This past weekend I attended Wise Traditions, the 2010 conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation, along with Melissa McEwen, Allison Bojarski, and a few others.  For those who don't know WAPF, it's a foundation based on the work of 1930s dentist Weston Price, who traveled the world documenting the health of indigenous and isolated people eating their traditional diets.  The pictures of healthy teeth are striking — with no toothbrushes, toothpaste, braces, or anything resembling modern dental care.  Current WAPF followers tend to still eat treated grains and raw dairy (contra paleo), but they use traditional techniques to detoxify (or partially detoxify) grains and nuts, like fermenting, sprouting, and soaking.  They are fierce advocates of sustainable farming techniques and uncovering the wisdom in traditional food preparation techniques.

A few casual observations:

  • Wow, there were a lot of women!

WAPF really draws a different crowd than paleo.  Way more female.  Also a touch older, and draws a religious contingent.  This gave me the opportunity to come up with some WAPF-specific pick-up lines, such as "So I hear you like lacto-fermented vegetables" (used successfully) and "You should see what I have fermenting back in my hotel room" (not used…yet).

  • WAPF has a love affair with butter

I've started to cook with butter and add it to some meals, but WAPF folks *really love their butter*.  And not just any butter, but butter from grass-fed cows.  Butter is a pretty good neolithic food, as neolithic foods go.  Much much better than all those processed vegetable oils.

  • Raw milk doesn't taste weird

I was raised on skim milk.  And I've had almost zero milk for about 4 years.  But I drank the raw milk at every meal this weekend.  Didn't taste weird to me at all.  It was rich, but not overwhelmingly so, and it didn't taste weird to me at all, as I think most people imagine it does.

  • WAPF is doing great political activism

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is doing great work defending small farms and raw dairies from prosecution and persecution by the FDA and USDA.  It's the factory farm system that creates filthy living conditions that promote bacterial infections (including feeding corn to cows, which changes the pH balance in their stomach, promoting the growth of e coli).  And most food borne illnesses are tied back to big industrial suppliers.  But small farms selling locally are being burdened with regulation designed for the big guys.

I'm sure I would have enjoyed it had my initial experience been later in the day.  Many people seemed to love it: "Beet kvass — it's always 9am somewhere."

  • Grains were out in force

The food was delicious, but too grain-heavy for my preferences.  Even sprouted, fermented, and all that.  And too many natural sweeteners for my tastes, like raw honey and maple syrup.

  • The Sunday brunch was magnificent

Lox from Vital Choice, pastured pork sausage, grass-fed lamb sausage, a number of amazing raw milk cheeses, pastured eggs, grass-fed butter, bacon, liverwurst, and more.

  • Joel Salatin is a total bad-ass

Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farm, and was one of the stars of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma.  He gave the keynote on Saturday night.  Superb.  If you ever get the chance to hear Salatin speak, take it.  I'll do a post specifically on Salatin.  But he is fighting the good fight for local farmers practicing sustainable permacultures.

The metaphor for atherosclerosis of a pipe filling up with crud is biologically inaccurate and misleading.  Intake of dietary cholesterol is not the problem.To grossly over-simplify, atherosclerosis is actually an adaptive response by the body to try to mitigate oxidative damage.  Here is his site on cholesterol and health.  

Stephan, true to form, was deliberate and scientific in his presentation of the evidence and his conclusions.  For example, not all hunter-gatherer diets were low carb.  Polynesia, Melanesia, and that whole area are great places to study health and diet because all the islands (and mountains on each island) create geographic boundaries that make it easier to study similar genetic populations eating different diets.


Okay, that's it for now.  I'll have some serious and collected thoughts soon.  It's well past my bedtime.

16 Responses to “Idiosyncratic observations from Wise Traditions, the 2010 Weston A. Price conference”

  1. I have to second the suggestion for seeing Joel Salatin speak. He spoke at Indiana University in January 2010. The lecture hall was so crowded, I sat on the floor pretty much right under his nose! He is indeed a total bad ass.

  2. it was very informative.. I found  the " heart is not a pump"  very interesting


  3.  John… thanks for the link back to my site! You are funny on the beet kvass comment. Yeah I can understand this as I usually don’t ‘imbibe’ of it too much… maybe only 4 ounces in the morning and 4 ounces in late afternoon.  One bottle of that stuff will knock your socks off!

    Also… to address the married women comment… I noticed that there was at least one event for singles at this conference, which was great to see. I think that younger people are finding WAPF now due to all of the online resources. But it will definitely take time.

    Kim Knoch

  4. Jennifer says:

    Sounds wonderful!  The Conference will be nearby (D/FW Texas) me next year so I am already starting to save up to go.

  5. Gazelle says:

    I’ll admit that the beet kvass before 9am might not have been wise. The surprise winner for my new favorite lacto-fermented beverage is actually sauerkraut juice. I bought a big jar from one of the Amish vendors and it’s SO DELICIOUS. Who knew? And who knows where I can get more?

  6. Levi says:

    I wish I could have been there. Its been a busy few weeks. I’ve seen Salatin speak in the documentary Food Inc. He’s very passionate, informed, articulate, and built like a traditional Southern corn-fed brick shithouse! I love that guy!

  7. WordVixen says:

    I’m so jealous of everyone that got to go- I only live 45 minutes away, but couldn’t afford the cost, not to mention the difficulty of travel to that area (I’m not a top notch driver, and finding public transportation to the conference center was a total no-go).

    • WordVixen says:

      Oh yes, on the subject of pastured butter- WoodStock Farms, Natural by Nature, and Kerrygold are all pastured. There is also a local company called Trickling Springs Creamery that has the best pastured butter anywhere (I like it better than Kerrygold). TSC and NbN are both VAT pasteurized, which is not as good as raw, but much better than the others. I saw on TSC’s FaceBook stream that their butter was at the WAPF conference, so I’m guessing that you’ve already had it. :-)   I’ve heard good things about Anchor pastured butter (from Australia), but have not tried that one yet.

      • Kat says:

        That butter was really, really good. I wish I could have bought some to bring home. 

        • WordVixen says:

          It’s incredible, isn’t it? I got my mom totally hooked on it- unfortunately, right before our farmer’s market stopped carrying it! (Amish market and they think they can’t move enough product to place another order for delivery). I’m now under orders to buy several pounds of it for her the next time we go to Chambersburg (we only go there for Trickling Springs products).  :-D I’ve got her using coconut oil and pastured butter, she’s allergic to legumes, and she listened to me seriously when I started talking about the problems with grains. I think she might go paleo before I do! (I’m more WAPF) Even my dad is drinking raw milk instead of the old skim junk he used to drink! :-)   Sorry… got a little off topic there.

  8. Zev Averbach says:

     Enjoyed your and Melissa’s tweets from the conference, John.  I’m a member of the Traditional Nutrition Guild and just had the best (raw) Swiss cheese I’ve ever tasted from one of their farmers a few weeks ago.  A great intermittent snack–or in my case, super-rich "meal."

  9.  Awesome- thanks for the review. I am hoping to get to a WAPF conference sooner than  later myself. I, too, tried raw milk a bunch last year after being off of dairy for quite sometime and really enjoyed it. Though it didn’t have the best metabolic effects on me (er… I got a bit puffy drinking it), I will continue to recommend it to those looking to gain mass in the gym as an ideal source of dairy vs any standard organic dairy. Funny… organic is becoming what I think of as "standard" or conventional and conventional is becoming what I think of as, well, not even really food anymore. Pastured, grass-fed, etc, is where it’s at.

    Re: grass-fed butter, I’ve been trying to get some online for a while but it had been sold out- have you tried making it from grass-fed cream yet? That’s still on my list. I’ve been getting some "pasture butter" at my local organic shop and they also sell Kerrygold which is imported from Ireland and supposedly higher in carotenoids, CLA, etc. so it seems like a good option but I don’t feel 100% about it. Eggs taste REALLY good cooked in butter. Yum.

    Keep rocking. Maybe we can grab a steak when I’m in NYC with Melissa (I met her at Robb’s seminar a few months back) and I’ll hit up some others– do you know Antonio Valladares?

    Diane @ Balanced Bites

  10. gilliebean says:

    Great post!

    "You should see what I have lacto-fermenting back in my hotel room!"  Classic!  

    There  were a lot of women, but weren’t most of them married?  Most of the women I’ve connected with in WAPF are married.  I will dream about that Sunday Brunch.  I hope it’s the same next year!!

  11. I’m glad to hear you’ve connected with the Weston Price information.  They have a lot of well-supported information that seems to make a lot of sense.  When we adopted  a food strategy in our home based on what they recommend, it seriously helped my son who has Crohn’s disease.

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