Any use of the letters GAPS on this website are used solely as an acronym for Gut And Psychology Syndrome
Dr Natasha



Our Farm (Part 2)

Dear Friends!

Working in the nutritional field one inevitably has to face a question: where does our food come from? The supermarket abundance is produced by industrial agriculture and it is not the quality we need to heal our patients and to feed our own families. Organic standards have been watered down considerably in the last decade and, unfortunately, there is a lot of cheating in this sector. Many of us simply cannot trust the 'organic' label anymore! Biodynamic agriculture makes a better promise, but biodynamic produce is hard to find. If you want something done, you've got to do it yourself! So, five years ago Peter and I started to look for a place with some land to produce our own food and we found our farm in the depth of East Anglia.

The way we found it can make one believe in destiny. As we drove through the gate, I said to Peter: 'We've been here before!', but he could not remember. A man opened the door and I said to him: 'We've met before!', but he could not remember. As we walked into the kitchen, the penny dropped: we got our family dog - a beautiful golden retriever - at this farm sixteen years ago! We haven't seen the farm yet, but at that moment we knew: this must be it! So, our dog came home to the place where he was born. He lived here with us for another year and then passed away peacefully. We buried him on the farm and planted an apple tree on his grave.

The land on our farm (about 28 acres) has been conventionally farmed for almost a hundred years and the soil was very damaged. We could not stick a spade or a fork into the soil to plant a tree; it was all clay and flint. One field had industrial size polytunnels for many years, growing strawberries with a plethora of chemicals. After these polytunnels have been removed the field was a desert. Another field was planted with commercial grass hybrids for hay and sprayed with chemicals every year. The only thing of value we have inherited were well-established blackberry and loganberry canes, which again were fed with chemicals through an irrigation system.

Top soil is the biggest treasure on our Planet. All life on Earth begins and ends in the soil. Without soil there can be no life, and the soil is in great peril! According to United Nations a third of all soils on Earth have already been destroyed due to industrial agriculture and fertile soil is being lost at the rate of 24bn tonnes a year. A healthy soil is full of life: microbes, insects, worms, mice, moles and a plethora of other creatures live in a complex organic structure. The basis of soil structure is humus - a carbon polymer - which can hold carbon in the soil for hundreds of years; top soil is the largest carbon reservoir on our planet. Industrial agriculture destroys life in the soil and destroys humus releasing carbon into the atmosphere. In fact, arable agriculture arguably is the biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming. The only way to return all that carbon back into the soil is by keeping animals and birds on pasture. They create and enrich the web of life in the soil, which in turn creates soil structure rich in humus. The pasture must have a variety of natural grasses and herbs, which take the carbon out of the atmosphere (using photosynthesis) and transfer it into the soil. Science has already estimated that, if we converted even a proportion of arable fields to pasture, we can reverse global warming in a matter of decades! Planting trees and creating wetlands will also help.

We had to re-create soil on our farm and so we set to work! Our happy pigs dig and enrich the soil. We keep moving them using electric fences and, after they finished with a plot, we seed it with a large mixture of natural grasses and herbs. In a few months an excellent pasture is created and we put cows on it. The cows are moved regularly to allow the grasses to re-grow. We have a happy family of geese grazing the land and some 30-40 chickens roaming free all over our 28 acres. We have two milking goats who graze on a tether and we move them every day to a new patch of grass. We planted hundreds of trees and we dug a large pond for our geese and ducks. We make compost and use well-rotted manure. We have created two vegetable gardens and produce all our vegetables using organic and biodynamic practices. All food for our animals and birds is made on the farm from scratch; we do not buy commercial feed. We practice natural bee-keeping using Warré hives and a sun hive. We planted a large orchard and it is already producing plenty of fruit for us. After five years of doing all this we now have black top soil up to 20-30 cm thick! And it is full of worms, centipedes and other creatures! Sometimes we wonder how much carbon we have sequestered into our soil and turned into stable humus. And the place is a paradise, providing us with a beautiful home and most of our food: milk, eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit. And we know where this food came from and what quality it is!

Five years ago, we knew nothing about farming, we were ordinary city kids! But the land, the animals and the birds teach you every day what they need and how to look after them. And there are many excellent books and conferences. Now we are in a position to share our knowledge with others. We joined WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) - a British organisation, which puts young people from all over the world in touch with organic farms. In the last two years we had some twenty wwoofers (volunteers) staying on our farm and learning how to be an organic farmer. They came from many European countries and as far as Japan, South Africa and USA. Many of them are GAPSters (GAPS - Gut And Psychology Syndrome/ Gut And Physiology Syndrome) and suffer from chronic illnesses. My GAPS book has been translated into 17 languages and I was able to really help some of these young people. The farm has become an integral part of our work and life. Peter and I have created it together.

Last December Peter has passed away. He was my beloved husband, the father of my children, my partner and my soul mate. We did everything together and this loss is irreplaceable. However, I am determined to continue with my work and the farm. This farm has become an essential part of my work; it has become my research laboratory. What I learned on the farm I put into my books and teach to my patients and students. At this difficult time my animals, birds and volunteers on the farm give me strength and inspiration. The land can heal and sustain not only one's body but the soul too! As long as we look after the land the way Mother Nature designed it to live and thrive, we can live and thrive as well. And be in a position to help others!