Q&A: Let's Nourish Our Mind, Body & Souls with Joni Nicole — the Fit Farmer
Picture a normal Indiana, Pennsylvania, 20-something female. When she was little, a traumatic accident paired with bad genes (her words not ours), caused Joni Nicole to receive chronic back and spine pain. The curvature of her spine and lower back never fully recovered. It was then that she vowed to make a change. It wasn't easy. And it didn't happen overnight. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.
Luckily for this gem, changing her eating habits was just around the corner as she calls Lone Oak Farms home. Nicknamed the Holistic Hottie, she stays green all year long. Growing up on the farm, she personally experienced the ins and outs of animal feeding and home-grown food care. Hey, if there is ever a catastrophic apocalypse, we know who we're calling!
In all seriousness though, it's pretty fabulous to hear that she grows all of her own food using her own resources to remain as vegan as possible and eat clean 24/7. She wasn't always the fit farmer but with patience and persistence, she learned from her family and now teaches them what's up.
She may be simple, but she's more than a simple gal. She succeeds at life because of simplicity — living off the land and all the goodness mother nature provides. Take it away, Miss Joni. This is her story.
Q: Hello beautiful. BackerNation is honored to talk with you today, Joni. Can you introduce yourself? (i.e. personality, hobbies, interests)
A: Hello Macey B. and BackerNation! My name is Joni. I'm a keep to myself kind of person and a fourth-generation farmer who has a passion for growing healthy fruits and vegetables for me, my family, and the local community. I love clean simple spaces and being surround by good people.
Q: How long have you felt symptoms of chronic back and spine pain? We like to call ourselves, “Backers”
A: I’ve been bothered with back pain for as long as I can remember. I’m 30-years-old, and trips to the chiropractor started at an extremely young age.
By the way, I love the term Backer!
Q: How did you receive your back pain condition? (i.e. what caused you to have chronic pain)
A: I believe the structure of our bodies when we are born partly contribute in having a “bad back.” I believe that partly because my entire family suffers from back and hip pain — so it's in my genes. I was predestined for chronic pain.
For me personally, I fell from parallel bars onto the bare ground when I was quite young. I think that combined with strenuous physical work on the farm for years on end has caused most of the daily pain I experience paired with bad genes, of course.
Q: Can you briefly describe your painful symptoms and what your body feels like?
A: Some days I feel “frozen.” It's hard to put into words. I feel stiff all over. It's tough to move or even get out of bed without “cracking” both my back and neck.
I throw my back out pretty easily and when that happens, I experience horrible headaches and more pain. It's not fun — literally the opposite. I always say that I would never wish my symptoms on my worst enemy.
Q: When you have a bad pain day, what do you specifically turn to for pain relief? What treatments would you recommend to our chronic back pain community?
A: I do my best to stay away from any kind of prescription medication, if I can help it. I prefer a more holistic approach than opioids or painkillers. It's just a personal preference based on my lifestyle.
I try to stretch my back every morning as much as possible. I work the appropriate muscles and consciously put my body back in place. Usually, after two to three days of light exercise, I'm able to alleviate the issue.
Q: Expanding further on holistic health care, why do you recommend CBD oil?
A: True healing cannot happen with the use of opioids and no other forms of healing. I think opioids are wonderful and definitely needed in certain cases perhaps following back or spine surgery, sometimes even long-term (depending on the patient), but I think the end goal should always be to fix the problem, if possible. We need to treat the condition as a whole rather than just the symptoms.
Q: You mentioned earlier, you've been seeing a chiropractor since you were 10 years old. How has seeing one positively affected your pain levels?
A: Chiropractic care and massage therapy are helpful in so many ways. I've always experienced almost immediate relief when using either option. When I was on a long-term treatment plan with my chiro, I experienced the best results, pain relief wise. Unfortunately, this is almost always an extremely costly commitment that not many people can afford including me.
Q: You live on a farm (which sounds fabulous btw). How has farm life had a positive influence on the foods you chose to eat?
A: It's funny because the foods I eat actually have an influence on where I chose to live. I changed my diet through my early-to-mid-20s to a mostly plant-based one while I lived away from the farm for 10 years. I was so passionate about healthy eating, I decided to start gardening as my main job, which brought me back to and kept me here at the farm.
I just enjoy providing healthy food to local families and hope I can continue to do so for a few more years. Through the spring, summer, and fall, I grow almost 100 percent of the food I consumed minus fruit. It's a great feeling to know what I'm eating and where it comes from. It's also rewarding when the several families that are fed from this farm express the same feelings. I get to help others and help myself. That is really what life is all about.
Q: If someone is looking to relieve their daily discomfort, where should they start?
A: I believe food is the place to start when any kind of pain is experienced. So many foods we consume produce inflammation in the body because they are loaded with sugar. Since I've turned to an almost completely vegan diet, I haven't experienced nearly half the back pain I did while I was consuming refined food and animal products.
Q: Share a normal day of working on the farm? Do you find your back pain sometimes can get in the way of you being productive? If so, what do you do to maintain your work ethic and pain relief?
A: Pain is the biggest reason I am hesitant to rely solely on farming for income long-term. The days are extremely long and physically demanding. This year compared to last, I cut my garden in half. By the end of last season, I literally couldn't walk. My legs and back just gave up on me and I was forced to stop almost completely for a few weeks until I had the strength to finish the season.
I keep working because I am headstrong. I can mentally push through the physical pain. I do not use any other method of relief other than clean eating, exercise, and stretching. If I can do it, I know the BackerNation community can too.
Start with breakfast. Keep it simple. Turn to whole grains instead of white bread; egg whites instead of yokes; and you can never go wrong with a bowl of oatmeal. Then as you find your groove, carry this out in all of your meals. After you digest your food, take a five-minute walk. You can do small things every day and before you know it, you'll actually enjoy your new normal.
Q: If you didn't live on the farm, do you think you would still eat clean and vegan? For our Backers who may want to eat healthily but live in a city, what can they do to maintain a clean diet?
A: I would highly recommend them to inquire about a membership with their local CSA (community supported agriculture) group. There will almost certainly be several programs in your area. I’ve had success with this type of organization in my small rural town this season. Plus, they are more prevalent in bigger cities.
Most commonly, when you buy from a farm, you can receive a weekly share of healthy vegetables and other produce, at the beginning of each season. Most times, you'll receive at least 24 weeks of fresh local vegetables directly from the farmer. This is a great way to eat clean and eat locally.
Q: What is the benefit from buying locally at a farmer versus the grocery store?
A: When you are buying from a local farmer, you can directly ask about their farming practices and how they are growing their food. More often than not, you have the option to visit the farm to see exactly where your food is coming from without the unknown — grocery store produce containing possible harmful chemicals.
If you are shopping at your local grocery store and you see a food item with the word "organic,” it doesn't always mean it truly is. They use that term very loosely these days.
Yes, the sprays utilized to carry mass amounts of that specific product on the shelf do meet USDA standards but that doesn't always mean there are no chemicals inside. Small local farms, on the other hand, are dealing with produce on a much smaller scale. They actually have the ability to control pests and disease 100 percent naturally, which is best for your health.
I recently had a medical school student visit my farm who was running a prescription CSA program through local doctor offices. The average patient who bought into the CSA share lost an average of 14 pounds in 90 days and their pain symptoms were almost always reduced. I have a link to the study somewhere, if I can find it I will share it with BackerNation.
Q: Are there days when you want to throw in the towel and order a cheeseburger with fries? On those days, what do you do to cope and remain positive?
A: Luckily, not really. I actually enjoy healthier food options but then again, I am human after all.
If I want fries, I will eat fries. I just won't eat them every day. I want to feel good and that trumps the temptation to go back to a horrible diet any day. I always opt for healthy alternatives like dark chocolate or fresh fruit. If you are trying to kick a craving, play the tape. Literally say to yourself, “How will I feel after I eat this?”
Q: When you find yourself feeling discouraged, who and what do you turn to for re-motivation?
A: Prayer first and foremost. I am of the Christian faith, so prayer is very important to me. Family is everything to me. My sister and I are best friends. She helps a lot. Also, living this lifestyle with my family keeps me on track. I encourage everyone to spend as much time with your loved ones as much as possible. Even if it's not the family you were born into — maybe it's the one you created yourself — either way, love is what makes the world go round. Even on the days when my family is all up in my business, I know at the end of it all, if I need something, they are there.
Life is full of ups and downs and I believe God, family, and surrounding ourselves with positive people is the best way to stay in check.
Q: And finally, what advice would you give to our back and spine pain community who is new to the whole wellness and clean eating routine?
A: Never give up. Start slow. Start somewhere — just start. Conquer one thing at a time and over time those little things add up to big changes. Commit to stretching for five minutes every day. Cut out one food — just ONE. It's a way better place to start rather than saying you're going to work out for two hours every day and become a vegetarian starting Monday or "tomorrow."
Once you master the small tasks and feel as if you are performing well, throw in another one. Everything takes time. If you start slow, you'll begin to enjoy your accomplishments. You will not have as many disappointments because you are being realistic.
If you tried tackling an overwhelming feat right out of the gate, it probably would end as fast as it started and wouldn't really accomplish anything positive. Remember, your pain didn't develop in one day just as you can't recover in one either.
We still have one question. Can we move in with you?
Joni makes us see that when “I” is replaced by “we”, even “illness” becomes “wellness.”
For additional information, please visit, http://www.loneoakfarmpa.com. Thanks for listening guys.