Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Treasures lost and found

I count having ALL my cookbooks finally being in one place, and accessible - not tucked away in cupboards, as a 'found treasure'. Even though we are not yet cooking at the farm, I love looking at all my books on display beckoning me/us "Move, move, move here!".

Truth be told, I did give some cookbooks away (one I can remember had recipes using canned soup as an ingredient) so the ones I saved are the best of the best, and ones that contain recipes I look forward to cooking again. Some are new, some are old.

The whole collection is on boards from an old bookcase my husband's grandfather used for his law books plus bricks we found on the farm. Everything had to be cleaned up for re-use, but we love the flash-back to our thrifty grad school days along with the connections to both old (our family) and new (our farm).

(Photo: Diana and Dick's cookbook collection, waiting to be used!)

My oldest cookbooks that I purchased (I know they did not come from my family) are the two pictured below, both from 1971. You can tell they are well-used and well-loved.

(Photo: Diana's two oldest cookbooks)
And now just for fun, here is my all time favorite cookbook. :-)

(Photo: Diana's favorite 'cookbook')

Here are the two books that our family uses to give a blessing for our food. I have deep gratitude to my friends Kim for enlarging my understanding of the importance of locally grown food to belonging to and strengthening our community and Ruth for helping me to reconnect to blessing a meal in a way that touched my heart and soul.

(Photo: Blessings for our food - you can tell these books are also well-used and well-loved.)

Last but not least, I just love unpacking. Not only did I finally find the doo-dad I needed to transfer these photos from my camera to my computer but I also found a copy of a prayer by The Dalai Lama, which had fallen behind my file cabinet. This prayer or blessing was given to me by a wonderful woman I met at a tiny food cart when I was in Hawai'i in 2006. I love slowing down my life for a few minutes to read it and had missed doing so when it mysteriously disappeared from under its magnet on my file cabinet.

A Precious Human Life
"Every day, think as you wake up,
Today I am fortunate to have woken up,
I am alive, I have a precious human life,
I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use
All my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others,
To achieve enlightenment for
The benefit of all beings.
I am going to have kind 
Thoughts toward others,
I am not going to get angry
Or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others
As much as I can."

~~ H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama

Lost but now found again. Ahhhhhh......... :-) Re-finding this prayer and having our cookbooks ready to go is both the balm I needed to calm me down about the seemingly overwhelming task ahead of actually moving and then getting our current house ready to list for sale (ASAP!) and also the energy I need to help get us over the finish line with these two simultaneous efforts.

We are in the final stages of this dual life. We are keeping our eye on the finish line and will hire help if we need it so that we can also enjoy the 'run-up' to our older son's wedding in just a few short months. :-) :-)

PS - Even though blogging has given me a sense of "my space" and even sanity during the controlled chaos of the past two years, I expect that my postings are going to decrease significantly over the next month as my goal is be both completely moved and have our current home 'refreshed' enough to be listed on the market by May 1.  Wish us good luck and a (relatively) quick sale for our current home. I am really, really ready to have my body, brain, and heart in just one place. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, March 28, 2011

Changing LIves

A friend's daughter, now in college and taking a journalism class, recently asked me if I would agree to be interviewed for a class assignment. I just love watching children grow up into curious and passionate young adults. I agreed in a nano-second, and in fact, her request made my day!

Her questions were good ones. I enjoyed reflecting on my answers. I thought some of my readers might like to read her questions and then also read my responses. Here they are:

1. What made you decide to write 'A Dietitian's Cancer Story'? Was it just because you, yourself, are a cancer survivor?

Pat Anstett, medical writer for The Detroit Free Press, wrote an article in April 1997 about nutrition and breast cancer that included information about me as both a Registered Dietitian and cancer survivor, highlighting what I was choosing to eat to optimize my odds for long-term survival from cancer. This article was picked up by the AP wire service (prior to the day when most newspapers or anybody for that matter were using the internet on a daily basis) and was re-published in dozens and dozens of newspapers all over the country. Over 1500 people found my home phone # and called me, asking for more information, saying they were not getting this information from their cancer center.

I subsequently wrote my book because:
(1) I felt a professional responsibility to share the information I was using for my own personal cancer recovery plan,
(2) to help other cancer survivors have access to reliable information (especially since the majority of cancer centers were not, and are still not, including food and nutrition as part of their comprehensive cancer care), and
(3) with hopes that others would have a cancer recovery journey that would be successful and also less difficult than my own had been.

2. Is there any reason you picked the specific ingredients that you picked for your recipes, especially your shakes?

All foods were chosen because they contain a variety of constituents (molecules, chemicals) that have demonstrated anti-cancer activity and are delicious (i.e., food that is just "medicine" is not worth eating).

3. What's the message that you want people to get from you? In other words, what are/were you attempting to accomplish with your book?

Achieving full health and wellness, i.e. going beyond just "surviving" to actually "thriving", after a cancer diagnosis and treatments does not happen by accident or passively. I hoped to provide both "information and inspiration" to other people on a cancer survivorship journey, to show where they can take control of their life where it can make a difference toward achieving full health again. I hoped to show people who read my book a real life example of what I call "active hope", to show them changes they can make in their own life to optimize their odds for long-term cancer survival and, perhaps even more importantly, an increased quality of life for each and every day that they live going forward, no matter how long or how short the number of those days are.

Who knows? Maybe this young woman will follow in the footsteps of Pat Anstett, the medical writer from The Detroit Free Press who changed my life and then (hopefully) through me, also helped to change the lives of other cancer survivors. This experience helped me fully comprehend "the power of the written word."

Our world needs many more strong, clear, passionate voices from our young adults. I am honored to be a small part of this young woman's future. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Cultivators of the earth ........... "

A recent interview with Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, among other books) was followed by a comment that included this quotation by Thomas Jefferson.

"We might do well to remember Thomas Jefferson's quote, 'Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to it’s liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.' And if we actually contemplated this quote, and applied it to today's agricultural issues, we might not only mourn the passing of the small, diversified farmers in our communities, but also that of our status as citizens, for as surely as we have assumed the role of global CONSUMERS, we have lost everything."

I had not read these thoughts by Thomas Jefferson before, but I could not agree more with this comment! Another concept that enlarged my thinking and understanding several years ago was a comment made on a web site petition supporting changes to the last Farm Bill that would be more favorable to small farmers, which said (paraphrasing) "Small farmers who actually grow the food we eat in our local communities, not commodity crops, are our nation's best front-line national security." 

I'll leave you to read the full interview with Michael Pollan and ponder these thoughts while I go back to packing and heading over to the farm to actually put up some curtain rods this afternoon! Wo-hoo!

BTW, I did take photos this morning of my cookbooks on their bookshelves at the farm, so as soon as I download them to my computer, I'll post them up so you can have a peek. The oldest one I have is from 1971. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Chorus at the Farm

Actually today it's back to feeling like late winter again (32 degrees, wind making it seem much colder, ice on the car - thankfully we escaped the snow and serious ice that hammered other parts of Michigan), and it is supposed to get no higher than ~32 degrees for the next week or so.

Sigh............this is typical early spring and the month of March in Michigan. Lots of gray skies, mud, ice, standing water, with maybe a tease of a day or two here and there of sun and warmth, not summer-like warmth, but high enough to no longer feel the need to wear gloves outside, wool socks and heavy boots, and/or a scarf inside!

When those teasing warmer days occur, as they did during a few days last week, the early spring frogs wake up and begin their mating calls with vigorous (and perhaps even passionate!) enthusiasm in the wet areas on our farm. First came the spring peepers (listen to their call here) beginning at the end of last week and then Monday I heard the chorus frogs (listen to their call here).

(Photo: Spring Peeper - photo from The University of Michigan)
(Photo: Chorus frog - photo from The University of Michigan)
The home we had in Illinois before moving to Ann Arbor 23+ years ago backed up to what our family called "the bog". It was a low area that was always very wet in the spring. I eagerly looked forward to that first warm night in March when my husband and I would throw open our bedroom window and sleep (or not) to the beautiful (and, yes, almost-deafening!) songs of a gazillion spring peepers.

Hearing this annual event was music to my ears then and continues to be today.  After moving to Ann Arbor, I have deeply missed having that ritual each March right out my back door so-to-speak, an event to look forward to, knowing I could just throw open my bedroom windows to be a part of that first warm night, and be as close as I could be to those frogs without being a muskrat in the pond (an image I have grown to love after first reading A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold at least 35 years ago).

When we first saw this farm property two years ago now, it was probably about this time in March. The frogs were singing loudly everywhere as we walked the property. We knew the house was going to be a lot of work ( we underestimated the time it would take to do all the work!), and we knew we could bring the former farm land (fallow for at least 25 years) back to life (we expect to be doing that for years and years). However, to be honest, after looking at and rejecting multiple other pieces of property, I think it was the frog chorus that went right to my heart and I was 'sold' on this property (in spite of the condition of the house, lack of outbuildings, etc, etc).

Each cancer survivor counts a 'year' of survivorship differently. For some it is the day of a biopsy, the day of hearing the diagnosis, the day of surgery, the day that treatment ended, you get the idea. I actually have several ways I count and celebrate another year of cancer survivorship, and perhaps that is because i have multiple diagnoses. I do count Thanksgiving Day as one of my annual celebratory 'rites of passage' but I also count several signs of spring as necessary to my sense of contentedness, completeness, and well-being.

Spring is the season of renewal and what better way to honor and celebrate another year of surviving the dark days of winter and also those dark days of cancer than some sign of spring that is meaningful. I am at peace with my little corner of the universe, with my frogs finding their mates and producing zillions of wiggling tadpoles (enough to make our vernal ponds look like moving water later in spring!)

In addition, I have finally moved ALL of my cookbooks to the farm, they are on their shelves in the kitchen (back to boards and bricks, just like grad school days), and I cannot wait to move our kitchen to the farm and start cooking again. This is the very first time I have ever had all my cookbooks in one place, in full view (not stuffed here and there, wherever I could find room), and somewhat organized. I'll take a photo to post up later the next time I remember to take my camera to the farm.

Yes, spring is finally on its way here in the upper Midwest, in spite of this return to winter interlude, and I look forward to the second round of the spring frog chorus when the weather warms up again. Another year of cancer survivorship has begun!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cancer Patients' Nutrition Advantage

The American Cancer Society projected that 1,529,560 new cancer cases and 569,490 deaths from cancer would occur in the United States during 2010. I used to see figures that 1/3 women and 1/2 men would receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. I don't know if those odds are still current, but  in any case, the numbers are staggering.

Survival statistics continue to show an increase in the number of cancer survivors (current figures are 12+ million in the US) with the vast majority of those millions going on to "get back into their lives". However, to finish treatments and recover well to do more than "just survive" but to actually thrive and achieve full health and wellness takes much more than wishful thinking, much more than just being told to drink some canned liquid dietary supplement, much more than a recommendation to "eat right and exercise", and much more than being handed a pamphlet of good eating tips.

Hats off to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon, NH for being among the leaders who recognized early that individualized nutrition services needed to be part of services offered in order to provide their patients with true comprehensive cancer care. Hiring their first Registered Dietitian (RD) in 2000, they have continued to increase the staffing of RDs and the array of involvement and services provided to reach as many of their patients as possible, including community involvement focused on cancer prevention.

If your cancer center does not yet have a full team of dietitians (including some/all being certified in the nutritional oncology specialty, which the initials RD, CSO signify after their name), here is a great article to show you that it can be done! Feel free to copy it and then show it to your oncologist and the administrator for your cancer center to help push or pull them along to provide true comprehensive cancer care for you and your community!

Now I will be the first to say that not nearly enough research has been done to really nail down exactly how, when, where, and what are all the best nutritional interventions in each individual case to get the most bang for the buck (to be crude about it). However, that should no longer be a stated reason (old excuse) for a cancer center not providing top-notch nutritional services at a cancer center (and no, it is not good enough for the nurses to be handling all the nutrition issues, for which not only do they do not have professional expertise, they do not have enough time!). Which of the zillion cancer treatments currently offered provides iron-clad proof that the treatment will work on any one individual with 100% certainty for that word everyone wants to hear, "i.e., the cure"? None, none, none, it's as simple and as scary as that.

You may be interested in listening to a podcast by 3 of the top researchers in the field of nutritional oncology as they examine and discuss the current evidence supporting nutrition recommendations for cancer survivors and the role RDs can play in preventing cancer recurrence and managing chronic conditions prevalent in cancer survivors, as well as improving quality of life and decreasing health care costs. (I hope this link works; I have never linked a podcast before - it is about 17 minutes long.)

The authors are discussing the following article they recently wrote:
"Evidence-Based Nutrition Guidelines for Cancer Survivors: Current Guidelines, Knowledge Gaps, and Future Research Directions"
Authors: Kim Robien, PhD, RD, CSO, FADA, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, PhD, RD, Cheryl L. Rock, PhD, RD Journal of the American Dietetic Association, March 2011 (Vol. 111, Issue 3, Pages 368-375)

All three of these researchers have dedicated their careers to improving the nutritional care of cancer patients, plus all three are friends of mine. To be honest, I feel like I am a "groupie" for each of them. I love reading their articles, I love their work (I have helped to fund Wendy's work with one of my AICR grants and I wish I had millions of dollars to fund each of them for decades), I wish I could split myself into multiple pieces to work with each of them, and I just love being with each of them, knowing they are caring, committed, and compassionate human beings.

So yes, we have a long way to go to better define the most effective nutritional care for cancer survivors and devise a health care system that will deliver that care, but that is no reason to not provide the best care we know how to do right now.

Lastly, if you are a breast cancer survivor who is considered overweight and would like to participate in the clinical trial mentioned in the podcast that is designed to evaluate if weight loss will decrease the risk of recurrence, I encourage you to do so if you live in any of the following 4 locations:
1) San Diego, CA - contact Shoshi Barkai, MS, RD     858-822-2779  
2) Denver, CO - contact Rebecca Sedjo, PhD     303-724-4585  
3) St. Louis, MO - study website -   contact Casey Fagin     314-747-1109    
4) Birmingham, AL - contact Karen Kubas, MS RD LD     205-996-7367    

Further information can be found at the following National Cancer Institute clinical trials website: Reducing Breast Cancer Recurrence With Weight Loss (ENERGY)

So, again kudos to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center for providing the "state of the science" nutritional care for the patients at their cancer center. If you are reading this, and your cancer center has published an article about the wonderful nutritional care provided at your cancer center, please send me the link at the following email address cancervictorygarden (at) . I would love to give your cancer center a "shout-out", too!

Now back to sorting and packing!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, March 18, 2011

Alert! How to become a dietitian is not always clear!

For those of you reading my blog (particularly the posts related to National Registered Dietitian Day) who are studying or want to study to become a Registered Dietitian (RD), I suggest you read the following article and then follow up with lots of specific questions in your program in order to make perfectly clear that your program of study is going to lead you to the correct path to be eligible to take the RD registration exam.

In addition, check the information on the website for The American Dietetic Association that explains the step-wise process and how each step of the way needs to be approved by the various arms of ADA in order to assess the rigor and quality of the program content.

ADA's website page for students:
-Accredited Dietetics Education Programs

I hope no one I know (or a blog reader) has had the misfortune described by the student in the article above!

You should know the following when going into a program that also requires an additional dietetic internship after completion of an undergraduate dietetic degree. Dietetic internships are currently VERY competitive to get into with a matching rate of only ~50%. So study hard (very hard), try to get a part-time job within the food and nutrition field, and volunteer for everything you can possibly fit into your schedule to get additional exposure to aspects of the food system.

A dietetic intern who worked on my farm for a day last year told me that she had volunteered on an organic farm for 5 months prior to her internship applications last year, and while she certainly does not know all the factors that led her application getting to the top of the acceptance pile, she thinks that her organic farm volunteer experience was a major plus.

So good luck to all students and future dietitians! I hope our paths cross somewhere someday. Please be sure to introduce yourself to me if they do so. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

National Dietitians' Day 2011 (I'm late again this year)

Being late is the story of my life right now as my husband and I are in the final throws of getting the house at the farm ready to move into and also simultaneously getting all our belongings sorted to move out to the farm. We are living in 'controlled chaos' at best and always feeling like there is too much to do to stay on top of things. Add in trying to stay in touch with friends and family, the ups and downs of 'normal life' and .......... well you get the picture. I think we are a pretty typical family!

So apologies to anyone looking for a post on the official day for National Dietitians' Day (some day last week). I thought it would be interesting to post up the full answers I gave to a writer for the magazine Today's Dietitian who was asking about my professional background for a recent article about dietitians who make a difference. I was deeply honored to be included.

I hope these questions and answers will serve as both 'information and inspiration' for anyone who is thinking about a career in dietetics, current dietetic students or interns, and even dietitians contemplating a change of their professional career goals.

Here we go (this is very long, the writer did an admirable job of paring my rambling down for the actual article):

1. What is your background in terms of becoming an RD? What is your schooling, etc.?

I have been a "science gal" for a long time and started college as a Chemistry major, switching during my junior year to graduate with a Biology degree because biology just seemed so much more "alive" than chemistry. I worked for a year as a lab tech cutting the eyes off fruit flies for a professor doing opthamology research after graduation, but I could not imagine doing that my entire life! I then went on to start a PhD program in nutritional sciences. I had taken one undergraduate introductory course in nutrition the last semester before my undergraduate graduation plus a graduate level biochemistry class while working that first year after graduation. Ahhh, I was "hooked", seeing how everything I had learned about chemistry and biology had a true human application through the science of nutrition. However, it was not until I sat next to an RD in my graduate level statistics class that I first heard the term 'registered dietitian'. After only a brief introduction to the profession by my friend (Joann Simon Carson, PhD, RD), I caught the vision and was again "hooked", deciding to focus my career direction on the clinical application of nutrition instead of research. I then began taking the two years worth of undergraduate classes needed to apply for a dietetic internship while also finishing my coursework and research for my MS in Nutritional Sciences. It took me a long time to get to my profession and then finish my professional coursework, clinical experience, and thesis. I remember feeling both pride (yea!) and enormous relief (whew!) when I first obtained my MS (a month after my first son was born) and then was finally eligible to take the RD exam, passing it the first time.

I did my undergraduate degree at Purdue University and my dietetic internship at The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and my MS in Nutritional Sciences at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

1a. Can you tell me about your current role? What does it entail?

After spending the first 20+ years of my career in clinical positions (starting as one of the first renal dietitians in the mid 1970's before moving on to critical care nutrition in the ICU's in the late 1970's), I have continued my career since the mid-1990's with many varied roles while wearing my RD hat. I always call myself an "Dietitian-something", such as a:

(1) Dietitian-Entrepreneur when I began a private practice in 1997 focused solely on providing nutritional guidance to cancer survivors,
(2) Dietitian-Author (A Dietitian's Cancer Story first published in 1997, reprinted and updated 13 times since 1997, twice in 2010, including an edition in Spanish published in 2000),
(3) Research Funder (established the Diana Dyer Cancer Survivors' Nutrition and Cancer Research Endowment in 1999 at The American Institute for Cancer Research - AICR - funded by proceeds from the sale of my books which has helped to fund 10 research projects to date focused on nutritional strategies to increase the odds for long-term cancer survival and/or increased quality of life after a cancer diagnosis)
(4) Consultant/Advisor to The Farm at St. Joe's Advisory Committee, The Wellness Community of SE Michigan,, AICR, several research projects around the country,
(5) Website owner ( 1998) one of the first RDs to have a website
(6) Blogger (beginning 2007, now with 3 active blogs,,,
(7) Long-term and multiple-time cancer survivor and tireless advocate and ambassador for oncology dietitians. I have been elected to the Oncology Nutrition DPG executive board and received ON DPG's Distinguished Practice Award in 2005
(8) Speaker (to both professional and public audiences since 1995),
(9) Mentor to uncountable RDs and students in all walks of an RD's career path, and now most recently
(10) Dietitian-Organic Farmer (co-founded with my husband in 2009 The Dyer Family Organic Farm in Ann Arbor, MI, specializing in 40 varieties of organic garlic), where I see myself as:
    (a) a true front-line health care provider moving from a 15-year focus on nutrition for cancer survivors to being focused on pure prevention of all disease by growing organic food to be consumed by my local community,
    (b) a food educator emphasizing "food as flavor", and last but just as importantly,
    (c) a source of inspiration (hopefully!) to dietetic students/interns to learn about the importance of preserving and/or rebuilding our soil's health, the impact that the soil and food grown in healthy soil has on the public's health, and how professional recommendations that RDs make directly influence the health of our soil, thus coming full circle. I wrote the "School to Farm" Program for the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG to begin this path for future RDs.

 2. What enticed you to become an RD? What were/are you hoping to provide your clients/patients?

See #1 above for what enticed me to become an RD
What was I hoping to provide? I was excited about and knew that I could communicate (i.e. translate) to patients, the medical community, and the public both the rigors and the uncertainties of the science of biology and chemistry as applied to the science of food and nutrition in ways that would promote health and wellness and improved quality of life.

 3. What do you enjoy most about your role? What do you find most rewarding?

In my current role as an organic farmer, I love coming back to my "biology roots" and finally having a job that is outside feeling the sun and rain on my face most of the time where I am both a steward and constant observer of my natural community! Most rewarding to me is believing that I am also helping to expand and shape my dietetic profession, helping RDs to step back from "we are what we eat" to embrace instead the starting point of our profession as "we are what we grow".

 4. Is there a certain area within your profession that you are drawn to more than others?

I feel fortunate to have LOVED everything I have ever done and every place I have ever worked along with all of my supervisors and colleagues. Each of my past areas of clinical interest, indeed passion, (i.e., renal, critical care, cancer survivorship) has had elements that involved the interactions of "systems", with each move leading to more interactions and larger systems to contemplate and take into consideration. Finally, I have arrived to know that the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG is my "home" because it connects all of the biological, nutritional, medical, psycho-social and economic systems while also bringing me back full circle early passions for environmental biology and public policy by recognizing that sustainable agriculture and ecology policies are major components of the foundation to everything else I have studied, practiced, and advocated for. I was deeply honored to receive the Excellence in Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG Award in 2010.

 5. What do you find most challenging about your role? What do you strive to attain?

Focusing is challenging for me!! I have so many professional and non-professional interests combined with the desire to "retire", whatever that is, haha! I wish I did not need sleep. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. :-)

What do I strive to attain? I'm repeating from above:
I hope I can inspire dietetic students/interns to learn about the importance of preserving and/or rebuilding our soil's health (a critical natural resource for our nation and the fundamental foundation for food as the basis of our professsion), the beneficial impact that the soil and food grown in healthy soil have on the public's health, and how professional recommendations by RDs directly influence the health of our soil and other natural resources, thus coming full circle. I wrote the "School to Farm" Program for the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition DPG to begin this path for future RDs.

 6. If you could communicate one thing to your patients about health and nutrition what would it be?

Eating is an agricultural act (Wendell Berry), and from farm to fork, our food choices will make a difference about the agricultural and food systems we have in this country. I hope that my patients (by that I really mean the public at large) will become 'food citizens' instead of just 'food consumers', i.e., both know your food and love your food. Grow, cook, eat, and enjoy as much of your own food as possible and support your community's organic farmers when possible for the rest of your food. Put a face with your food by getting to know your farmer(s) and buying his or her food. Good nutrition and great health will then follow naturally, for you, your family, your local community, and ultimately for our planet, too.

 7. Finally, what do you hope the future brings you in your profession?

I have been exceedingly fortunate. Becoming an RD in 1978, I have had a long, full, interesting, and varied career. I have had opportunities I could not have predicted in my wildest imagination. I have had rewarding work with research (resulting in a change in the amount of selenium added to the formula for children with PKU), meaningful clinical work with patients and teaching medical staff, and fun! Writing my kale blog, doing food demos and cooking classes with my husband, plus selling our garlic at the farmers' markets are all SO much fun. In addition, I have made life-long professional friends locally and across the country, raised the visibility and and recognition of the benefits by having an RD on staff within every position or project in which I have been involved. It has been particularly meaningful to know that I have played a role within the specialty area of oncology nutrition, particularly raising the awareness of the need for more long-term support and resources for cancer survivors plus helping ON DPG develop the Standards of Practice for oncology RDs and the certification in Oncology Nutrition (CSO). I have been a "pioneer" in several areas of nutritional practice, influenced public policy at the national level, and contributed significant funding for cancer survivorship research. I am sure I am leaving out much and could go on and on.

All of which brings me to say that I can not imagine what else my profession can still "bring me" in the future. However, what brings me the most pleasure and the most meaning at this point of my professional career is (1) having the opportunity to touch the lives of future dietitians on my farm, and (2) meeting and developing future professional friendships. Thus, I hope our farm's mission of "Shaping our future from the ground up" helps me to achieve those pleasures while at the same time helping to shape the future of "our" profession.

That's it - whew! Sorry to be so wordy, but I hope some of my path is helpful to a future dietitian. :-) Rather than serendipitously sitting next to an RD in a class like I did, perhaps someone will serendipitously stumble onto my blog. To think that I may help someone in the same way that my friend Joann helped me would give me deep joy. I hope it happens, even if I don't know about it. :-)

Back to sorting, step, step, step!

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Turkeys on the farm!

The first appearance of turkeys on our farm and darn, I wasn't there to see them! My husband showed up late this afternoon to finish some caulking and was just stunned to see a flock of 9 turkeys walking through the garlic field. As he stopped the car to gawk (and shoot some photos), the clear leader of the pack (flock) ran over to the car, all fluffed up to show he was the commander-in-chief, and actually attacked the headlight on my husband's car. After watching for many minutes, Dick drove the car up the driveway to the house, with the turkeys all chasing the car up the driveway. More watching and taking photographs from the car, and calling me, before he made a dash into the house. Even an hour later, all nine were still hanging out in the driveway and he had to distract them with birdseed, which he tossed across the driveway, before he made a dash into his car. Yes, there they were, all nine of them chasing him down the driveway as he drove home.

I've been sick and home for the past 3 weeks with the "virus from xxxxx", but I'll make it out to the farm tomorrow. I can't wait to see them for myself!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Know your farmer. Know your food. Create a vibrant community!

I have a small group of 'friends' on Facebook (primarily family including my terrific nieces and nephews, now all in their mid-20's to early 30's - yikes! how did that happen?). I don't post up a lot on Facebook, just occasional short clips from my brain. Frankly, I prefer blogging because I like having a chance to expand on my thoughts, rather than keeping them short and clipped!

However, I'll post here today what I put on Facebook this morning. It is about as short as I can be (and I was surprised that I wasn't told to shorten it up). It included a link to an article in today's New York Times about the emergence of a new generation of farmers.

"Dick and I are not helping to push down the average age of new farmers, but it deeply satisfying to know that we are working together with these young people who are committed to creating healthier and more vibrant communities with organic farming. 'Know your farmer; know your food'."

More snow and ice last night here in Michigan. Winter is not quitting. I'm still recovering from the "cold from xxxxx" that, ironically, I caught last week when at the MOSES organic farming conference in LaCrosse, WI. While being mostly self-confined to home (and even bed!), I have taken the time to sort more stuff before we move out to our farm. I have deeply enjoyed pulling out the piles and piles of letters and cards and photos and articles that people have sent to me over the past 14 years since first publishing my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story, some as far back as 1997, its first year of publication.

I will love carrying all those "good vibes" with me going forward (even as I recycle most of the paper) to do our part creating a healthy and vibrant community in a new way, with the food from our organic farm, in addition the circle I've created by my book, website, and blogs. So don't feel badly if you are not part of my tiny Facebook group. I enjoy writing for and connecting with you, i.e., my much larger community, through these other avenues.

Now back to sorting (again). Step, step, step..........!

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Thickets of cruciferous vegetables"

........ is such a lovely image and my favorite line from the following article The Billionaire who is Planning his 125th Birthday in The New York Times Magazine this weekend. I believe a description of what is planted in his greenhouse for personal consumption, which includes that great cruciferous thicket image, is on page 4 of the on-line edition.

It is always enlightening to read comments written by readers of articles in the New York Times. There is no perfectly written article (I saw something about vitamin D that I would have worded differently), and people always have widely varying opinions (and quibble) about foods, diets, aging, and rich people, all expressed in the comments I took the time to skim through. However, this most unusual man is choosing to spend a good deal of his money for research that will lead the future understanding of how foods (better studies would be evaluating whole diets, not just individual foods or molecules) affect the aging process and health promotion.

In a very small way dollar-wise, the endowment I have established at The American Institute for Cancer Research is doing the same thing by using proceeds I have donated from the sale of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story to fund research focused on nutritional strategies that improve the odds for long-term cancer survivorship and/or increased quality of life for cancer survivors. I don't have the lofty goals of hoping that I or other cancer survivors reach the age of 125 through research funded by my endowment, but I do confess that I have humbly asked the universe to kindly consider giving me 40 more years since my husband and I have at least 40 years of projects we want to do on our new farm.

To tell you more, the first time I made this request (last year after purchasing our farm and getting a better handle of how much work was needed to turn this sadly neglected land (and house) into the productive organic farm we could envision), I asked the universe for 30 years, feeling that I was being too greedy to ask for 40 more years, and of course, by all conventional thinking, even asking for an additional 30 years of health good enough to keep working our farm would likely be considered a pretty outrageous request. After all, my husband and I had just turned 60 and you can do the math, 60 + 30 = 90 (outrageous) versus 60 + 40 = 100 (more outrageous!).

However, last summer I read where one of the vendors at Michigan's only all organic farmers' market had just turned 100. You can read about Jeannette Keiser here! Aha! I knew I was being too timid asking for only 30 years instead of the 40 years I really hoped for. And here was my inspiration to update my humble request to 40 years instead of only 30.Thanks, Jeannette. I hope to meet you someday.

I am very disappointed that the writer of this article did not probe to ask the billionaire's thoughts about the importance of organically raised foods to his overall plan of living to be 125. I have some speculation, but no info, so I won't make any comment.

However, our family plan is to continue to enjoy eating (please note that word 'enjoy'!) meals made with foods that are locally grown and organically grown (both as much as possible) while we wind our way along the pathway of our "encore careers" as organic farmers. I cannot begin to say we'll be given even one year, let alone 40 or more! However, we are committed to doing our little part in our local community for as long as we're able to connect the dots for everyone between healthy soil and healthy communities. Thus our 'tag line' for The Dyer Family Organic Farm is the following: "Shaping our future from the ground up", with the word "our" being very large to encompass all aspects of our community, not just our personal health or economic futures.

I'd like to end with a section of a poem by Wendell Berry that I recently read and copied. I think it is appropriate expression (and better than my own words) of what my husband and I are doing as we rebuild this land into our organic farm.

In Leavings: Poems by Wendell Berry 2010
from 2007, II, page 84

……….. With the land
again make common cause.
In loving it, be free.
Diminished as it is,
grant it your grief and care,
whole in heart, in mind
free, though you die or live.
So late, begin again.

Wendell Berry received the National Humanities Medal this week at The White House from President Obama, being given this high honor as a poet, novelist, Kentucky farmer, activist, conservationist, and author of more than 40 books, always exploring our relationship with the land and community. 

So yes, my husband and I are late starting our farm, but no matter, I am taking heart from the final line of this poem by Berry "So late, begin again." Nothing makes me happier, more 'whole in heart', no matter when I do die. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD 

PS - I will cross-post these thoughts on my kale blog, too.  So, apologies to those of you who regularly read both blogs.