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It All Started With Food Allergies

Posted 5/22/2015 9:20am by Jeri Villarreal.

I was remembering today as I put on my 'Farmer' shirt (it literally says 'Farmer' across the chest), of why I started farming. I thought of my first brush with food allergies and though I was personally involved, I was unfortunately not the victim. At about 10 months of age, my daughter seemed to have an insatiable hunger. Me, a working mother, going to college full-time at nights and trying to pump breastmilk to keep up with growing demand started to realize my milk supply was decreasing as my stress level increased. My manager at the time recommended that I try supplementing with a bit of formula and keep pumping to try to keep up. So, I purchased some formula and poured 8 ounces in her bottle. I went to the daycare to feed her myself on my lunch break since it was right around the corner of my job. I held my daughter in my arms as I rocked her in the rocking chair feeding her the bottle of formula that I had warmed. To my surprise, she quickly finished the entire bottle and quickly fell asleep. Suddenly her eyes opened wide and she threw up almost everything. Disappointed I thought, "Well, so much for that!". Then she closed her eyes.

While I cleaned my daughters clothes, I realized, her eyes were still closed. She coughed a bit but never opened them. Right before my eyes, it seemed like she was changing. She didn't look like my baby all of the sudden. I tried to wake her, she wouldn't wake up. She was limp like a ragdoll. In a panic, I put her in her carseat and drove her to the hospital, screaming at her and patting her purple arm trying rouse her.  I ran into the ER with the formula and my daughter in my arms. I told them this is my baby but she no longer looks like my baby after drinking this formula. Her features where swollen and deformed. Her skin was mottled and splotchy with purple and red streaks and her veins were visible. When the doctor saw us, she came in for less than 15 seconds, exclaimed, "Oh my God" and ran out to get medication. I was completely a wreck. But it turned okay. It could have been a tragedy, I did so many things wrong. Driving her to the hospital? What was I thinking? I wasn't, at all.

My daughter was diagnosed with a severe allergy to dairy. Later after testing, that list increased to dairy, soy, eggs, peas, peanuts and tree nuts. If that was the end of that story, I may not be a farmer today, but that was only the beginning. When I got pregnant the second time, I was more closely monitoring my diet. I eliminated peanuts during the pregnancy. When he was 6 months old, I had him tested and he was not allergic to peanuts! However, he was diagnosed with a severe allergy to dairy, eggs, tree nuts and later, we found he had a frightening reaction to kiwi. His trip to the ER was as a result of trying a food that starts with 'K' at preschool that left him unable to swallow and hardly speak. 

After my mild "success" with eliminating peanuts from my diet, I started to research more about food. I learned about GMO's, about how chickens and cows are fed, treated and processed. I learned about antibiotics and hormones. I bought seeds and three baby chicks. It was a start. But I wasn't truly able to put it all together until after my third, severely allergic child was born. We were 3 for 3 and while there were some mild allergies in my family history and my husband's I felt there was something much bigger at work here. 

Fastforward 10 years since that frantic visit to the ER with an unconscious 10 month old, I'm a farmer! I've learned so much about food and immunology. I also developed my own severe allergies but I'm working through that with a change in diet. My children are healthy and living with their food allergies with serious understanding. They are very much aware of the danger and are always asking if items are "safe" for them, even my 5 year old risktaker. 

I know that today's factory farms and big business growers don't have my family's best interest at heart. I knew that if I grew my own food, I would do it with care; free of harmful chemicals, hormones and steroids. I started my farm because I felt that everyone deserved to have food that was safe and healthy for their family and if these large corporate farms refused to do it, I would. So, here I am growing for your family as if it were my own because everyone deserves good food. 

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