My road to healing part 2: why would food matter?

– Guest Blog by Dr. Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC

Why would food matter?

I always ask my patients: would you put 85 octane in your high performance vehicle?

This is why microgreens are vital toour food system and to our health. They help us to clean out the sludge and waste created by us putting 85 into our bodies. THEN they help us to maintain our health in a world where pollution is in our air, water, ground.

SO – how did I know I was sick? All the symptoms I described in part one, are pretty common. I was still functioning well as a child and a teenager. I did ok in school. I was First Team All Conference for basketball and held the record for average number of steals per game. I rarely missed a 3-pointer. I helped my soccer team make it to state 3 times…… but it was the back pain. The back pain became too much.

In college, there would be days that I couldn’t get out of bed. The pain was so intense that Matt would have to help me up. Then I was literally hit by truck, and the pain improved. A few years later, the back pain returned. For 3-4 years I searched for why. I was put on Vit D, had MRIs, X-rays, more blood tests…… nothing. “You are fine. You need to stand up straight, that will help”. Convinced I had lyme disease or rheumatoid arthritis or Fibromyalgia, I found a physician in Denver that saved my life. She had a specialty in arthritic conditions: her diagnosis? Potentially fibromyalgia. And then she started talking about medication. And I said, “I’d rather deal with the back pain, joint pain, fatigue, depression, brain fog, stomach pain…”

“Well, if you are willing to not take medication, maybe you would be willing to change your diet”.

ummmmmm? What? – “Of course I would.”

“Dairy, wheat, corn, soy are the biggest food allergens that mimic musculoskeletal pain. Which one do you think it is?”

Dairy. It was dairy. Look up dairy allergies. My symptoms as a kid and teenager are well documented as a dairy allergy.

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Matt and I LOVED to stop for pizza and beers after skiing

I COMPLETELY gave up dairy.  Two weeks later AND no cheating, I had no pain. My fatigue, stiffness, tired legs, ringing in my ears, brittle nails, depression, etc all improved by 70% over the course of the next few years. I added this morning drink called RAW Organic Meal from Garden of Life to help get more nutrient dense food in my body.

A few years ago, I switched to a plant-based diet without wheat, corn, or soy. I added more fruit. I added microgreens. My food choices now are: what purpose does this food serve me? Is this food nutrient dense? And guess what? Nothing. I feel great. When I accidentally have something that has wheat or dairy my back starts to hurt, my ears ring,   my shoulder hurts. I’m tired. I feel stiff the next day. I’m not over reacting to the dairy. THIS WAS HOW I FELT 24-7.

Microgreens have helped me make up for all the nutritional deficiencies that were created by a diet high in dairy, wheat, corn, soy, all the other processed food, the standard American diet.

My road to healing part 3: how to feel better.

1 Year Anniversary!

It was 1 year ago today that we made our first trip to the farmers market as a vendor!  Today we are reflecting on the evolution of our farm over this first year of operation.

Those first few markets we only had sunflower shoots, pea shoots and radish micro greens that we grew, but we immediately started to build a fanbase.   We started with growing only 4 trays that we would bring to the market and harvest by order.  Our first week we made $40.00, which was just enough to buy our family food for the week.

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Over the next weeks we experimented with other varieties of micro greens.  Some were keepers and many were not.  We quickly found the varieties that work for us.  Thank goodness this went smoothly and fast, because life took off!  Our son Sage was born on September 5th.  We were able to keep the micro greens going through his birth and gave us some extra time to dial in our small scale operation while mom was home on maternity leave.

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By the end of the first market season in October, we were quickly adding restaurants and other clients that we reached out to with free samples.  As all of this was going on, we were just wrapping up construction on our geodesic dome greenhouse and planting the winter crop.

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That winter we successfully grew some broccoli, cauliflower, romanesco, kale, chard, spinach and lettuce.  It was a success!  Minimal heat and the dome flourished all season.

That spring we added some outdoor planter beds and used our micro green compost to fill those beds.  Our greenhouse was turned over to peppers and tomatoes for the market and the beds were planted with some veggies for our growing family.

Then, just before the start of the 2017 market we scaled our micro greens up to our current production.  We are now growing 80 trays a week and deliver to a few restaurants, health food stores and individuals in our area.   We are consistently sold out and will be looking to scale up again this winter.

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Just last week we started our trials on oyster mushrooms.  If we can get that figured out we will that to our farm roster this coming year!

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Its been a busy year for sure.  When I look back I am pretty surprised with all of the work that we completed this year.  I am really excited to see what this next year brings!

We could not do this without our outstanding community that has embraced our farm and our niche products!  We are taking this time to reflect not only on our farms success, but the people and families that have helped us get to here!

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Organic is the only way!

Our house is an organic only type of household.  We only purchase conventional fruit or veggies when there are no other options, which is very infrequent these days.  It’s very important to us that we don’t consume GMOs or Pesticides.  It’s also important to consume sustainably sourced products.   We think of this as the base of our attempt to have a healthy lifestyle.  All of these beliefs are also being put into practice on our growing market garden.

Today there are many books, ideas and styles of agriculture.  We fit into the small scale side of things for sure.  We utilize vertical growing in our micro green production to maximize our year round growing space.   Our micro green soil is from a local Colorado company, Paonia Soil Company.  We also compost all of our micro green waste, which goes directly back into the farm.   This composted potting soil is currently filling our raised beds that are being constructed this summer and fall.  Our seed source is always Non-GMO and it is organic whenever possible.  Due to the shear amount of seed that we require, we always use Non-GMO and search out to purchase Organic.

All of our outdoor and greenhouse gardening uses organic processes as well.   We are following a no-dig format and because were blessed with a host of free large dimensional lumber from a friend, we are constructing wood formed raised beds.   We are then filling the new constructed raised beds with a mix of compost and top soil.   We are using the compost that is coming out of our micro green operation that is supplemented with food scrap from our home kitchen.  We will then supplement with some additional finished compost from our local garden center to make the beds nice and rich.  Next season will be our first full season of our outdoor garden space so we are excited to watch as this area of our farm grow over the years!

Overall organic is the best when you’re purchasing food and other products.  The reality is there are a few areas that lends little to no options to stay the organic line.  When we are forced with choosing a conventional product we will check out the company, insure it is non-gmo, and weigh the nutritional value that is received from that particular item.  For instance, if we want to eat a papaya every once in a while, we have to go with conventional due to our remote Colorado location.  We choose to do this every once in a while when they are in season and we do it as a treat, very sparingly.   We never choose to purchase conventional veggies like carrots, onions, broccoli or cauliflower as they are almost always available in organic form, or will be restocked shortly.

So that’s our long and short about organic in our household, but more importantly how our farm operates.  Our outgoing produce is not certified but always grown organically!

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Food Allergies and our Family

For the last 7 years, food allergies have shaped our family and is truly the reason why we started Poncha Creek Gardens.   Our journey began when my wife discovered she had an intense allergy to dairy products through a difficult and long process of searching for answers.  She suffered from intense fatigue as well as muscle and joint pain that seemed totally random.   After she realized the trigger and we removed all dairy products she felt better than she had in years.   No more fatigue and inflammation was down significantly.  I also went dairy free and felt the same responses even though I never was conscious of the symptoms I was experiencing.   

Going dairy free wasn’t too hard.  We were still able to go out to dinner.  Even pizza!    Fast forward a few years and our first daughter, Aspen, turns 1 and starts eating solid food.   Immediately she had diarrhea, rashes and dramatic behavior issues like rage and violence.  Celiac Disease runs in my family, so we cut wheat out immediately for the whole family.   Aspen got 90% better and my response was equally dramatic.   No more rage and our little sweet girl was back.  Over a few weeks I felt all my inflammation disappear.   I had no fatigue.  My depression and bad mood had lifted.   It was a total game changer.   So without an actual diagnosis, we confirmed that Aspen and I have Celiac Disease or at a minimum a severe intolerance.   

Although Aspen was better, she still had eczema around her mouth.   We came across some research linking eczema with egg consumption.  So we peeled that layer back and got rid of eggs.    The rash was gone in days.  We never missed eggs too much and wondered if they also contributed to some of the celiac symptoms we were experiencing. 

After a year of fully dairy-free and gluten-free diets, we hit another plateau and realized there were more things slowing our path to fully healing.  We then gave up all alcohol, corn, soy, canola oil and natural flavors.  We now follow a whole food plant based diet and try to eat mostly food we grow or source from other local farms in the area.  

 The benefits of the fresh local plant based diet have been outstanding.   We crave only the food we cook and are hardly tempted by more convenient dining options.  Food has become a cornerstone for our family.  If we go out for any social event we either bring our own picnic or eat before we go.   It’s a huge change from our old eating habits of enjoying all the delicious restaurants and dessert spots, but honestly if I could go back, I would go back and make these changes a lot earlier.