have launched a developmental community and working group for entrepreneurs in the business of food where immersive on-land experiences and virtual sessions offer a place to work on businesses, ecosystems, equity, biodiversity, and food access as a collective whole and we need financial support to catalyze this momentum into even greater impact over the course of the next year, and we’ve got so much more we can do.
This year will be a pivotal one. If you are able to step up your commitment to this global movement and make a bigger footprint in the path to transformation, here’s an invitation to give and make a tax deductible donation.
Zach Bush, MD