Bionutrient Food Association

Provided by BFA

Each month, community members interested in growing healthier food gather to share and learn in a local garden and enjoy a community-building, pot luck experience with the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA), Westchester/NYC Chapter. Meetings cover a range of topics, from succession and interplanting to compost tea. The BFA aims to educate consumers on healthier soil ecosystems, which yields a healthier food system, overall. Healthier soil also sequesters more carbon which is good for the climate.

We sat down with Ellen Best, co-leader of the Westchester/NYC chapter to learn more about the BFA.

Ellen first became interested in the BFA at a soil science event with founder Dan Kittredge and co-leader Doug DeCandia. Prior to her involvement, Ellen had gardened for a while, but she felt that her garden was dead: “I didn’t feel life. Something was missing. I looked at Doug’s garden at the Westchester Land Trust and it was so vibrant. It looked different. I looked into it a little more and realized that it connected all the dots for me.”

The mission of the BFA is to “improve the quality of the food system,” which can be defined in many different ways. However, “the main approach is to increase the soil health thereby increasing the health of the food.” In discussing soil health, we talked extensively on the indication of “organic” in supermarkets and farmers markets. “Organic does not mean that it’s nutritious. It just means that there aren’t any sprays of pesticides,” said Ellen. “If you don’t have minerals in the soil, then you don’t have them in the plants. Mineral deficiency is the basis for a lot of health problems.” The BFA aims to educate community members about the importance of maintaining soil health, which leads to more nutritious food and an increase of carbon dioxide sequestration from the atmosphere.

Ellen compared the soil ecosystem of a plant to the gut of a human. Humans cannot process all the nutrients they’ve consumed without the microbiome in the gut, which is similar to a plant— “the roots are in the dirt, but they can’t do anything without the healthy guys in the soil.” Specifically, this system not only allows fungi to break down rocks, but also “makes the nutrients available to the plant and creat[es] air pockets. It’s a water filtration and holding system.” She emphasized, “it’s not that we do not have enough water or rain, it’s that we don’t have healthy soil to take advantage of what we have.” In a healthy system, the covered aggregated composition of the soil takes in rainwater, which decreases runoff.

Ellen encourages the community to be educated on topics connected to nutritious food and regenerative agriculture, whether that be from starting with one plant in the backyard to learning about where their food originates from. Currently, the BFA is developing a hand-held meter that will soon be available as an app, which will allow individuals to “test the nutrient level at the point of sale.” Using this, consumers can compare the nutrient levels between produce to see what they are actually eating. She also recommends to test your soil: “A lab that we recommend, Logan Labs, tests for a lot of the micronutrients and trace minerals. A lot of the traditional testing labs just refer to the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) that they see in the soil then. But if you have healthy soil, you are creating more of those nutrients. You are adding biology, not just chemistry.”

All are welcome to attend the Westchester Chapter BFA meetings and get involved in healthy soil practices. Monthly  potlucks/meetings are held either at Westchester Land Trust or local farms. For more info or to receive the newsletter, email westchesterbfa@gmail.com.

You can also check out the BFA Westchester’s You Tube Channel and Facebook Page. For more info on BFA click here.