My road to healing part 3: how to feel better

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

How to feel better?

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Start small. Do what you can. Have compassion for yourself.

Identify one part of your food habit that you know you should change AND then change it.  For me: it was dairy. Giving up dairy helped me to realize that I was sick and that I could feel better.  Look up the requirements for how long you need to completely avoid that food to know if it is contributing.  Dairy is a complete avoidance for 2-4 weeks. If you mess up, you have to start over. AND you need to know where that food hides. The milk protein casein hides in many things.  Did you know there is such a thing as vegan wine? Or that some non dairy coffee creamers have dairy? Or they use dairy in sausage cassing?

For dairy, there are three main proteins: lactose (which everyone knows), casein, whey. Funny enough, lactose never made me feel sick. So don’t use that as your baseline.

People say to me: “BUT CHEESE? I love cheese!”.  My response? I didn’t love my back pain. I didn’t love my: fatigue, depression, stiffness, hip pain, knee pain, leg pain, asthma, ringing in my ears…… ALL things I didn’t know I could change. My life is so much better without those food choices. And if we continue to advocate for change in the food we eat, we will see more people get better. We will see more restaurants serving food that support healthy minds and bodies.

Ask your loved ones to support you. Staying away from dairy was easier at first because Matt kept it out of the house.

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Living without dairy is easy: there are plant milks, coconut oil, you can make cashews into different kinds of cheese/cream/spread, bananas make the perfect ice cream. All of these choices are cheeper too! Plus I don’t feel terrible anymore.

 

Living without wheat, corn, soy. Read labels. Make your own food. Buy some gluten free bread from Little Red Hen.  On a daily basis I make a choice to feel better. I would rather not eat for the day than have food that will make me sick. Because my body has what it needs to function, I don’t feel terribly hungry any more. I don’t have hangery moments, or hunger crashes, or times where I HAVE TO EAT!!!!!

Add in living, nutrient dense food. You have a lot to make up for. Bananas, blueberry smoothies, lemons, apples, cauliflower, broccoli, peas. Of course: Microgreens!!! Grow your own lettuce, veggies, lemons, herbs.  It’s easy to grow your food. Why take care of a small 4×4 grass space in your yard that serves no purpose? Make it a garden instead.

Support your local farmer.

Support your local restaurant that uses food from the local farmer and not just food from the food truck….. unless it’s The Valley Roots Food Hub.

Don’t let people get to you. We only have this one life. I want to live this life without: fatigue, pain, depression, ringing in my ears, ridges in my nails, sickness. I want to live this life with: energy and laughter.  And for the last few years, I have been doing just that.

Thank you to my wonderful husband Matt for his drive to bring nutrient dense food to his family, to his community, and to inspire other farmers/gardeners to do the same. It’s time to make a change.

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Building Our Farm with Compost!

We currently harvest anywhere from 50 to 80 trays of microgreens weekly. This leaves us with a lot of compostable goodies! Since we grow our Micros on a standard organic potting soil we have perfect starting materials. The crops are only grown for 10-15 days so they use up hardly any organic material. Additionally, we add organic material back in via the roots of the microgreens. This root material composts very quickly and we are left with slightly better potting soil!

From here we will take the compost and transfer it into raised planter beds that we are installing around our property. Composting is helping our operation grow organically, without large investments in our outdoor garden.

This system is working for us, but we are new to composting. I reached out to Julie, our friend and Owner of Elements Mountain Compost for a few pointers that can help get you some proper black gold. Here are three pointers to keep in mind, especially in a climate like ours here in Salida, Colorado:

  • Incorporate lots of brown materials (leaves, woodchips, dead grass, etc.)
  • Lots of surface area – smaller items will break down faster and mixing/aerating will allow bacteria to enhance decomposition.
  • Lots of moisture – compost tends to dry out in our arid climate and decomposing will stall out without sufficient water.

Over the coming years we will be changing and evolving our composting setup to meet our farm needs. Right now it’s pretty simple and meets our expansion goals. In the future, we plan on diving into worm bins for our kitchen scraps and a more elaborate composting system that will recycle the compost back into the microgreen production.

It is really satisfying to make great soil and every home should start this practice! Start slow and use yard clippings and kitchen scraps. Your houseplants and garden will thank you!

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.

How we got here – Our 1st Post

Greetings!  My name is Matt Croghan and I am the owner/operator of a new market garden farm in Poncha Springs, just outside of Salida, CO.  My wife and I moved here 3 years ago with our first born daughter only a few months old.  While on maternity leave at her job, Ann decided to take a new job in Salida so we could raise our children in a small Colorado rural community.   After all we love to ski, hike, bike and camp, and spent nearly every weekend in the mountains as an escape from our hectic jobs in the front range.

So here we are in Salida.  I am now a stay at home dad to an amazing little baby girl.  We are renting for the first time in years.  I have been renovating our homes that we live in for years and operate a small renovation contracting business so we were extereemly eager to get a new place and get started on the next flip.  Little did we know that we were waiting for our dream property to come along.  After months of waiting loan approval and working on our patience, we were finally able to start our house search.  The first house we walked into was a log home on 1.5 acres with a creek and a pond on the property overlooking the collegiate peaks!  It was perfect!  Our offer was accepted and after a crazy closing we moved in!

We got to work immediately and started on the house renovation.  We also started a 4 season dome greenhouse so we could feed our own family.   About halfway though the construction of the dome, I was inspired by Curtis Stone, The Urban Farmer, to take it a step further and start a small market garden.   While 8 months pregnant with our second child, we went to our first farmers market in 2016.  With that I was no longer in the construction industry and I was a farmer.

Fast forward to today and I am a stay at home dad to a 3 year old girl and a 9 month old boy.  We are going into our first full farmers market season and are developing our farm every moment we get.  We have a successful microgreen operation that has started a year round cash flow and got us in the door with some amazing restaurants and grocery stores in our area.  Life is moving at the speed of light!  It hasn’t been easy getting here, but I am starting to see that many paths in my life have been leading to this very spot.