baby-cabbage

Baby Cabbage in the Fresh and Local CSA greenhouse

High Brix –A Sign of Plentiful Nutrients

by Allan Balliett, Fresh and Local CSA Photo Credit: Kathryn Naylor

Long before the USDA undertook to establish a set of minimal standards for ‘Organic Certification’, we  had been investigating the direct link between responsible and reverent farm practices and the growing of the most delicious and nutritious food possible. We do not cheat our soils, and our soils do not cheat our crops, and the resulting produce does not cheat us or our members. We have never used artificial chemicals, stimulants nor poisons on our crops and soils, and we have never stopped studying to become even better stewards of the land. There is always more to learn, and are always new insights to apply to our mission.

A case in point: recently, we’ve started to measure the BRIX (pronounced ‘bricks’) of our produce, finding it always measures much higher than that of grocery store produce. This comes as no surprise since it has long been demonstrated that attractive (though flavorless) replicas of food may be produced through all sorts of corner-cutting agricultural skullduggery.

Brix Refractometer

Brix Refractometer

BRIX readings are associated with high mineral content in food plants. The highest vitality and nutrition in farm produce can only be derived from a living soil that contains sufficient organic matter and an abundance of minerals in proper ratios. Such a soil, teeming with friendly microbial activity and replete with accessible nutrients throughout the growing season is referred to as ‘highly fertile.’ The mineral content of such soil must be measured and naturally supplemented from time to time to maintain the appropriate balances conducive to optimum plant growth, nutritional complexity, and natural immunity to pests and disease.

baby-spinach

Baby Spinach Growing in Rich Soil

This is known as ‘Albrecht Soil Balancing’. Dr Albrecht was an American soil scientist, working in the 1940s who investigated and demonstrated the relationship between soil health and human health. (Dr Albrecht was held in high regard by Dr. Weston Price, author of the nutrition classic, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.) It is working with classical organic and biodynamic methods as well as incorporating Dr. Albrecht’s prescriptions, supplementing our special composts and field sprays with the full range of minerals available from naturally-occurring sources, such as rock dusts and deep sea kelp, that gives us thriving crops with outstanding vitality and ever-rising BRIX readings.

Because BRIX is a measurement of the dissolved solids (natural sugars) in plant sap, we were initially skeptical that it really was an accurate way of checking the nutritional value of our produce. Listening to two Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) conference speakers, Doug Gunnink, of the Gunnink Forage Institute and the legendary Dr Will Winter, a holistic vet who works with Thousand Hills Beef in Minnesota, both of whom are pioneers in using BRIX to evaluate and improve pasture grasses (to produce grass-finished beef of the highest quality), we found the information we needed to understand BRIX.

Allan-watering-brassicas

Allan watering the Brassicas

Will and Doug had already done the ‘animal testing’ for this approach to evaluating nutrition. What they found was that every time they improved the mineral content of pasture soil using Dr Albrecht’s ratios, they saw an increase in the BRIX reading! From their extensive real world experience with both pastured beef farms and grass dairies,  Dr Winter has been able to say “Because we know that improving the mineral content and ratios of a pasture increases BRIX, we know that a high BRIX reading reflects soils that are high in minerals that are working together.”

They have also found out that a lot of common health problems in livestock disappear when they have access to high BRIX pasture grass.

We are noticing that with all the promotion of ‘local food,’ a lot of people who know that fresh farm food is good for your health forget that not all ‘local food’ is nutritionally equal.

Bob Cannard of Chez Pannise fame is fond of saying “So, if you are eating for nutrition, do you want to eat 5 of that guy’s apples or one of mine? The nutritional content would be equal.”

Bob’s apples must have REALLY high nutrition, but you get the idea.

Swiss-chard

Swiss chard seedlings

Another WAPF conference speaker, Dr Arden Andersen (author of “Real Food, Real Health”) has pointed out that commercial food in America has from 30 to 70 percent less nutritional value than the same foods grown 50 years ago! He goes on to say  “Eating all the right foods today still leaves us short of needed nutrition. Yes, we can and should supplement to help make up the shortfall, but the best way the get truly health-giving nutrition is via our food. Nutrients are assimilated better and give us better health if contained in the food in biologically complexed forms.”

“Local Food” tells us nothing at all about the fertility of the soils the food was produced from, the method by which it was produced, nor does it tell us anything about the nutrient content of the food itself.

And, frankly, there is nothing in the USDA’s “organic certified” program that even addresses improving the nutritional quality of food. As Dr Andersen says, USDA organics “is a procedural program, not an outcome program.” In other words, participants are certified through compliance with a government program, not by the value of the food they produce.

We are working this year with high BRIX soil consultant Michael Astera, author of “The Ideal Soil Handbook” (an awesome book on soil mineral balancing).  In my opinion, anyone who follows his recommendations will be assured of quick success. You can find out more about Astera’s ideas at his blog, TheNewAgriculture.

Astera’s book is available as an ebook or in hard copy at http://www.soilminerals.com

And remember this: High BRIX produce ALWAYS tastes much better than low BRIX produce. When you first have true high BRIX food, your body will let you know immediately! (It’s like coming home again.)

Allan Balliett and his Goats

Allan Baillett and his Goats

Allan Balliett is a biodynamic farmer in Sheperdstown, West Virginia. The Washington, D.C. area supports his efforts through Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. Allan has created and hosted many biodynamic food and farming conferences in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region. For the past couple of decades he has worked tirelessly on his ecological farming methods with the goal of creating full nutrition for human beings and livestock. In addition to fruits and vegetables, he also raises heritage breed Tamworth hogs, grass finished beef and pastured lamb, high omega farm eggs.

Fresh and Local CSA still has farm shares available. If you live in the Washington, DC metro area and would like to subscribe to his CSA or buy meat by the 1/2 or whole carcass, visit his website Fresh and Local CSA or email info@freshandlocalcsa.com.