By Marcia Krahn
Farm girls and friends Joyce Kaping and Colleen Anderson weren’t sure where God would take them when they decided to mentor people in healthy living. They didn’t want to limit the Lord to what they could imagine, so they founded Farm Girl Fresh, a company to encompass whatever venture God had for them.
The name fits. Not only were they both raised on farms, but they also married farmers. And the Lord has taken them on a journey to healthy living by taking them back to their roots, to “grow, preserve, and prepare” food the way their grandmothers did “from the garden to the table.”
Although Colleen and Joyce had known of each other for more than thirty years, they did not become close friends until ten years ago, when they both began working at their local church. Conversations opened up as they noticed they were eating the same type of lunches. They soon discovered that both of their families had faced some similar health problems: allergies, chronic sinusitis, diverticulitis, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, and headaches. They had read many of the same books and watched the same documentaries, all of which resulted in making the same lifestyle changes.
“I noticed when I eat a healthy diet, I have energy,” Joyce says. “I don’t have these afternoon slumps, don’t have joint pain or the digestive problems.”
Colleen experienced the same changes.
“Why would anyone want to go back to feeling tired and having no energy?” she asks. “The processed foods no longer appealed to us.”
About this time, their children who were getting married and leaving home kept asking questions about cooking and recipes. When Joyce and Colleen saw the distinct difference eating unprocessed food was making in their own families, and how eager their children were to learn, they wondered if there were others in their community they could teach and walk alongside.
The two women sensed a growing direction from the Lord to share what they were learning. But how?
They decided to see where they could meet needs.
Out of their entrepreneurial backgrounds as farmers and business owners, they had an idea. To discover what needs to address, they wrote a two-page survey and met individually with several people of different ages and genders from their community. Asking questions like “What is on your weekly shopping list?” and “What is your dream grocery store?”, they developed a better understanding of the need.
Based on the results of the survey, they decided to mentor a group of young mothers in growing, preserving, and preparing fresh food. They chose an advisory panel from a cross-section of the young women who had taken the survey and were willing to help them get started. When they were ready for the pilot test group, each woman was asked to invite one friend to come.
The Back to Basics class, as it was called, met every other week at Colleen’s house. For the first fifteen minutes, the moms made a simple snack with their children. After that, daycare providers took the children upstairs to hear a Bible story and a lesson and to have playtime.
The moms stayed downstairs to learn things like canning produce, making yogurt, planting herbs, and cutting up a whole chicken. When the project for that day was completed, the moms had snacks, then spent the final forty minutes in the living room doing a devotional study.
After several months, the moms all said they had loved the class and wanted more. That’s when the idea for the book came about.
“Slow progress is better than no progress. Don’t be discouraged if you try a healthy meal and it doesn’t turn out.”
Joyce and Colleen thought about all the folders, flyers, and booklets they gave out to the moms and the way they kept bringing them back week after week. “We prayed and we prayed, asking God what was next,” Colleen says, “and something kept bringing us back to all those flyers and folders.”
What if all that information were located in one handy place? They searched bookstores and the internet to see what the market already offered, but a book that included all the aspects they taught did not exist.
So they decided to write one.
“We are both big dreamers,” Joyce says.
Maybe the Lord wanted more for them than writing one book. To “set it right from the start,” Colleen and Joyce formed Farm Girl Fresh. Their book, Eating Pure in a Processed Foods World™, became their first official project.
For Joyce and Colleen to pursue writing a book, it couldn’t be just a cookbook. It had to be an educational tool anyone could use.
They began by gathering all the information they’d given to the young women. During the next stage, they asked family members to test if the recipes had easy to understand directions and were simple to assemble. Colleen and Joyce chose to arrange the selections alphabetically for a well-defined layout.
The end result is a high quality, practical book, lovely enough to set out on a coffee table. Eating Pure in a Processed Foods World features more than 300 recipes using fresh, whole foods. Included are topics such as discovering which foods are GMOs, what plants to avoid growing near watermelon, and why unflavored gelatin is beneficial. It is the educational tool Colleen and Joyce hoped it would be. Readers learn how to remove garlic odor from hands or breath, where to hang a jug of molasses insect control on apple trees, or how to make a pumpkin chai tea latte topped with dairy or dairy-free whipped cream.
Since writing Eating Pure in a Processed Foods World™, Joyce and Colleen have had opportunities to speak to several organizations and do presentations and workshops. Colleen has joy in seeing people use the book, have successful results, and experience better health. One person told of planting an entire garden around their advice and having it “turn out wonderfully.”
“We marvel at how God works,” Joyce says. “We have story after story. That’s how we know we are supposed to be doing what we are doing, because God is constantly going before us. His timing is perfect.”
In addition to their book, Colleen and Joyce “mentor you from the garden to the table” through their Farm Girl Fresh website that features new tips and additional delicious recipes, along with inspirational thoughts and Scripture. Their book and website make it obvious that these women are serious not only about helping people “rid your diet of harmful, processed foods,” but also about mentoring the coming generations to “live an abundant life; growing together in truth through faith, family, food, and friendship.”
When someone asks Joyce and Colleen where to begin in eating “better foods for a better you,” they say, “Read the labels.” The first step is to “know what is in what you eat,” by recognizing what are additives put in food and what is natural food. They recommend substituting one product at a time for a lasting lifestyle change.
Another favorite piece of advice is to plan meals around pure, fresh fruit and vegetables, which contain an abundance of essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Because Colleen and Joyce understand the difficulty in getting adequate amounts of these nutrients in their diet, they first choose their fruits and vegetables, then consider what protein complements them and add the rest.
For example, Joyce may plan her meal by first selecting a head of cauliflower. She decides if she’s going to use it in an egg bake as the main dish, toss it in a salad, roast it as a side dish accompanied by a protein, make it into a soup, or feature it in a veggie tray appetizer. Once she’s made that decision, she plans the rest of her meal.
Colleen and Joyce emphasize that “eating pure in a processed foods world” is a lifestyle, not a fad diet. “Slow progress is better than no progress,” they say to cheer on others. “Don’t be discouraged if you try a healthy meal and it doesn’t turn out, or feel defeated if you don’t make your own ketchup or grow your own herbs. Buy the natural ketchup and herbs and enjoy using them.”
That same gracious attitude applies to all their recommendations. Gardening is a “gratifying adventure” for them, but they know a garden plot is not possible for everyone. They suggest buying from a farmer’s market, purchasing a share in Community Supported Agriculture, or buying at the grocery store based on the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen.” But one thing they do insist on is that “Grandma was right. Fresh is best.”
Joyce Kaping and Colleen Anderson are passionate about the work God has given them in mentoring others to better health through Farm Girl Fresh and their book Eating Pure in a Processed Foods World™. They are certain the Lord is leading them in each venture. As Joyce says, “In the end, you recognize it’s all God’s timing, and His timing is perfect.”