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A Healthy Life

Healthy: Ancient Wisdom Preserved in a Word

Picture of cow in the grass

There has always been something profoundly different about modern organic agriculture versus the so-called green revolution of the 20th Century. 

Whereas the green revolution measures its social benefit from producing ever greater volumes of aesthetic produce, the natural organic movement focuses on nutritional quality, taste and the natural environment. And where the green revolution drew its impetus from geo-politics and economics, the modern organic movement has been drawn to healthy food production and healthy environmental outcomes.

'Health food' and for that matter 'health food stores' are 20th century linguistic inventions. Before that; before artificial nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers; before broad spectrum biocides; before the nutritional dumbing down of our food produce; before sophisticated processing and chemical additives, and before the global pandemic of nutritional related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and numerous cancers, there was just food – natural food.

Our great-grandparents and all our ancestors before them ate natural food. They lived long lives, when the physical challenges of their times didn’t foreshorten their days. The nutritional quality of their food made up for lesser quantities while the cyclical fruits of harvest coincided with the bodily cycles of the thousands of successful generations before them.

The so-called green revolution in agriculture has its parallel in modern language usage as both have diminished the richness of the diversity, wisdom and nourishment of their origins. 'Linguistic nutrition' is savoured through etymology – the study of word origins - and can immensely nourish our intellect and enrich our appreciation of being human.

Language, like natural agricultural genetics, is the infinitely divisible legacy our ancestors have left to each and everyone of us; an encoded intellectual genome of where we have been, and how and who we can be. The study of the origins of words is empowering because often as words progress in time their meaning becomes altered, misused, tainted, or simply forgotten. The words health and healthy are such words.

Picture of lady carrying fresh food

In today's world we generally associate the word ‘health’ as a noun, meaning a clinical scale of measurement, as in 'her health is good', or 'his health has never been worse'. As for the word 'healthy' we use it as an adjective describing a perceived positive state of condition, as in clean air is healthy or healthy activities are good for you.

The origins of the word health are found in the early Proto-Indo-European language, kailo, meaning 'whole, uninjured' and in the Old English word hælan˛ meaning "wholeness, a being whole, sound or well”. That progressed in Middle English to healan meaning “to heal".

In Modern English, the word healthy was first attested in 1552, at a time when the word thy was still the possessive form of the word thou or in today's language, yours and you respectively.

So then perhaps the most accurate and empowering way to interpret the word healthy is not as a noun or adjective, but rather as a timeless prescription where healthy food means ‘food to heal yours or heal yourself food’ – healthy food.

In the time long before the green revolution, there was no significant distinction between 'health food' and 'food' as they were the same; the unadulterated, unprocessed, and unmanipulated harvest of nature. But as the 20th Century marched on, nature’s produce was converted into sophisticated, adulterated, processed and complex products, and with that came the rapid growth in human disease and environmental calamity.

In natural organic agriculture and food production, adherents have been able to hear the knowledge preserved for us by our ancestor’s linguistic time capsules and build upon that wisdom to create food that is and makes us whole, sound, well and uninjured. At Landtasia Organic Farms we feel that in producing quality whole foods naturally, we too are helping to carry forward such wisdom for future generations.

Written by : Richard Graham

© 2006 Landtasia Organic Farms Pty Ltd