The date of April 22nd has great significance.

On that day in 1914, Babe Ruth made his professional baseball debut as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.

Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke walked and rode on the surface of the moon for 7 hours, 23 minutes on April 22, 1972. 

The only man charged in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison on this day in 2005.

And on April 22, 2016 I discovered – and embraced – the notion that I am a food heretic.

 That day, Joel Salatin blasted the USDA and FDA, Monsanto, the makers of Hot Pockets, and even large-scale organic farms in his conference keynote talk. He accused them of establishing orthodox food and farm policies for political favor and profit at the expense of our nation’s health. Citing example after example of orthodoxies that must be eradicated, Joel implored us to stay the course and fight for change through our work.

 We get this, of course; Joel was preaching to the choir. But labeling us heretics was new. Yet it’s remarkable just how appropriate that term is to describe those of us who follow the principles of holistic nutrition. 

 A heretic is one who differs in opinion from an accepted belief or doctrine. Although this word typically applies to religion, it also applies to us; we who battle conventional doctrine when it comes to health promotion. 

 For me, whole foods nutrition IS my religion! But it wasn’t always this way; I was a foodie first. Given my background, it’s no wonder why.

 My mom was born to Italian immigrants. Each Sunday she would camp out in our kitchen, kneading and forming pasta into a variety of shapes while listening to Pavarotti on the “hi-fi.” My job was to fork-close the edges of her mouth-watering spinach, chicken, and pecorino-stuffed ravioli. 

 My dad’s parents were Austrian Jews who opened their fresh produce market not long after they came to America. After WW II, my dad converted the market into a large restaurant. He was well-known in our hometown for his handcrafted pies and for his finesse at flipping his eggs high in the air, joking with diners while serving breakfast to them at the short-order counter. 

His homemade sign in the restaurant window, “Giant hamburgers… made with real giants!” makes me smile to this day.

I had a restaurant, too, ages ago in Boulder, Colorado. Experimenting with food has always taken center stage for me. 

But my views of food shifted as I journeyed through life. I watched people get sick and die from following the one-size-fits-all government guidelines neatly organized into colorful pyramids and plates. I discovered that what was being dished out, so to speak, by those considered to be nutrition experts was way off-target.

 As I dug deeper, I learned how food’s life force nourishes and heals… beyond filling one’s belly. It was an alternative way of thinking about food; and this way was unorthodox, individualized, and unquestionably heretical. 

 Some of the best-known heretics in history – Galileo, Joan of Arc, Newton, Darwin and many, many others – were prophets who were simply ahead of their time. They battled the standards of their day, often risking banishment, imprisonment, and death. Today we consider them to be some of the world’s greatest contributors to humanity. We admire them – and are deeply grateful – for their determination to persevere against what most would consider to be  insurmountable odds.

 The early leaders in the holistic health industry faced tremendous ridicule and resistance, too. They suffered the slings and arrows and paved the way for you to do your work today. 

But the battle is not yet over. The naysayers and detractors remain an ever-present reminder of our ongoing challenges, whether it’s protecting our right to practice or defending our position to those who believe in and promote the conventional approach to health. 

 This year’s NANP conference supports our role on this planet as trail blazers. Even our T-Shirt proclaims its wearer as a “Food heretic: Building the real food revolution.” I can’t wait to order mine; to wear it in public and have an opportunity to educate onlookers who ask me, “What in the world is a food heretic?” 

 Joel believes that in the future people will look back to this time in history and laugh at the foolishness of today’s existing conventions regarding food and its relationship to health, starting at the farm and ending on the table. I am hopeful that, with your help, it will happen during my lifetime.

 As holistic nutrition professionals, we are leading the real food movement; prophets in the making.

 If that’s considered heresy, I’m all in.