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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. 

Posted 3/26/2015 9:15pm by Jeri Villarreal.

Today I realized that we are starting our fifth season farming! It really seems like yesterday I was just a young backyard farmer with a few chickens, 10 raised beds and a dream to continue to grow. That is just what happened! A year and a half later, I found a vacant lot in the city and saw a dream coming true. Today when I pulled up to the farm, I was beaming with pride and joy remembering those times and being able to see my dream become reality. From 10 raised beds to 50 raised beds and 4 fifty-foot berms and a hydroponic greenhouse. From backyard chickens to a 12x14 coop and a 3,500 square-foot chicken yard. We've truly come a long way.

The farm is now fenced and it's time to install what I think will be one of the most beneficial and important feature of the farm. The Edible Landscape. This will 1000 square feet of growing space in the front of our farm dedicated solely for the benefit of the community. Imagine naturally grown, beautiful fruits and vegetable available at the fingertips of any passerby that it interested in trying them. This is a way to reach out to the entire community and give back a bit. I hope encourages kids to try a new food and for people to want to learn more about growing their own food. I cannot wait to complete the installation. The first work day on this project is scheduled for Saturday, March 26th from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM. We would love to have you help out with this very exciting project! Sign Up and Join Us!

Posted 2/22/2015 1:17pm by Jeri Villarreal.

Winter has been long and cold and all we keep thinking is thinking is, "Just thaw enough to work the soil a bit". While that hasn't happened yet, we have our seeds in hand or on order, the farm plan is complete and the girls are ready to get situated in their new coop. 

Last season we focused on a lot of infrustructure and scaled back the CSA and decided to not go to market. This year, all of the remaining projects are scheduled to be completed before the CSA begins. We will fence in the remaining property. Install a bramble patch and increase the number of fruit trees. While we can't expect honey this year, we are installing our first hive. The hydroponic greenhouse is also scheduled to be completed by May. If you would like to volunteer to help out with any of these projects or with any of our weekly farm tasks Sign up here!

We are returning to Tower Grove Market this year and are so very excited! This will also allow us to open up another pickup location and interact with our friends and neighbors. If you are suffering from the winter blah's, think spring and secure your spot with our CSA! Join Now

Posted 10/9/2011 7:17am by Jeri Villarreal.

Once eggs are washed, the best way to keep them fresh is to seal them with food grade mineral oil (like we do) and store them at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Eggs can last 5 weeks or more past their date of lay. Whether farm fresh or store bought, there is a simple test that you can perform at home to determine whether your eggs are still fresh.

To conduct this test, you will just need a bowl of tap water that is 3/4 of the way full. You can use a deep soup bowl or a mixing bowl. Simply place the egg or eggs in question in the bowl, wait for them to become still and observe. A fresh egg will sink to the bottom and lay horizontally or near parallel to the bottom of the bowl. An old egg will stand up on end in the water, float vertically in the bowl, perpendicular with the bottom. A very bad egg will just completely float vertically on the surface. It is possible for an egg to be somewhere in the middle. If it's close to vertical, I would toss it.

I have included photos of our float test that we conduct on our personal stash of eggs. We carefully select the most uniform and unblemished eggs for our customers. We keep the rejects for ourselves. Here are a few of our fresh rejects in the test.

Notice how the fresh egg rests at the bottom of the bowl.

And now for our bad eggs.

These eggs are all bad…very bad. They just popped up from the bottom of the bowl and floated vertically on the surface of the water.

So, why do bad eggs float? The large end of the egg contains a small air cell. Because the shell of an egg is extremely porous, over time, more and more oxygen seeps into the shell causing that air cell to expand. The longer the time, the more that cell will expand. Since air is lighter than water, the end with the air cell will start to float up to the top the larger it gets.

The best part about getting into farming is all of the science behind it. I've learned so much and I know there is so much more to learn.

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