Farm Horizons, Dec. 2015

Farm Girl Fresh in Litchfield offers a fresh take on food

By Starrla Cray

Instead of filling up on preservative-laden treats with hard-to-pronounce ingredients, Litchfield authors Joyce Kaping and Colleen Anderson have a healthier approach to food.

“We just try to eat as pure as possible,” Kaping said.

The two women recently published a resource book called “Eating Pure in a Processed Foods World,” brimming with gardening tips, step-by-step instructions for canning, freezing, and dehydrating; and more than 300 healthy recipes. The colorful, spiral-bound hardcover book is available at Dan & Becky’s Market in Cokato, at The Health Nut Pantry in Glencoe, and online at www.farmgirlfresh.com.

“In each section, there are little tidbits with fun facts and nutrition information,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Kaping haven’t eaten healthy their whole lives. In fact, the effects from processed foods are the reason Farm Girl Fresh exists.

“Both of use have had family health concerns – food sensitivities, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, infertility, fatigue, headaches, chronic sinusitis, you name it,” the women state on their website.

They became close friends about eight years ago, when both worked at Cornerstone Church in Litchfield. Both are married to farmers, and both have three children – two daughters and one son. They also have the same taste in food, and began swapping recipes.

Kaping’s kids, who are grown up and have kids of their own, were asking for recipes, too.

Realizing the need for a mentoring program for moms, Kaping and Anderson created “Back to the Basics” in 2013. The classes gave women a chance to learn about preparing a garden, growing fresh produce, and a variety of cooking techniques. During the last part of the class, participants enjoyed the snacks they prepared and had a Bible study together.

Creating a healthy eating resource manual

“To make our classes easier, we thought we’d do a quick little manual,” Kaping said.

The project blossomed into something much more, however, and two years later, Kaping and Anderson released “Eating Pure in a Processed Foods World.”

The recipes in the book often swap traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives, such as a pumpkin pie custard with maple syrup instead of sugar.

“We took our old family favorites and tried to recreate them,” Kaping said.

Some recipes are featured on the Farm Girl Fresh website – dishes ranging from creamy butternut stuffed potatoes to homemade ketchup.

“We post new information all the time,” Anderson said, explaining that they aim to give people continual education. “The book and the website go hand-in-hand.”

“One of the first things we encourage people to do is start to read labels,” Kaping added. “You’d be surprised by all the artificial ingredients and preservatives that are in the foods we eat.”

Pursuing a pure-eating lifestyle is often a gradual process.

“It’s a marathon; it’s not a sprint,” Kaping explained. “We encourage people to gradually start swapping items out of their pantries.”

Making happy, healthy food memories

Dealing with the “emotional attachment” to food is also important. Some people might think a sugary birthday cake for their children’s birthdays is a “must have,” for example.

“A carrot cake with coconut frosting can be just as memorable,” Anderson said. “Kids can’t miss what they never had.”

She recalled a recent birthday party she attended for a 1-year-old, who was given a store-bought cake. The boy picked at the cake, but wasn’t interested in putting it in his mouth.

“He wanted more sweet potatoes,” she laughed.

For kids who shy away from healthy foods, Anderson and Kaping suggest incorporating those ingredients into tasty smoothies. An apple smoothie on their website, for instance, is made with green leafy vegetables.

On their website, Anderson and Kaping state that people don’t need to live on a farm to be “Farm Girl Fresh.”

“You don’t have to change your life overnight or spend a bunch of money,” they note. “You just have to want to explore a simpler time. Get your hands a little dirty. Bring out those pots and pans. Cook some amazing food with pure, fresh ingredients. And be healthy.”

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