Wednesday, March 13, 2013

National Dietitian Day 2013

Last year I was so busy at this time that I had to be reminded it was National Registered Dietitian (RD) Day by one of my young friends who is an "RD 2B". Thanks Dayna! :)

This year I've been thinking about it a bit ahead of time, instead of after the fact like last year.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I consider myself fortunate beyond words to still be alive, and also alive and thriving, after my multiple cancer diagnoses and medical problems that have all been related to late effects of my various cancer therapies. Sometimes I do feel as though I might be duct-taped together, but be that as it may, I can also say that my husband and I started a farm at age 59 and we are still here after four years of long hours and daily hard work, appreciating and relishing the opportunity to sink roots into and nourish our community by growing and selling healthy food locally at four farmers markets within 12 miles of our farm.

Our greatest joy is having our family, i.e. our two sons and our daughters in law, come home to the farm. In addition, having friends (from both near and far) come visit the farm also gives us great pleasure. We may or may not be 'cleaned up', and we may hand you gardening gloves or some type of tool to help us, but you can be sure that we'll always end the day with something delicious to eat and some of my husband's home-brewed (and award-winning) beer.

Next up is the pleasure of having dietetic students and dietetic interns come work with us. Some come for an hour or two, some come for a day, some come regularly, and some also come to live with us for several weeks participating in a program called The School to Farm Program developed by The Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, a sub-group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). I confess that I enjoy feeling like the student when we work together, as I learn so much from them, from their questions but also their answers to my questions.

Although we could easily recruit young people from a wide variety of backgrounds and a wide variety of future careers who would like to work on an organic farm, I have felt a special dedication to 'recruiting' the students in my profession, to give them an opportunity to move backward a few steps from a traditional starting point of our profession which has always been 'we are what we eat' to instead develop an understanding and appreciation for a starting point of a food system to be 'we are what we grow'.

I hope that through the wide variety of experiences I try to provide for them within the community (they never weed with me for two straight weeks, even though that is a very very important job on our farm) that they also develop a profound and urgent awareness that the dietetics profession along with society as a whole must switch its current focus on paying (or not) for treatment of disease (Hello! That expensive horse is now out of the barn) to investing in strategies the lead to prevention of disease (especially chronic diseases), even better yet, using food and nutrition to create health and wellness as the primary and life-long achievement.

I certainly don't have all the answers for how to do this, but the main point I want these dietetic students to understand by working with me on the farm (and in my community) is the profound influence their future professional recommendations as RDs will have on individuals, on families, on communities, on organizations and institutions, AND on our agricultural systems and natural resources, which are the foundation of our food systems and the health of our communities. 

My long-time readers know that I enjoy ending my blog posts with quotations that I find meaningful. Today I will finish with a favorite quote but first I would like to share a new word I recently learned that I feel encapsulates an image I have for the future, with both purpose and feeling. I cannot describe it any better than that, except to say that when I recently heard this word with its meaning, I said to myself 'That's it! That is what I see for our future, and that is what I am trying to convey, instill, and nourish within my profession and particularly these students who are our future.'

The word is Ujima, a Swahili word that means 'collective work and responsibility'

Adding to that short definition, one can say Ujima means "to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our own and to solve them together." Bingo! Thank you, Malik Yakini, Founder and Director of the Detroit Black Food Security Network for giving me language to convey my values and what I hope to share with my current work as one small part of the needed change on the path of developing food systems that will provide 'good food and good health for all'.

I think every Registered Dietitian I know became an RD in order to work as a health care professional with the fundamental desire to create and nourish healthy communities, which must start with protecting, creating, and nourishing healthy soil in order to produce healthy food. Thus my final words are directed to all RDs and RDs 2B:

"Soil is the tablecloth under the banquet of civilization."

~~ Steven Stoll, The Larding of the Lean Earth, 2002

I have used this beautiful quotation in previous blog posts. I consider these words, and the image they convey, to be a touchstone for me.  I never tire of reading and imaging with these words. I still love the image of our precious fertile, healthy, life-supporting topsoil being the tablecloth under the banquet of civilization (read the book Dirt: The Erosions of Civilizations by David Montgomery for an in-depth view of the importance of soil to the rise and fall of entire civilizations throughout history). That image gives me both joy and purpose while working every single day as an RD - Organic Farmer - Community Member.

More information about the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition (HEN) Dietetic Practice Group's School to Farm Program is on HEN's website. Come work with us while we are contributing to the health of our local community. We welcome you! Please note - you will work. Just ask the students who have already been to our farm. :)

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

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Anonymous said...

Hi Diana! You don't know me but I'm sure is glad to see you still kicking it! I was in the middle of eating kale salad and googled about side-effect from eating too much of it. I discovered kale salad about two years ago and been in love with it and these days, I'm eating almost every day for lunch. Of course, too much of a good thing is not good. We all know that. That's why I did the google search and some how landed on your page -- not this blog but other which ended in 2002 and I was livid... I was frantically hoping you are still surviving from the holistic approach because I recently lost a sister-in-law to breast cancer. We kept telling her do the therapies but she's got to change the way she eats -- meaning, no red meat and get her nutrients from organic veggies, beans and what have you.

My husband is a long time advocate for holistic approach and he doesn't think people should treat the cancer with chemo therapies but only with holistic way. I don't know if I agree with him 100%. He might be right though because we need our strength to fight but I hope I'll never have to find out but if I do have to find out, I'm glad I found your page and I am certainly glad you are still kicking it!

After frantic search on google to see any sign of you still kicking, I saw an orbiturary on Diana Dyer and my heart sank but upon reading, it was not you and here you are still kicking!

I loudly cheer you on from the side line!!!!

Diana Dyer said...

Thank you - I hear and appreciate your sideline cheers! My oncologist finally 'discharged me' a few years ago and whenever I see him around town, he doesn't cheer but he does just grin from ear to ear with happiness. He would stand right beside me to say publicly (which in essence is what he did by writing the foreword to my book) that what I did for myself (which I discuss at length in my book) must have been just as important as what he did for me.

I am sorry to hear about your sister-in-law death. Cancer is very unfair no matter how it is sliced and diced and very sneaky, i.e. determined to thrive, meaning no matter how one changes a diet, etc etc, chooses or rejects conventional cancer therapies, no one can really predict the outcome.

Thank you for finding my old website, my blogs, which is where enjoy I hang out on-line these days. Yes, I am still kicking and still considered 'cancer-free', and I am also still participating in what I call 'active hope' as I not only give cancer a run for its money but live the best quality life I can create for myself.

Thanks again for finding me. I'll be blogging much less in a month or so when we can finally be outside all day at our farm, but there is plenty to read in the archives! (also check out our farm's website and farm's Facebook page, which I do try to keep up to date during the growing season, more than my blogs)

All my best wishes for good food and good health to you and your family,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD