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Live on a Farm, Eat All the Oreos You Want


Gregory J. Rummo

What do last year’s drought, farming, Oreo cookies and the latest numbers on obesity reported by a study in the journal “Health Affairs” have in common?

They all prove how much healthier as a nation we were when we grew our own food instead of sitting at desks from 9-5 becoming fat slobs in the process.

The May 15 edition of the Wall Street Journal reported the results of the “Health Affairs” study. “Obesity and related illnesses cost as much as $78.5 billion in U.S. medical bills in 1998, or 9.1 percent of total health spending.”

That’s so depressing it makes me want to saunter off to the kitchen and make myself a cold chicken, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich followed by a sleeve of Oreo cookies (Double Stuff, of course) chased with a large glass of cold whole milk.

What could be even more depressing is that I might be forced to give up eating Oreos altogether if the California lawyer suing Kraft Foods for making the dangerous dark-brown, crème filled delights gets his way in court.

He has now voluntarily dropped his lawsuit, saying the only reason he did it was to create an awareness of the dangers of trans-fatty acids in foods.

Initially, Mr. Joseph had claimed the hydrogenated oil used in the baking of Oreos was unhealthy. CNN reported Joseph said, “I am probably full of hydrogenated fat because until two years ago I didn't know about it. I resent the fact that I have been eating that stuff all my life.”

Some may think Mr. Joseph is full of something else, which creates a natural segue to the topic of life on the farm and last year’s drought in the north east.

If you were a good, law-abiding citizen like I was, instead of watering your lawn, you obeyed the restrictions and watched helplessly as the grass slowly turned from green to yellow to brown until finally disappearing altogether in a cloud of dry dust.

When spring finally arrived this year—many of us are still waiting for its arrival here in northern NJ—you realized your lawn wasn’t going to recover because the roots had died in the ground.

At least this is what happened at our homestead.

You can’t simply re-grow a lawn by throwing a bag of seed on the hard ground. Only weeds seem to find a way to propagate that way. They even manage to germinate in the cracks on our macadam driveway.

If you want to do it right, you have to take a metal rake and engage in some real hard work—like I did on a miserable, drizzly day earlier this month.

I spent several hours clawing at the thatch from what grass managed to survive the ravages of last year’s hot, dry summer. But almost half of our spacious front yard had simply been transformed into hard-packed ground approaching the composition of metamorphic rock.

That translated into several additional hours of back-breaking, blister making, muscle-aching, sweat-drenching labor to break up the dirt and then to work in almost a ton of topsoil before re-seeding and applying starter fertilizer.

About an hour into this project, I stopped to catch my breath. As I inspected several blisters on my sissified hands while feeling sorry for myself and guzzling a flagon of water all at the same time I suddenly realized my heart rate was almost 140, about where it hovers during my daily, 48-minute workout on the elliptical machine in the gym.

And then like an epiphany it dawned on me.

No wonder a century ago nobody worried about eating things like butter and eggs and heavy cream and Oreo cookies. When America was largely an agrarian society, the normal activities of the day were enough to keep most of us in decent aerobic condition. “Health Affairs” would have been reporting on the health-associated costs to the U.S. economy of things like stepping on a rake or infections caused as a result of blisters.

And with more farmers, I’ll bet we had a lot less lawyers, too.

Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Visit his website at

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