It’s been almost 9 months since I’ve written anything for this poor, neglected blog so I figured why not use this as a means to explain what the hell I’ve been doing for the past year or so. A lot has happened in my life recently, I just want to update a bunch of people at once and a post on the ever-changing facebook just didn’t seem appropriate.
In the summer of 2010 I discovered the Paleo and Primal diets after a lifetime of digestive upsets, joint pain, ADHD, acne and countless other maladies that I just couldn’t seem to fix no matter what drugs I took. I finally realized that most, if not all of my problems were caused by a shitty processed diet, also known as the Standard American Diet (SAD). Up until that point in my life, most of my meals consisted of grain-based, sugar-filled, nutrient-void foods. I finally found Mark’s Daily Apple, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser and many other whole food advocates that quite literally saved my life with the information they consistently share with the world.
Everything changed right then and there. I started eating real food and less processed crap and stopped the constant trips to the doctor’s office. With my new found energy I started this blog in an attempt to help as many people as possible that might be going through the same things that I once was. I spent all my free time reading and researching everything I could find related to whole food diets and the harms caused by neolithic foods (basically any food that hasn’t been around for more than 100 years or so). I was on a mission to fix the world through kale and ground beef. I toyed with the idea of becoming a paleo blogger and joining the ranks of so many other people like those above that have helped so many other people get healthy through better food and smarter lifestyle choices.
This passion turned into a desire to do this kind of thing for a living and in August of 2011 I started grad school to work towards a Masters in Nutrition and certification as a registered dietitian. I knew that I was probably going to disagree with a lot of what I was learning since I had started to see the scary truths about our current diet recommendations and food system, but I was determined to become a Paleo RD. Well, I did do some learning but most of my time in class was spent biting my tongue when my professors talked endlessly about low-fat, whole-grain, red meat-free diets. It was truly a struggle to sit through a lecture without going nuclear. I dabbled with being a “wellness coach” and had some awkward consultations with local Crossfit members as I tried to help them “go paleo” and honestly just didn’t really like the whole dietitian thing.
My class experience coupled with a scholarship and assistantship that fell through due to funding cuts in the Nutrition dept. (and everywhere else) led to my deciding to take a break from grad school and get back into the workforce. And I thought I was miserable in grad school…
With my degree in Biotechnology and few years spent in various biochemistry labs doing cancer research, I was obviously destined for another job in a lab. In a hurry to start getting a paycheck again, I took the first opportunity that came my way. This opportunity happened to be a quality control engineer at a local flavorings company. An artificial flavorings company. Times were tough and I desperately needed a job but anyone that knows anything about me or the Paleo diet knows that this was not a good fit for someone that digs a whole food diet.
I definitely wasn’t working with ideal materials…
It was literally in my job description that I was to analyze the artificial flavors created on the production floor and determine that they had the proper color, smell and TASTE. Every day I went in to work and had to taste soda sweetened with aspartame and HFCS and powders filled with fake dyes and other chemicals. Add in occasional second shift work (ask my beautiful girlfriend, I am NOT a night owl) and coming home with my hands and clothes dyed a variety of colors thanks to the fake colorings we used (and I was regularly consuming), and I was not a happy camper.
During this job I began to work on a side project I was calling “The F.A.T. Food Truck”. F.A.T. stands for Farm and Traditional and my plan was to start a mobile farmers market that brought the farm to the people, making local, whole food more convenient. I would come home and complain endlessly about my job and then work endlessly towards being a blogger here at Nutritionator AND starting a local food business from scratch. My poor girlfriend.
Obviously having to get away from the flavorings job, the job hunt was back on. This time around I found an opportunity with a small medical device company. I was to be a customer support specialist that worked on a device that analyzed blood and urine samples for drugs of abuse, prescription drugs and blood chemistry markers. Not a bad sounding gig but still pretty far off from where my passions lie. Constant on-call hours, out of town work and working with a machine and software straight out of the early 1990′s had me frustrated and I decided to go full-boar at the F.A.T. Food Truck idea as my way out of the 9-5 grind.
I set up a frugal campaign at Indiegogo to raise the money needed to start my dream and ended up about $7000 short of my $7500 goal (which I now know was about 1/5 of what I actually needed to get this thing up and running.) I took the $500 I did raise, bought a fridge and freezer and a bunch of local food with my own money and began selling it in my free time at different Crossfits around Greensboro. The idea worked. Extremely well. People LOVED having a convenient way to buy fresh, local meat, eggs and produce after a tough workout on their way home. I wasn’t making any actual money (actually losing some over the long haul) but I was proving that the concept worked. I was working with local farmers that produced products with sustainability and the wellness of the animals at the forefront of priorities. I was also working with hungry customers who were passionate about whole, locally grown food. I started collecting sales data and putting together an actual business plan that I could approach lenders with in order to obtain the startup capital I needed.
Once I had a somewhat finalized plan together I started having different people look at it for tips and suggestions. A few of these people I had come to get to know fairly well as they worked for the farm that supplied me with all my 100% grass fed, grass finished beef. Summerfield Farms here in Greensboro NC not only produces the most delicious beef products my customers and I have ever tasted, they are the nicest, most-hardworking people I have ever met. The farm is a paradise and they share my love for everything local, fresh and nutritious (Their beef actually has an Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio similar to that of wild-caught salmon.) If you live in or around Greensboro, stop by the farm and try anything, you won’t regret it.
The salad bar at Summerfield Farms
Ok, done advertising, back on track…
So the fine folks at Summerfield Farms took a look at my business plan and little did I know, had a very similar plan of their own in the works. They too recognize that healthy, local food is not the most convenient product and are constantly working on getting more people better access to it. A few short days after the owner of the farm and his trusted crew of locavores saw the plan, we sat down to discuss how we might be able to help each other in our ventures. This culminated in my having to make a decision that I thought was tough at first, but ended up being one of the easiest I have ever made.
Basically they offered me a job with the farm doing exactly what I wanted to do with the F.A.T. Food Truck. But they wanted to know that I would be 100% absolutely dedicated to the farm and the farm only. They knew exactly how hard I had been working on the F.A.T. Food Truck concept and they wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t take the experience I gained on the farm and start a competing company of my own in the near future. They also said they would be MORE than happy to support my business idea in any way that they could if I wanted to go in that direction, but I had to choose between starting and owning my own business and working solely for the farm.
Thinking about it at first scared me. I had spent over a year and a half of my free time trying to build a business from nothing. I had a built in support system that would aid my venture however they could and I would be working for myself for the first time ever. I had systems set up and ready to go and was willing to work the 80+ hours a week that would be necessary for the foreseeable future.
Thinking about it for another 5 minutes, I realized that the position on the farm was exactly the opportunity I’ve been searching for all along. I also realized that I was so desperate and determined to start my own business because I just never thought I was going to find the right job with a resume filled with work that I wasn’t passionate about. Thirdly, grad school is expensive, school loans suck and I would SO much rather have a steady paycheck rather than a money-sucking startup at this point in my life. I took the job that same day.
All those words to say that I finally have what might be my dream job and that The F.A.T. Food Truck is going to be put on hold for the foreseeable future. I am still going to be selling local food at local gyms once again in the very near future and I’m going to be doing it for a farm/company that focuses on nutrient density, sustainability and the health and wellness of the animals and the earth above all else.
I just wanted to thank each and every one of you that supported the dream I’ve been working on, especially those of you that bought some amazing local food from me at the gym and the owners at Crossfit Versatile, Crossfit Greensboro and Crossfit Greensboro Battleground for hosting me while I tried to get the truck up and running. I am very much looking forward to having a regular schedule of stops at the gyms and offering a much more diverse and plentiful selection of local meat, eggs, dairy and produce.
I might even start posting here at Nutritionator a little more often about my experiences at the farm now that I have a new found focus. Thanks again for all the support and stay tuned for more updates in the saga of Pat.