FromSoil2Soul, based in California, is helping people experience nature’s remedial effects. The organization’s founder Devorah Brous carries out this mission by teaching individuals and communities regenerative homesteading techniques, primarily focused on food production.
“Growing food regeneratively is a tangible benefit for the wellness of the individual, the community, and the planet: swapping out a severed relationship with nature for a renewed, reciprocal relationship with the healing forces of nature,” Brous tells Food Tank.
Brous launched FromSoil2Soul as a way to mentor people toward a more holistic lifestyle through practical courses that connect people with the earth. Her courses teach participants about gardening, food preservation, herbal remedies, seed knowledge, and composting. For homes or institutions, Brous also offers installations and guidance for kitchen gardens, food forest systems, compost systems, and chicken coops. Her approach prioritizes soil health and cultivating a strong gut microbiome.
“I’ve watched the best changemakers and wide-eyed believers reach their threshold, become unhealthy and leave movement organizing,” Brous, a seasoned environmental justice community organizer, tells Food Tank. “Studying land rights, soil science, and herbalism is what has compelled me toward regenerative gardening, regenerative healing, and growing food-as-medicine.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is an occupational phenomenon characterized by feelings of exhaustion, alienation or emotional distancing, listlessness, and reduced performance. Burnout is often a result of prolonged periods of stress.
Rates of burnout are increasing in the United States A 2021 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association finds that roughly 80 percent of respondents reported recent work-related stress, and nearly 60 percent experienced negative impacts as a result.
At the same time, aspects of a modern lifestyle are associated with reduced connectivity with nature. A study in Science Advances names increased time indoors, screen time, and decreased outdoor recreation as barriers to routine nature exposure.
“So many of us are living at a frenetic pace, far from the rhythms of nature and largely unavailable to observe subtle shifts around us, or within us,” Brous tells Food Tank. But, she continues, “tending plants, hand-sifting the harvest, slow cooking, and eating without a screen are a few of the small acts throughout the week that can help us manage the anxiety or depression that leads to so many illnesses.”
Part of Brous’ counseling includes the Regenerative Change Cycle, a framework she developed as an anti-burnout strategy. The cyclic steps include fallowing, sowing, tending, and harvesting. Her teaching also interweaves indigenous wisdom surrounding biomimicry and permaculture and ancient agrarian laws found in the Torah.
Brous explains that home food production can support physical wellbeing by providing nutrient-dense, chemical-free food. Tending the earth also serves as a form of ecotherapy.
“The shift away from dependency on industrial food and toward greater self-sufficiency is deeply healing. Listening to the needs of our body is healing. Learning to become our own kitchen medicine makers and folk herbalists is empowering,” Brous tells Food Tank.
Several studies, including in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health and Current Directions in Psychological Science support the link between nature and wellbeing. The research suggests there are positive correlations between exposure to natural stimuli and social well-being, cognitive functioning and stress management. And a study published in Frontiers in Public Health cites therapeutic horticulture as one of the most effective approaches to ecotherapy.
“The benefits for individuals growing nutrient-dense food without chemicals in tandem with nature’s cycles are innumerable: from increased physical to increased spiritual wellness,” Brous tells Food Tank. “Growing food mentors us in abundance, diversity, relationships, and survival—all concepts that feed wellness and cultivate a growth mindset.”
Before starting FromSoil2Soul, Brous spent 15 years in Israel and Palestine where she witnessed increasing environmental contamination, the westernization of traditional foodways became westernized, forced urbanization that divorced Bedouins from their dryland farming and cultural practices.
In response, she founded BUSTAN, a nonprofit designed to provide medical services for unrecognized Bedouin living in an off-grid village. Many experienced food-related illness and chronic complications attributed to the mounting health hazards posed by nearby chemical factories, an oil depot, military testing zone, and toxic waste incinerator.
“Food as healing is all about reclaiming the power to choose what seed we grow, where and how we grow the food,” Brous tells Food Tank. “It’s also about the pace at which we eat, our gratitude practices, and learning how the farmworkers are treated. It is with each choice along the food chain from farm to fork that we deepen and expand our integral relationships with nature as healer.”
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