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  • Jere Folgert

Why We Need Exposure To Germs. Dirt is Good.

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

Dirt. Who would have thought that dirt and soil have the potential to make us more resilient against anxiety and stress? Imagine all the wonderful ways kids can have fun in the mud. Parents can join in the fun with a family garden. Dirt is nature’s supply for dirty, healthy fun. Some parents are over-sterilizing their environment, keeping their kiddos from ever playing in dirt or garden soil. The Garden can be a 10-acre farm, or a small, container garden with 2 tomato plants, herbs, and a sprinkle of kale, it's all good. Choose what works best for you and your family.

Kids really love dirt. Our identical twin boys love watering, digging, and sifting through the soil. Eventually, I have to get the dirt out of their diapers. With a little instruction, they can weed without pulling out our precious hardneck garlic plants. I cannot tell you how amazing it is to spend time together, in the garden, in the dirt – priceless!

In addition to the soil and dirt, there are worms to study and play with, an occasional spider and ladybug too. Most of the exposures our kids have to dirt are beneficial, as it's going to stimulate their immune system. Their immune system's going to become stronger because of it. The benefits of a garden go way beyond the dirt and soil. Teaching our kids about where their food comes from is a powerful lesson. I believe kids appreciate food if they have a hand in growing it. By planting seeds, watering, and harvesting, our kiddos can observe the miracles nature has to offer. The colors of the rainbow can be grown in dirt; Red raspberries, magenta kale, yellow and orange carrots, purple potatoes, green peas, rich and deep violet beets. Growing food encourages the consumption of more colorful vegetables, more leafy vegetables, a diet rich in fiber as well as reducing sugar intake. Generally, we allow our kids to experience the world; They get stronger, and partake in beneficial exposures.

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Rowan, Harvesting Potatoes

At the GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana, there is so much dirt. Dirt on our hands, between our toes, under our fingernails, and in the blood on my leg. "Dirt - or rather soil - is good for us.” says Jere Folgert. “There is a kind of bacteria found in soil (mycobacterium vaccae) that stimulates areas of the brain which produce the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Harvesting a carrot or raw garlic, and eating trace amounts of soil, seems to help us cope with stress in our lives. Getting dirty by gardening has been shown to have a positive impact on mood and brain chemistry. Gardening has also been shown to reduce depression and improve mood.

Recent work in humans and mice highlights how exposure to environmental microbes helps protect against allergies and other inflammatory diseases. People living along the border between Finland and Russia are yielding valuable data that could shed light on people’s relationship with nature—particularly when it comes to the link between environmental exposure and immune health. During the Second World War, Finland ceded a large swath of territory to the Soviet Union. In the second half of the 20th century, the Finnish side became modernized, while people on the Soviet side maintained a traditional lifestyle. And by the 21st century, according to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Helsinki, the prevalence of allergies on Finland’s side of the border region known as Karelia was significantly higher than that of people living on the Russian side. The group suspected that the differences in allergy incidence between the two sides of the Finnish-Russian border might have something to do with exposure to environmental microbes. The late ecologist Ilkka Hanski of the University of Helsinki along with Helsinki University Central Hospital researchers Tari Haahtela and Leena von Hertzen had recently formalized the biodiversity hypothesis, arguing that the total biodiversity—and correspondingly, microbial diversity—of people’s living environments influences human health via changes to the composition of the microbiome. Read more here.

Gardening – whether you’re growing garlic, or pulling weeds, appears to be helpful in calming the nervous system. Even if you live in a big city, you can create a beautiful and productive garden. Plant seeds and tiny seedlings, water them, prune them, harvest them, and transplant them as needed. It will change your life. Dirt is your friend. If you pay attention, you will learn from the plants you grow and each of them will whisper to you: "Hey, do you want to learn more about me?" Before long, you will be an expert in growing kale, potatoes, garlic, and peas, and you'll share recipes with your friends and family.

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Rowan and Seneca with their Potato Harvest

Growing food is an inspiring and magical activity, and should be part of every child’s upbringing, regardless of where they live (in my humble opinion).  There are no excuses. If you’ve ever wondered whether gardening was worth your time and effort or worth the time and effort for you and your child, the answer is a bold yes. Through gardening, you can get back to your senses and live at 3 MPH. Pause in your occupation. You can build your fine garden on rooftops, balconies, community plots, urban settings, schools, tiny apartment and sub-urban neighbourhoods. If you live to the age of 90 and get started with gardening at the age of 35, you only get fifty-five chances to grow a garden. Only 55. That's it! Get started now!

Is it possible that dirt could make you happier and smarter too? If you need yet another good reason to convince yourself or your kids to go outside and get your hands in the dirt, read this:

"The health benefits of “dirt” include a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, better digestion, less heart disease, better stress management and a natural anti-depressant agent. The fabulous microbes in dirt and direct contact with soil has been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning”. - Dirt on Dirt

Science Daily reports that "exposure to specific bacteria in the environment, already believed to have antidepressant qualities, could increase learning behavior." The new research was presented at the 110th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in San Diego.

"Mycobacterium vaccae is a natural soil bacterium which people likely ingest or breathe in when they spend time in nature," says Dorothy Matthews of The Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, who conducted the research with her colleague Susan Jenks. Science Daily


Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

GroEat Garlic Farm

Fine Hardneck Garlic for Culinary and Seed

P.O. Box 6056

Bozeman, Mt 59771

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