I first learned about Farmer's Footprint via a Rich Roll Podcast with scientist Zach Bush. I was fascinated with everything he had to say but especially about the impact chemical farming has on the health of all life on our planet. I had been thinking about much of what he was discussing for years, albeit in much less scientific terms.
Farmer's Footprint seeks to create the educational, social, and economic incentives to improve global health through the large-scale transition of land management from chemical farming to regenerative agricultural practices to secure a future for human health and food independence.
I'm a clothing designer and although I personally understand my connection, some may wonder why I would pick a farming nonprofit as one of the businesses I want to donate to through sales of my clothing.
I have a connection to farming because I am a farm girl from Minnesota.
I grew up on a beautiful, 140 acre farm on a vast lake in Minnesota, built by my Swedish immigrant great grandfather in the mid 1800s. It was passed down to my grandfather Nels, and then to my father Philip. We were a family of farmers, healthy, strong, hardworking men with wives and children, all working together on the farm. We grew crops using old school methods which included crop rotation, diverted acres, and a sense of deep connectedness to the land that provided for our family. It was a beautiful place that I loved very much.
When I was about 8 years old, my dad spilled some weed spray concentrate on his foot as he was diluting it in order to spray on the crops. (This was in the early 60s, at a time when many chemicals were being tested and used for weed and pest control, increased crop production, etc. ) He washed his foot, changed his boot and sock which had gotten wet, and went back to finish chores.
Later that day his foot became red and irritated, and by morning he had a huge, raised blister across the top of his foot that measured about 1"x 3". Blisters soon spread up his leg and he developed gangrene. Doctors thought they might need to amputate his leg but thankfully the blisters started to heal and he was able to keep his leg.
But this chemical had not only burned his skin but poisoned his system.
About 7 years later, at the age of 65 he started developing unexplained confusion, hallucinations, and agitation. He quickly sank into Alzheimers. He had multiple strokes. My strong, capable, and loving dad died at the age of 72. Doctors couldn't explain what happened, but I had a sense it had something to do with that day and the weed spray. My mother also died of dementia at the age of 94.
I moved to New York and became an eco designer before there was actual terminology for what I was doing. I began using vintage materials to create new things, now called upcycling. I had a deep connection to the environment even though I was living in that magnificent but very crowded city.
I moved to Los Angeles and changed my business a bit, adding in new organic and sustainable fabrics that interested me. Around 2004, terminology was created to describe what environmentally focused designers like me were doing and journalists globally became interested in my work. It was during an interview about my work with hemp fabrics for a USA Today article about industrial hemp farming that I realized there was a correlation between my business focus and me trying to understand what really happened to my dad's health.
Chemical farming has not only created an unhealthy population but ultimately destroys the health of the environment. Zach Bush and the coalition involved in Farmer's Footprint are doing the timely work necessary to create a healthier future for our planet. My wish is not only to help to raise money for this important nonprofit but to create a creative collaboration.