This Columbia, SC Mother, Gardener and Small Business Owner is Passionate about Eating Healthy, Local Foods
CFSA’s Amy Armbruster: Why are organic foods important to you?
Lauren Small: I used to have no knowledge of the importance of good nutrition and organic food. I ate terribly. Cheese fries between jobs, a candy bar for a quick snack, fast food late at night. I never thought it was affecting me; I was thin and thought that “healthy eating” was only for people trying to lose weight. Fast forward a few years and I was in a health crisis. To be honest, I had health issues for years, but it took me quite some time to put two and two together and realize that the food I was eating was contributing to my quick decline in health. I started studying up on nutrition and “clean eating”. I transitioned to a much more holistic lifestyle, cutting out toxins from all areas of my life. I started by buying organic produce if it was on the dirty dozen list. Now I prefer to buy everything local, organic, and in season when possible. When I began eating a paleo diet I learned the importance of organic meat. I had been buying organic produce and putting meat on the back burner, but I learned that grass-fed, organic meat is very important, especially for people trying to cut down on inflammation.
CFSA: Why are you a member of CFSA?
I think it is vital to support our local organic farmers. Without them, fresh, organic food would not be as easily accessible. My husband’s family has been farming in South Carolina for years and wouldn’t have been successful without the support of the community. One day I hope to have a small homestead of my own and I like knowing there is an amazing support system in place at CFSA.
Join Lauren in becoming a CFSA member. Together we’re working toward a vibrant, sustainable food system in the Carolinas! Join CFSA today!
CFSA: Tell me about your ‘aha moment’ when you realized that eating organic foods was an important choice for you and your family.
My health had hit an all-time low. My body was chronically inflamed and I was struggling to get through each day. We were also wanting to start a family and I realized that something had to change. I had a lot of knowledge regarding food and nutrition but I wasn’t applying it to my everyday life. I realized that with every bite I was either feeding disease or fighting it. It was like a switch went off in my head. I started eating a very nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet full of organic veggies, organic meats, grass-fed beef liver, bone broth, and healthy fats. The change was like night and day. My health took a 180; I felt so alive and like I was thriving.
CFSA: Tell us a little about how being pregnant and breastfeeding your baby changed your thinking about what is safe and healthy to put in our bodies.
Before I got pregnant with my son I started priming my body to give him the best start to life that I could. I avoided inflammatory foods and ate nutrient dense, organic meats and veggies. I thought it was amazing and so crazy to look at my pregnancy app and see how quickly my baby was growing each week. My body was providing this little pea with everything he needed to grow! That was a big motivator to be careful of what foods I ate. Breastfeeding has been an amazing journey and I’m so grateful that I’m able to nourish my baby in this way. I find it incredible how little we actually know about breastmilk though. I can tell a difference in my son’s overall mood and sleep habits when I eat certain foods. Especially food containing dyes, excessive sugar, preservatives or other yuck ingredients. It has definitely helped me stick to my own goals of eating healthy by seeing the negative effects he experiences when I slip up.
CFSA: Your son is just starting to eat solid foods. What does he like so far?
We are giving him super nutrient dense, gut healthy foods, cooked how we would eat them instead of mushed up like purees. So far he has had chicken bone broth, avocado, sweet potato and egg yolk. He really loves the sweet potato and egg yolk! He loves drinking from a cup so broth has been a big hit because of that. Avocado he doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of, I think it’s the texture. I plan on only feeding him organic, non-processed, nutrient dense foods for quite a while.
CFSA: The food and farming community in Columbia is really taking off and now there is a new fresh-from-the-farm delivery service – perfect for moms! Tell us about it.
I just found out about this local farm that delivers and I am so excited about it! Leesville Aquaponics Homestead will deliver for free on any orders over $20. This is a great option for families with young one especially, or the elderly! I am expecting my first order this week. I ordered a little bit of all the veggies they have available, some eggs and a rabbit. I’ve never cooked or even eaten rabbit before so I’m excited to try something new. A friend of mine recommended this farm when I was asking where to buy eggs from pastured chickens fed soy free feed. I love the farmer’s market but I’m not able to make it out there that often with a little one. My plan is to order from this farm each week and hit up the farmer’s market about once a month to stock up on my other meats.
CFSA: You are an avid organic gardener. When did you first start gardening and what got you interested in organic gardening?
I love gardening! I’m not really that great at it, but that’s not what matters to me. I like getting out in the sun and dirt each day and putting my time and energy into something that gives back. My first garden was in a pallet with dollar store soil and seeds. Needless to say, not much grew. But with some guidance from my best friend, I learned enough about organic gardening to get a nice little garden started. My husband built me a 4×10 raised bed and my father in law built me a big ole barrel composter. It’s been a learning experience and each year I learn a little more. It’s been mainly a hobby but I am hoping to produce enough veggies this year to offset our grocery bill a bit. I’ve heard the quote, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes,” and it’s so true! I’m so excited to teach my son about gardening and have him out there helping me pick veggies!
CFSA: As a mom myself, I know what a challenge it can be to put food on the table every night. What’s your go-to organic dinner ?
I love soups for those days when I’ve waited until the last minute to throw something together. We always have some homemade bone broth in the freezer so I’ll throw that, some meat and fresh veggies all together and let it do its thing. Sometimes I’ll do chicken broth, chicken, carrots, celery, and onion. Or I’ll go with a heartier soup with beef broth, ground beef or stew meat, potatoes, and carrots. But you can really throw in whatever you have fresh at the moment. Also kale or spinach, those bulk up the soup and add a little bit of green in. During the summer I’ll just go pick some lettuce out of the garden for a super fresh salad also.
CFSA: Would you share a recipe?
My chicken soup is a go to in our house for sick days, freezer meals, or anytime we need an easy meal. It’s easily prepped the night before and just throw it in a pot or crockpot the next day.
1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cups carrots, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (or more, I don’t think you can overdo the garlic)
3 Tbsp EVOO
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 cup water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
A bunch of spinach or kale
Put all ingredients in a 6 quart crockpot and cook on low 6-7 hours. Remove chicken and cut into bite size pieces or shred. Put the chicken back in the pot and add the spinach or kale. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the greens have wilted.
CFSA: Dreams for the future?
I grew up wishing I could live on a farm. I still do. My dream would be to move to the country and have a little self-sustaining homestead. I’d have a huge garden, free range chickens, a pig (for fun not to eat), a goat for the milk, some rabbits, and a few grass fed cows. I would love to have a large family. I’d have all my children outside each day, learning about life through nature. Who knows, maybe that will happen one day. But if it doesn’t I will still teach my son how to garden, care for whatever animals we may acquire and hope that he grows up with a passion for organic, holistic living like his mama. I would be thrilled if he grew up to be a farmer. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit. My husband grew up in the country, feeding cows and taking care of turkeys. He has a work ethic like a farmer. Rain or shine, he’s always the first one to roll up his sleeves and get the job done and get it done right. I would be proud for my son to turn out the same.
CFSA: Anything else you’d like to share with the good food and farming community in the Carolinas?
It is my passion to spread awareness of the chemicals that we put in our bodies and my hope that we can arm the next generation with the knowledge to make healthy decisions for themselves and our planet. With this knowledge we can have happier and healthier children. I’ve put my passion to work in planning this year’s Children’s March for Humanity in Columbia, SC. Our goal is to ignite desire in the hearts of the masses to yearn for more information on topics such as glyphosate, GMOs, and various chemicals. Through inquiry grounded in love, respect, and empathy, our goal is to tear down the defensive walls which: divide, hinder sparked curiosity, and discourage the masses from seeking the truth. The main march will take place in Washington, D.C. and we will be rallying at the South Carolina State House on June 17, 2017 10am-2pm.
Please visit https://childrensmarchforhumanity.com/columbia%2C-sc for more information and to get involved.