People & Places Sunday, June 10
The Kneeling Gardeners
KANNAPOLIS — The Kneeling Gardeners met May 21 at Trinity United Methodist Church. Dr. Francis P. Koster, Ed. D. spoke on “How Does Your Garden Grow? Now? In the Future?”
Dr. Koster received his doctorate at the Program for the Study of the Future at the University of Massachusetts. His focus was on why leaders do not listen to warnings, with an emphasis on the warnings about contamination of, and threats to the basic life support systems of air, water, food, and fuel and the implications on human life.
When first out of school he served in the Army National Guard, and later in the Peace Corps. During the oil embargoes of the 1970’s he shifted his focus to energy and worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Renewable Energy program, consulted with many of the nation’s major utilities on energy conservation and renewable energy programs, and worked with the US Dept of Energy where he developed and ran the first assessment of how counties can attain energy self-sufficiency (a study which then Pres. Ronald Reagan cited as a national model).
In the 1990’s he turned his attention to healthcare, where he pioneered the application of information technologies (including digitizing that resulted in improved healthcare. In 2008 he retired from The Nemours Foundation (one of the nation’s largest children’s healthcare systems in the country).
Since retiring, he has consulted with UNC’s Nutrition Research Institute, Duke University’s School of Nursing, Duke’s Center for Health Informatics, and many others. He is currently consulting with the Kannapolis and Rowan School Systems, helping them to identify indoor air quality issues that impact learning.
With emerging trends that are altering the debate about the threat of pollution to our families. there is a realization that invisible pollution in very small amounts can have a life altering impact on us. When the active ingredient in a single pill of the drug Cialis is only 30 parts per billion, and the asthma drug Albuterol uses only 21 parts per million, we can only imagine the impact that small amounts of other chemicals have on human health. And today, the availability of inexpensive scientific tools enables us to more readily detect and identify pollution. Our ability to protect our fellow citizens from suffering birth defects, brain damage, cancer, a shorter life span, and years of sickness, is increasing.
Right now, we have among the highest obesity rates in the world, and in life expectancy we are rated 43rd (that rating has fallen steadily for the past 7 years). This is due to changes in our food supply over recent decades, and which lead to obesity, heart problems, and hypertension. From “Field to Fork” time reduces nutritional content. The US imports astonishing amounts of food – 40% of all fruits and vegetables and 92% of all fish. Less than 1% of the fish we import is inspected, and half of that is found to be unsafe. Wild caught salmon is good for the heart and filled with omega 3’s. But, Atlantic salmon is farm raised, with the fish being fed a diet of soy beans and corn – these are filled with omega 6 which increases cholesterol. Mercury, released primarily from coal fired power plants, may be contributing to an increase in the number of cases of autism, since whatever an expectant Mom eats, the fetus absorbs as well. Young girls are achieving puberty 1 year earlier than 25 years ago. The average testosterone levels in US males is falling. The nutritional content of food has declined since 1950, with strawberries declining to less than 40%, sweet corn 75%, swiss chard 41%. Seeds are being produced to maximize shelf life and not nutrition.
Dr. Koster practices edible landscaping. Mulberry and fig trees adorn his yard. And he plants a vegetable garden using heirloom seeds because they are richer in nutrition. You may find heirloom seeds at Godley’s Garden Center and Christy’s Nursery.
Gardeners are the hope for the future. If you are interested in gardening, join us on June 25 at 7 pm when Tim Downing will give us an update on Kannapolis Middle Schools gardening projects.