My grandparents, from both my parents’ side, were farmers in Telkaif, a town in northern Iraq where, not long ago, Chaldeans [Christian Iraqis] lived a fairly peaceful life. My maternal-grandfather woke up every morning before the break of dawn, attended church, came home to eat a fresh breakfast he’d grown on his land, and worked in his farm until evening. Then he was off to church once again before having supper and calling it a day. They enjoyed good clean air, exercise, and a quiet time with nature. 

In 2012, I went to the home of a 111-year-old Chaldean woman, Warina Zaya Bashou, who lived in my neighborhood, to interview her for an article. She had just become the second oldest person to be granted citizenship to the United States. I asked her what was the secret to her longevity and she said:

  1. work
  2. don’t go to the doctors
  3. drink lots of tea

She too was from the village of Telkaif and, like my grandparents, had worked a great deal on the farm. Over the years, we’ve lost that relationship with the land and with eating foods grown on local farms rather than delivered in trucks from far away. But we’re trying to bring this relationship back. 

One person who’s helping do that is Diane Dovico, who I interviewed on my show. Diane spent 21 years as the Executive Director of the Royal Oak Community Coalition, a 501(c)3 non-profit and currently, she serves Oakland County working as a Wellness Program Administer at the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities by designing and facilitating original programs, initiatives, and campaigns. She started So You Want to be a Farmer?  which is a free event she had for kids at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. 

My niece and I took our children to the event yesterday where kids had the chance to play games and do activities such as animal yoga poses, planting vegetable seeds to take home, designing your own farm, story book time, making a healthy snack, and pretending to grocery shop and to learn how to make health food choices. 

I try, whenever possible – meaning when there’s the least resistance from my children – to get them involved in the meal’s preparation or to take them grocer shopping with me. Sometimes the easiest way to get them to eat healthier is by being an example, biting your tongue (kids love to rebel) and limit the types of snacks that enter your home. 

It’s also important to support local farmers. Small farms renew a connection between the food people eat and the land they live on. They help create jobs, improve the health of the land and the people, and they provide a foundation for a more resilient local food system. As people become more conscientious, they understand the beauty and necessity of farming. They want to know where their food comes from, how it is produced, and that it is produced in a way that isn’t damaging the environment. It is this consciousness that will shift the economic attitude to “what’s good for the world is what’s right for the company” for the rewards of brand loyalty and profits.

What’s your relationship to food and the land? 

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