My wife and I have been farming together for nearly 10 years. If you grow food yourself, you know November is the time of year when you clean up the garden, mulch beds and plants, and get things ready for a long winter. If you’re serious about production, you also likely do what we did a couple of weeks ago: gather data. For farmers, understanding the composition and nutrients of your soil is essential. This data can make or break your season, as deficiency of a core nutrient can lead to diseased plants or crop failures.
This season at Sunnyside Up Farm, we changed the way we analyze our soil nutrients. Without getting too far into the weeds (no pun intended), a new test has been gaining traction that explores the relationship between positive and negative ions in the soil and how micro and macronutrients interact to create the best growing environment for your plants. 2015 was our first growing season utilizing this new approach, which included adding micronutrients like manganese, and the results were significant. Our CSA members were rewarded with our most productive harvest in the five years we’ve been growing on this land. Importantly, we would have never known we needed to intervene in this way without this new data collection approach.
While cutting down rotting tomatoes plants a couple weekends ago, it occurred to me that this soil test experience confirmed an age-old rule of scientific research: you get the answers to the questions you ask. It seems obvious, but it has big implications for all of our work, whether you’re growing food or working to create a health care system that meets everyone’s needs.
At CCMU, we are constantly working to ensure our state and local health care transformation efforts are asking the right questions to produce data that track our progress toward healthier communities. In the process, we’ve uncovered quality questions that help us understand the nuances of a patient’s ability to access health care and whether patients are engaged in their care. But there are a lot more questions we could be asking.
In a state that now covers over 90% of its residents, it is no longer enough to ask whether everyone is covered by health insurance. Instead we must ask, are all people covered by health insurance that they can afford and that covers their essential health care needs? Do all types of health insurance guarantee timely access to care from a sufficient network of providers? Do Coloradans understand how their insurance works and how to use it? More nuanced questions help us better understand and track our progress toward health insurance that works for everyone, and the same goes for other aspects of health systems change.
We’re all encouraged by recent trends toward increased coverage and access to care in Colorado, but we may be missing opportunities to accelerate those changes. As our health system evolves, our questions must, too. So, I’ll be asking a lot more questions in the coming year, and hopefully I’ll unearth some answers that benefit CCMU’s work—and my tomato plants.