Farm-raised, “high bush” blueberries and the minute, out in the field, wild blueberries are an excellent source of nutrients and should be a part of everyone’s daily diet. Low in calories, with high fiber content and the essential vitamin C and vitamin C,blueberries pack a potent punch of antioxidants.
According to Rutgers University’s Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension researcher Amy Howell, “We as scientists don’t see a big difference from a health perspective,”they’re both excellent.” The purple-blue pigment in blueberries is a result of anthocyanins, which keep cells safe from radical damage and promotes anti-inflammation. Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University in Kannapolis, North Carolina, director Mary Ann Lila says the blueberry is unique in its biochemical structure which targets inflammatory regions inside the human body.
Lending more support to the magnificent blueberry is that the Wild Blueberry Association of North America indicates that blueberries from the wild are the king of all berries and other fruits and vegetables! Citing a United States Department of Agriculture 2010 report, blueberries were virtually off the chart in terms of antioxidant values. Even Cornell University’s blueberry study substantiated the USDA report and noted that wild berries even demonstrated greater antioxidant protection than blueberries raised in commercial farming operations.
There are numerous contemporary research studies about the nutritional benefit of wild and farmed blueberries. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicated that in a controlled group, individuals adding blueberry juice to their daily diet for 12 weeks acknowledged an improvement in the memory retention.Another study showed that obese individuals adding a freeze-dried blueberry powder to their daily smoothie demonstrated significant improvement in their insulin sensitivity.
For those individuals that enjoy ‘fresh’ raw blueberries, you’ll most likely have to resort to frozen blueberries, as the wild ones have a short shelf life after picking and the only means to maximize a harvest is to freeze them immediately after picking.
Farming is no longer just a way to survive or to provide a living for the farmer. It is an industry where many participants are deeply devoted to environmental protection and the improvement of life for others around the world. It may seem to those outside the industry that these lofty goals are more that the average farm can accomplish, but real-life examples of success do exist.
Deb Habib and Ricky Baruc built their farm, Seeds of Solidarity, with these purposes in mind. They describe how their mission changed in 1994 with a pilgrimage to the Middle East. Their goal was to pray in solidarity as they walked and chanted to help those suffering from the affects of many centuries of constant strife. In Iraq they saw how the lives of locals were disrupted by the harvesting of fossil fuels. This was the moment when they knew their lifestyle would be one of only sustainable practices.
Their farm was established in the 1980’s and used fossil fuels to operate. When they returned from the pilgramage they converted their electricity to solar energy and eliminated all fuel-powered machinery. The farm has operated in this manner for over 20 years since the pilgrimage took place. The pair even catch wildlife that enters the farm and relocate it to safer areas rather than take an innocent life.
Throughout the farm are sculptures, inspirational signs and altars to keep the pair, and any visitors, inspired in the cause. Sustainable living and farming practices are not unique to Habib and Baruc. Many farming communities are adjusting their practices to ensure the food they produce is healthy, but to also protect the land for future farmers and provide a better existence for the farm workers and farm animals.
It is a process that requires a lot of adjusting in order to create the right balance that produces enough food without resorting to practices that may corrupt the soil or pollute the water table. The focus is also on providing stability for families and communities that rely on the money the farm is able to earn as well as the food it produces. With approximately 40 percent of the population of the world working in some capacity in the agriculture industry, there is no way to overstate the importance of protecting this valuable industry. Sustainable farmers seek to prove that feeding the world is possible without poisoning the environment or modifying produce in laboratories.
Many farmers in the United States are leading conservation efforts, according to a recent Huffington Post article. They are using different farming techniques than generations before them used to get better crops while protecting the ground that they love.
One common technique that is used is no-till farming. With this technique farmers do not plow the ground in the spring before putting their crops in the ground. This allows farmers to save about half of the fuel that they burn annually which has an immediate impact on the environment. Numerous studies show that not plowing decreases the number of weeds. Therefore, farmers do not have to apply as much fertilizer.
Farmers are also choosing to plant different crops than they have historically. For example, they may plant a low ground cover crop that grows quickly amidst a crop that grows taller to help control weeds naturally. They may also plant a crop that has deep roots among a shallower rooted crop so that the deep roots help to keep the ground open to capture rain.
Farmers are also planting more acreage than ever before. The corners of fields are left as buffer strips that are not harvested. These areas then attract natural pollinators like monarch butterflies and honey bees. The buffer strips are also great at attracting beneficial insects that help control bugs that harm a farmer’s crops.
The largest change, however, comes in the fall when leftovers from the harvest are left on the field. The leftovers from the crop depends on what is grown, but it may include corn cobs, husks, and stalks. Following this technique helps to prevent wind and rain erosion. It may also help to stop damage from the searing heat of summer if the residue does not disintegrate. Leaving residue on fields also helps to promote better soil because worms and organisms have a place to live. In exchange, they create holes in the ground that helps the ground retain water. Finally, leaving residue on the field helps microbial communities to thrive which increases oxygen and phosphorous levels needed by growing plants.