Farm Effect




and pollen …

Are you squirming?

Scratching? Sneezing?

Reaching for the nearest bottle of antibacterial something or other?

Take a big breath (airborne microbes and all),

and nibble on this recent tidbit of news:

A new study has determined that the Amish of northern Indiana, whose day-to-day lives are ensconced in farming, have some of the lowest rates of allergies and asthma in the westernized world.


Photo by Gadjoboy via Wikimedia Commons


Researchers are calling it the “farm effect,” a phenomenon that is unlikely to shock born-and-raised farmgirls who have known for eons that farming builds hearty constitutions.

Yet another old wives’ tale turns up true? Hmmmmm.

“This [study] would suggest that if you have early life exposure [to allergens], then somehow it drives the immune system away from developing allergies,” says lead author and Indiana allergist Dr. Mark Holbreich. “Large animals are part of it, and the straw bedding animals sleep on … and what [the Amish children] eat, and the fact that their mothers are in the barn when they are pregnant.”


Farmgirl fortitude isn’t just learned, it’s earned.


Photo by Ilamont via Wikimedia Commons

Another important observation in the study was the benefit the Amish appear to gain from drinking milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized or homogenized, although it’s unclear whether that alone is the key to stronger immunity. This I do know: I had a milk cow when my daughter was born, and she didn’t get her first cold—a mild case of the sniffles—until she was 6 years old, and she never got an ear infection, ever. She’s 34 years old now, and to this day, has never had a tooth cavity. Our farm water back then wasn’t flouridated or chlorinated, and nothing was bromated or fumigated. Once I moved to town with my second child (treated city tap water), he did get a couple of nasty ear infections and has had some cavities over the years. I’m just saying.

Holbreich, lead author of the study and Indiana allergist, stresses that he’s not suggesting we all become Amish to relieve our allergy symptoms, but, hey—with allergy rates increasing in the United States, it sure couldn’t hurt to find our way back to the non-GMO, hands-on lifestyle, even if that means some containers of dirt on your balcony that you get your hands into every spring.


Photo by Collectie Willem van de Poll, via Nationaal Archief

If you’re moved to dig in a little deeper, I hope to inspire you to dabble in your own backyard dairy.

I’m busy working on just the manual you need to get started. Look for Milk Cow Kitchen, my DIY dairy and kitchen guide, to hit book shelves sometime next year.


  1. Laurie Dimino says:

    Looking forward to reading your next book!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I can’t wait for your next book!! I love them all and re-read the ones I have over and over. I wish the allergy thing was easier to define and successfully treat. Ad why is it that we suddenly develop allergies late in life? What is up with that? One thing I have read about the Amish is that their large consumption of sugar has led to high rates of obesity and related diseases. I find it odd that they would not figure out that so much sugar was unhealthy given the other more natural aspects of their lives?

    • MaryJane says:

      As we age, it’s even more important to “change your oil and oil filter” regularly. A good liver cleanse and then colon and parasite cleanses are the fountain of youth! Once you see all the stones that come out of your liver, you’ll know why your body wasn’t working quite right has kits that we use and like. And yes, sugar in moderation, strict moderation!

  3. Brandy Ward says:

    AMEN!! But of course us “Farmgirls” knew this all along:)

  4. Amy says:

    Good stuff. I looked at the liver cleanse link you posted, Mary Jane. What exactly are the symptoms that would indicate that the liver and gallbladder aren’t working properly?

  5. Mary Jo Koca says:

    AMEN! I have been preaching this all my life and my kids were raised in “dirt” even though I’m a city girl. We always had some kind of vegetable garden even if it was planted in my flowers. I now have two daughters with children of their own. My one daughter’s children are outside all the time, they have their own garden and in the summer we have to check them for ticks. My other daughter’s children are the complete opposite and not only have allergies but skin issues from anti-bacterial products. They are also not as physically fit and their diet needs some improvement.

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