“We’re eating food, you want some food?”
This was my first interaction with Andre Miller (Instagram handle @rootsfitness_portland) as he opened his door. It was early spring so the food hadn’t come from his ground yet, but as I looked around you could somehow already see his place bursting with life. Two friends were rolling around on his carpet between bites. No couch in his living room. Just space and possibility.
As he gave me a tour of his place, I was taken aback by the deliberateness of it all. What gets planted where, in what way, at what time… it was a symbiotic symphony. The work had such purpose, both during and projected. It was hard not to walk along the grounds with this man, mostly doing it all alone, and envision the playful wonderland that his passion and energy would bring to fruition.
A slackline also ran from this great climbing tree, to accompany the aerial silks.
The questions came easy:
When did you first imagine farm-fitness? (Would you call it that? How would you describe what you’re building?) Did it come in pieces or as one vision you’ve been consistently working towards?
It came in pieces, a natural process that was the result of a relentless pursuit to genuinely help people. I shifted gears 10 years ago in 2007. I was 3 years into a bio major for pt school, I decided I didn’t want to be a part of the medical community and wanted to help people right then. I changed my major to kinesiology, started personal training. Along the way I also got a degree in philosophy and my masters in physiology. I tried almost everything I could in personal training from becoming a crossfit instructor to running ultra marathons. I dove headfirst into anything that might offer a new perspective, studying with nutritionists, Rolfers, mycologists,gymnastics, yogi’s and obstacle course racers. I eventually ended up realizing my teachings needed to account for everything, I needed to learn to be a good human. At this point I feel like I could call it many things, I like the term biodynamic movement or agricultural wellness but farm fitness, human arts, life force perpetuation or whatever you want to call it works.
Is part of your goal to be fully self-sustaining? (i.e. grow your own food, make your own equipment/ obstacles, breed and manage your own animals) Does your work embody the idea that we can find everything we need within ourselves?
I do not have a vision to be self sustaining. I have a vision to grow a deeper connection with all things around me in a responsible manner. I would like that interaction to be a positive one so I grow food, train hard and do my best to live impeccably. The answer is most certainly outside of ourselves. We are witnesses, therefore our gift is to perceive what is around us. Inside myself I find nothing but old brains.
What would a finished and satisfying vision for your place look like?
I would like to see a one stop shop where the nutritional, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of humans can be met. If I can provide that with various plants, fungi, proper movement instruction within the appropriate setting I have met the minimum. What I’m really after is to create a shift in the way we perceive our world, to show that we are a part of it, and that we have the option to participate.
How many people do you see the farm serving? (in any capacity — feeding, moving, teaching/coaching)
As I did with Roots Fitness San Antonio I have no preconceptions about size, client base or things of that nature. My focus is on organic growth based on the right action. I don’t believe in excessive marketing or self promotion, I would rather things spread by word of mouth and taking things one step at a time. I have found this to be the best auto check to ensure growth without sacrificing quality.
What is your physical/ athletic background, and how has your mindset changed along your journey?
In highschool I was on the soccer, football, cross country and basketball teams. I had a lot of other interests too, I was an Eagle Scout, took a lot of art classes, was on swim team, played violin and chelo, I also loved biking and skate parks. Once I got into personal training the worlds or strength training, parkour, calisthenics, obstacle course racing and ultra running really enticed me. Simultaneously, meditative movement practices developed by martial arts, yogis and other individuals such as Moshe Feldenkrais and Ida Rolf opened a door to some new developments. Tying all of this together into a cohesive philosophy that included agricultural and nutritional practices is where things really took off. I took a lot of principles form permaculture, biodynamic agriculture, mycology and environmentalism, then tried to find the common denominators we can share as humans.
Any major injuries/ setbacks (either physical or mental) that you’ve had to overcome on your path to getting where you are?
Everyday! Fear is the only worthy opponent and we have had a very close relationship. I have broken my hand, finger, wrist, collarbone and have numerous sprains and strains along the way, it’s all part of being human. Things break, the point is not to break things, the point is to understand how to heal. A severe herniation of my L4 and L5 while olympic lifting left me unable to walk. At the time I was 205 and could was dead lifting in the 400’s. What a blow to my ego! It was just what I needed to shift focus form myself to those around me and from building to healing. I later became much stronger and much lighter along without surgery.
Are there any defining turning points that you thought were world shattering at the time, but ended up being perfectly positioning to get you to where you wanted to be?
The back injury was a huge one, leaving the gym in San Antonio was another, I still have them everyday. I have trained myself to see opportunities rather than crisis. It becomes like a virus, I catch a bad case of the “get too’s” and I loose all my “have too’s.”
Describe your perfect day.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of who I have chosen to be in light of my particular circumstances.
What do you believe the future holds for you, and how do you hope to impact the world?
I know that I am waiting, I know what I am waiting for and I wait for it in a particular kind of way, I hope to show the world what that looks like. I hope to help others to make the change in themselves for the better, better for themselves and those around them, better for the planet and better for its people.
He was such a good guy with such honorable intentions. I drove away feeling warm and incredibly happy such a person exists. I fully believed in his dream, and saw the pieces in progress. It wasn’t until my second visit that I realized how smart he was.
As we began to talk training, the breadth of his experience and knowledge gave me another jolt of awe and admiration. Studying so many different disciplines, he had retained that sweet potpourri of threading truths that stood alone as universal principles. A framed picture on the wall depicted his perspective on progressive development:
Read bottom to top with options based on need in the rows.
He completely changed the way I thought about locomotion. The happy hippie digging in his yard had more than a touch of genius in him.
Fluid cells settle into a new position on the exhale, and the spine/torso figures out how to make it move.
Aside from preparing the ground and planting, he built all his own tools. He made atlas balls out of fertilizer so should they split when they hit, they could revitalize the soil. It takes a special mind to make otherwise discarded things useful and important. The foresight to plan for contribution in the broken is destined to serve a great need.
#biodynamicatlasstone on this fine fruit day! I hoist them high into the air and take a gander in honor of all fruiting plants! These atlas stones are made of compost, volcanic mineral, clay and worm castings. They fertilize the soil as they break down much in the same way as the muscle tissue that is broken down by training with them fertilizes the wisdom of the body to move in more efficient patterns. #biodynamicmovment #healtheenvironmentinsideandout #roots fitness
Reaping in the harvest brought its own demands of task-driven movement:
Before we left that day, he brought us scissors and ziplock bags and reminded us to “take some greens”. I felt a little guilty packing up the bounty that I didn’t help produce. He must have somehow sensed it, because as we squatted and clipped, he explained how we were stimulating new growth by thinning the overcrowded. It seemed like the perfect metaphor for a coming shift in fitness.
We all want something to do that we enjoy. The land, an action, an idea all keep us moving in a labor of love. There is a sublime satisfaction in still having work to do. To keep cultivating is the noblest of human ambitions. It inspires. It affirms that as crazy as it may sound and seem, our thing might be just the thing that’s needed.