Garden Scientist

I remember being a little girl, running out to my grandparent’s yard to meet my grandfather in his garden. I was so young at the time, probably only 4 years old, and I just remember how attached my grandfather was to his garden. It was his laboratory, his outside science experiment.

He would tend to it tediously and analytically, he was so proud. I was his Priscilla, his little italian granddaughter that he excitedly showed his garden to. All his plants were his science experiment, ones that he grew from seed to beautiful full grown food all by himself. My grandfather, as I mentioned in a post earlier was not from this country. He was from Italy. He left there at a young age for a better life in America. I did not realize the importance this garden had to him at such a young age, nor did I realize how much pride, nor talent that he had at tending to it and growing his own food from the earth.

My grandfather passed away when I was only 5 years old, but I had an eternal bond with him that I could feel from such a young age.

Until starting my own garden this past year and talking to my cousin did I realize that my grandfather was a genius, a scientist in his garden. He started everything from seed and intricately tested the pH of the soil, ensured the proper nutrients were for each plant that he grew, and analytically grew his plants to abundance. So much abundance that he would give away what he grew from scratch to his entire neighborhood for free. He was the notorious, talented gardener of his Italian-American neighborhood and to his family. Everyone knew how much that garden meant to him and knew how talented he was.

To him gardening was his outlet, where he felt the most peace and happiness there immersed in nature.

It was not until I became passionate about the concept of “food as medicine” during my PhD that realized the bond that we formed when I was so young. It was his scientific approach to his garden that started me down the path to science.

My doctoral work focused on obesity, particularly childhood/adolescent obesity and its contributions to related co-morbidities such as asthma, cardiovascular disease risk, Nonalcoholic liver disease, and insulin resistance.

Young children are accumulating this “bad” fat that sends “bad” signals throughout their tiny bodies to make them sick (early in life). Childhood/adolescence is a major critical period for the development of obesity-related comorbidities, which can affect people throughout their lives.

Studying obesity, specifically in the youth, has awakened me to the realization that there is a MAJOR problem in the US, and there is a disconnect with how we help treat disease. Additionally, inequality in the US (racial and socioeconomic) has resulted in the increase in obesity and decline in health of minority populations.

I decided that I needed to try and seek out opportunities to help in the community and engage in social change. I volunteered in DC for FreshFarm Market’s FoodPrints program teaching kids about the importance of gardening, growing their own whole foods, sustainability, and cooking these foods for their health. This program opened my eyes and resulted in my passion in educating and treating food as medicine.

I see now, having finished my PhD, how much my grandfather and his scientific approach to gardening influenced me in getting to this point. I grew up to be a scientist just like him. However, I have left the laboratory to pursue something I feel even more connected to. After researching obesity and completing my doctorate studying the debilitating effects that obesity has on our society and our children (my recent article expands on this topic), I feel it is my path to educate others about the importance of food as medicine and how simple lifestyle changes (like gardening) can prevent debilitating chronic disease.

This is the basis for why we have started this blog and website. Our mission is helping others see the power of food, not just the dangers of certain foods, but how food can truly improve a person’s health and life. My grandfather knew the importance of food, as he showed with his tender love and care for his garden. I hope as we move forward as well that you see the power that comes with food. Chris’s recent articles are great ways to understand how food is truly medicine!

See below:

  1. The Facts About Sugar
  2. This is Your Body on Sugar
  3. This is Your Body on Sugar – Redux!
  4. Sugar, Starch, and Fiber – A Carbohydrate Breakdown

Stay tuned as we continue to build our practice for further knowledge on how food is medicine!

About the Author

Sarah Ferrante, Ph.D.

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