Rejuvenation and Real Food at the Ridge

Peaceful sunrise over Blackberry RidgeThis past week, I savored some vacation time at our Blackberry Ridge property in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina.  Here are a few photos I took to try to share the deep stillness, relaxation, and natural beauty you can savor there.  I make my tea early in the morning and


head outside to watch nature greet the day.  Wild turkeys come out to forage in the clearing.  I do a little yoga in the morning mist, serenaded by the babble of the mountain stream.  The first morning sun on the forest road up the ridge to the lodge brings a smile to my face and gets me excited to explore the day.

A rushing stream that we can put our feet in on a summer day.

Anxious to meet the local community, I went to a  couple of local farmer’s markets last Saturday.  I found a succulent watermelon (cooled in the mountain stream – fantastic!), raw goat’s milk, sweet yellow tomatoes, and still-warm-from-the-tree peaches.  I was also delighted to meet Brenda Dillingham selling her family’s free-range meats and eggs.  Brenda is friendly, full of southern hospitality, and really passionate about natural, local foods.  So as you might imagine, we really hit it off!  Last Tuesday, I toured Brenda’s family farm and met her two sons who are responsible for the farm’s beef, lamb, chicken, and eggs.  I had so much fun observing the ins-and-outs of farm life; hours passed by before I knew it.  I even got to pick my own eggs right from the nesting boxes (most hens are really docile about this actually).

The next morning, I enjoyed some of those eggs atop fresh arugula and tomatoes with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds (a favorite breakfast).  As I savored the delicious food, I felt great about supporting Brenda and her family and their passion.  There is indeed a special enjoyment reserved for those who know where their food comes from.  The Dillingham’s eighth generation farm offers beautiful, peaceful pasture for its animals.  No unnecessary antibiotics.  No hormones or artificial growth promoters.  No chemical-laden feed or toxic-metal residues.  No cramped cages or dark barns.  Or even worse, no sick, panicked animals trampling each other. No waste cesspools.  The Dillingham Farm has none of the things that are used to raise 90+% of the animal foods most Americans eat today.

Some of us thrive as vegetarians or vegans.  And some of us are at our healthiest eating animal foods.  As most of you know by now, I believe strongly that there is no single, magic way of eating that works for everyone.  That philosophy sells a lot of mainstream, blockbuster health and diet books.  I have seen over and over again in my practice, however, that it’s just not true.  We are each unique.  And we thrive with unique diets.  I also do not believe that vegetarianism is the only economically and environmentally sustainable food approach for our world.  Even for a growing population.

Voices in favor of global, vegetarian diets cite the

Please watch environmental destruction caused by today’s animal farming practices as a major issue.  Actually, in general, I don’t disagree at all.  Because these arguments are based on today’s, widespread, factory-farming, industrial-scale practices.  If you want to learn more of the truth about today’s typical, factory farming of animals, I highly recommend the movie The Meatrix, an easy-to-watch, fact-based, animated account that is accessible even for children .


But local, natural, smaller-scale animal farming like what the Dillinghams practice can actually be both sustainable and environmentally beneficial (yes, beneficial).  For example, free-range farming can often take place on hilly, dry, or nutrient-poor land, unsuitable for crops.  Grass-fed cows use their hooves to plow the land, trapping nutrients and carbon dioxide in the soil.  Their manure naturally fertilizes the soil without chemicals (and doesn’t leave the problem of toxic manure “lagoons” prevalent on factory farms).  And the natural diet of grass, weeds, hay, and bugs requires little-to-no external food (whereas conventionally raised beef consumes vast amounts of corn and soy crops).   Traditional, free-range animals also yield foods higher in nutrients and without all the chemical contamination found in conventional animal foods.

Grassfed animals allowed to roam free are happy and healthy.Do grass-fed and/or  organic animal foods cost more?  Absolutely. Though as more and more of us vote with our wallets, prices are coming down rapidly!  I personally think that smaller portions of higher-quality animal foods are an excellent choice.  It’s also true that the money we sink into junkfood snacks, fast food meals, and processed food options would buy a lot of natural, high-quality alternatives.  I believe that our grocery budgets are really extensions of our healthcare bills.  We eventually pay for the low nutrition and high toxicity we consume in conventional (and often cheaper) processed food… in fatigue, in illness, in missed days of work, in reduced quality of life, in depression, in disease.  I see this in my clients every day.  So we either invest in our health with high-quality foods, or we pay later for our sickness in medical bills.  It’s a choice.

If you’re ready to take the next step in eating on purpose, I highly recommend free-range, grass-fed, and/or organic animal foods.  I look forward to getting delicious, natural animal foods for Blackberry Ridge from the Dillingham Family Farm in Barnardsville, NC.  Locally, I highly recommend Chestnut Farm, a western MA farm that delivers free-range meats and poultry locally in Metrowest Boston once a month, in several towns.  The best proof that the food industry is changing is what you can find at your local grocery store!  I’m not just talking about Whole Foods Market but even Hannafords and Roche Brothers.  Look for brands like Applegate Farms which offers (one of the few) clean, chemical-free, deli-cut meat options.  Niman Ranch is another excellent brand, offering sustainably-raised, additive-free beef and pork products.   Organic Valleyis a wonderful co-op of over 1500 small, family farms working together to offer organic dairy foods.  Even if you see these options as unaffordable at the moment, I encourage you to begin somewhere!  At a minimum, look for animal foods certified as hormone- and antibiotic-free.

As with all of life, our choices determine our experience.  Our mindset and our beliefs determine our choices.  I believe strongly in our collective power to change the way our food is produced and savored….one purchase at a time, one bite at a time.  No matter where you are in your health journey, choose to eat on purpose!