By Jillian Risberg
He pioneered a new paradigm, farm-based Healthcare. Ethos Farm Project (EFP) is the brainchild of Dr. Ron Weiss — whose life purpose is his passion for food as the most powerful medicine and the environment.
“We believe there is a fundamental connection between all living things,” says Pragya Thakur, EFP’s executive director. “It starts deep within the earth and is cultivated in our soils, nurtured in our souls, harvested in our food and at Ethos it is held close to our hearts.”
She knows firsthand how transformative the program can be. Thakur says she is inspired to do whatever she can to spread the word on the key to optimal health.
After a visit to Ethos Primary Care in 2017 with the trifecta of hypertension, cholesterol, pre-diabetes and eczema that worsened while following a lacto-ovo-pescatarian diet — things took a radical detour.
“When I first saw Dr. Weiss, he asked me to give up eggs and fish for a week. I took the doctor’s advice and my eczema ceased to exist. I couldn’t believe that something like pills, ointments, oat milk baths couldn’t cure — vanished in a week after two years of making me suffer.”
According to the executive director, her other budding chronic conditions also vanished.
“I was no longer diabetic, hypertensive and my cholesterol numbers became enviable to my peers,” she says no other diet or lifestyle made sense after those results. “I was sold.”
And Thakur loved the bucolic backdrop, sinuous stream, old buildings, and the land; a national historic landmark.
“The leafy greens sold at the Doctor’s Farm Market were deliciously nutritious and the strawberries were like dessert; a taste only through regenerative, organic farming,” she says.
Most new patients at Ethos Primary Care go through a 30-Day Detox program.
“Ethos’ 30-day detox research study by Mark Liotta, MD; Rich Wolferz, MD; and our very own Keith Grega has been selected to be presented at the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) 2022 conference” Thakur says. “The theme ‘Redesigning Healthcare Better’ is aligned with Ethos values and we are excited for future patient success stories.”
Ethos is based on a whole (unprocessed or minimally processed 100% plant-based food) prepared without any salt, sugar or oil.
That’s because nature and health are inextricably intertwined.
While more people now accept what Hippocrates said 2,000 years ago, “Let food be thy medicine,” it gradually starts to sink in.
“We are so bound by cultural shackles when it comes to food, acceptance happens at a glacial pace,” says the executive director. “It would take a groundswell of transformation in thought and behavior before any meaningful change can happen.”
She says The White House Conference on Hunger and Poverty is a great first step. Several constituents have been asked to provide ideas and Ethos has done the same.
Weiss believes we need “all hands-on deck” to combat the healthcare and environmental crises we now face as a species to ensure a habitable planet for our children.
The doctor calls it important to prevent rather than manage chronic illness and sees this come to fruition every day with patients who embrace the lifestyle.
To regain control of their health after years of managing their condition with pills and without the discovery (by their doctor) of the underlying cause is an enlightened experience.
“To watch them thrive in his care is fulfilling,” Thakur says realization of this vision means the creation of a better world for our children. “A positive impact on the health of loved ones, prevent disease, reverse disease, increase health span by lowering blood pressure/cholesterol, improve sleep, regain energy and lose weight.”
Since 2018 the executive director has been on the Ethos diet and says it has kept her well. She feels younger, more athletic, with more stamina.
But more than the diet, she is aware of what a variety of lifestyle changes provides, including optimal level of sleep, movement (like food) nourishes our bodies, the importance of social connections, mindfulness-based stress reduction practice and keeping track of all she eats.
“The way I engage with the environment; all of it matters and can’t be taken for granted,” says Thakur of empowering oneself to be our own health advocate. “You have all the controls — not a conventional primary care physician, not the insurers, just you.”
And according to the executive director, readers can’t go wrong when they fill their plates with a variety of greens, vegetables, fruits, the less processed the better.
“Eating this way and easing out of being enamored of animal products is the key to health and wellness for them and the planet,” Thakur says.
She says the question people often ask plant-based eaters is, where do you get your protein?
“I will spare you the cliched answers: ‘Where do horses, gorillas, elephants, giraffes get their protein’ and ask you this instead, ‘Where do you get your fiber,” she says.
Thakur says when one converts to a plant-based diet and adopts the six pillars of health recommended by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and practiced by Weiss at Ethos Primary Care is an approach that targets causation, and aims for prevention and reversal rather than sustaining illness at manageable levels with the aid of a pill or two or three.
When it came to EFP and EPC — Weiss, a dual board-certified lifestyle medicine doc wanted to raise the standard of present-day healthcare.
“I am inspired by Dr. Weiss and every leader and thinker who is engaged in a healing climate, encouraging ethical eating and showing compassion,” says Thakur.
The treatment provided by Ethos Primary Care is not covered by insurance providers, according to the executive director.
“Accessibility is subjective and when I consider how minimally covered I am, even though I am fully insured, because of my high deductibles which go toward care that keeps me sick I weigh accessibility in a different light,” she says.
Weiss was inspired to create the Ethos Farm Project more than 30 years ago because of his commitment to those who want to obtain optimal health.
“Dr. Weiss has been helping people reverse and prevent disease (through mindful plant food-based eating) to live a more energized, fulfilled life,” Thakur says.
The executive director says Weiss embodies what it means to be a primary care doctor — he listens deeply and compassionately, aware one’s health is a direct result of how you eat, sleep, move, stress and connect with nature.
“He is the kind of doctor who will help you trade your prescriptions for plants,” she says of Weiss’ Ethos Farm Project, the nonprofit is a semifinalist in the Rockefeller Foundation 2050 Food System Vision Prize competition.
The mission of the EFP is to address the interconnected nature of how agriculture affects human health, planetary health and our relationship with animals. To achieve this, his 342-acre historic farm in Long Valley, from where he also operates Ethos Primary Care (EPC), produces nourishing food to feed the community, restore the land, while it empowers a new generation of farmers, doctors and nurses through hands-on educational programming.
A semi-finalist in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2050 Food Vision competition, the farm is devoted to their vision.
The executive director provides insight: a sizable percentage of our farmers are close to retirement age, physicians need to learn about nutrition, climate change is real, and major California and Florida food suppliers are subject to hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
“We need to grow locally, eat seasonally and reduce our carbon footprint if we want our future generations to prosper,” Thakur says.
Ethos Farm Project is housed at 177 West Mill Road, Long Valley.