Volunteer Spotlight: Ashley Williams

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Ashley Williams

“Volunteering at Hug A Root I am thankful that I learn compassion…”

Hi! Im Ashley Williams and I am currently studying Environmental Science at ACU, specifically with wanting to know more about sustainability with food.

I was always curious about local food and never would have thought I could be involved at a local farm here in Buffalo Gap. Hug A Root has shown me so much in the time I’ve been volunteering. Love, compassion, and community!

The passion Josh & Pam have for this farm really shows that local food can work. This works with the community as well. I think I was called to be involved here and share.

I have enough bread on my table so why not share with those who do not right here in our town. Volunteering at Hug A Root I am thankful that I learn compassion and what the Lord calls us to do every time I am out there.

It of course can be stressful, but it comes with a peace and gratification.

When it comes to nutrition, it's hard to beat beets.


BEET: a biennial garden plant (Beta vulgaris) of the goosefoot family that includes several cultivars (such as Swiss chard and sugar beet) and that has thick edible leaves with long petioles and often swollen purplish-red roots; also : its root used especially as a vegetable, as a source of sugar, or for forage.

Beets sometimes bet a bad rap among those who remember eating the canned version as kids, but these antioxidant-rich gems pack a number of health benefits, making them worth learning to love!


  • Antioxidant boost - A study of the most common vegetablescellular antioxidant activity and oxygen radical absorbance capacity ranks beets among the top, along with broccoli and red pepper.  The study states that increased consumption "may lead to reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease."
  • Cardiovascular impact - Beets are rich in nitrates, and a 2012 study found a trend of lower blood pressure in those who drank beet juice regularly.  Beets also have betaine and B-vitamin folate, which can lower levels of homocysteine, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Fights chronic diseases - Beets carry a number of bioactive compounds which can provide benefits for disorders characterized by chronic inflammation.  Clinical studies show beetroot consumption can help with disorder such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
  • Promotes brain function - Because of the high nitrate value, beets may help with blood flow to the brain, potentially impacting brain function.

These are just some of many positive effects of beets.  Other reports show more potential benefits including increased stamina, improved liver function, and digestive support.

Now you see why it's so worthwhile to find a beets recipe that suits you.  Click here for a few beet recipe ideas!

Dirty, powdery, and delicious!

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If you've ever had the pleasure of receiving the chemical-free, farm fresh goodness of a Hug-A-Root Family Farms home delivery, you might have noticed the food was unwashed or even coated in a light, powdery substance. 

Did you know that these factors are actually good things for the shelf life and quality of your food?  Executive Director and farmer Josh Casey explains why!

Common home delivery questions answered by Farmer Josh:

QUESTION #1: Why is there sometimes powder on my chemical-free food?

The number one question so far has been about the white powder sometimes seen on the greens. It is food-grade diatomaceous earth, a commonly used natural pest control remedy.

It is generally recognized as safe as long as you are not continuously inhaling the dried powder. DE is commonly used to control pest on pets as well and some people add it to their smoothies! Here is a link to a great resource for all about DE.                              

We use this exclusively to help control the number of pests on your food. It is applied often and, to make a real difference, it is applied pretty heavily.

QUESTION #2: Why is my food unwashed and sometimes with dirt on it?

The answer is simple.  By keeping your food unwashed until you're ready to eat it, your food remains fresh for the longest amount of time possible, without using preservatives.

Mashed.com, a resource for food knowledge and recipes, has a good article on this topic.  Here is what they have to say: 

“Washing your produce before storing it can actually do more harm than good, and not only is the dampness going to create the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, but it's also going to speed up the process in which your food goes bad. In most cases, fruits and vegetables have been prepped for grocery store or farmer's' market presentation, and that means they're free of the majority of the dirt and have at least been given a cursory wash. That all means that in order to keep your produce at its freshest for the longest amount of time, you should wait until right before you're going to use it to wash it. If you absolutely can't bear to put away dirty produce, dry it thoroughly before putting it away — but remember that you can only get produce so dry”

SUMMARY: It's because we care!

See, your local producers really care about the quality of the food you are eating. If we wash it thoroughly before delivery, you are actually getting food of lesser quality than what we bring you straight from the ground!

I have to admit it took me a little while to accept this fact, until I started watching the stuff I spent time washing before I put in the fridge turn bad more quickly, and I still felt like it needed washing again before I chopped and prepared it.

Yes, we want to bring you the prettiest veggies around, but most importantly we want you eating the most nutrient-dense food available.

Remember the line “Beauty is Only Skin Deep”? Very appropriate here.  The real beauty in the food we bring you is on the inside -- nutrient-rich, farm-fresh, cleanly-grown goodness!

The “I Can do THAT” Diet! Not biting off more than you can CHEW - Part 1

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easing into a better diet

3 easy steps

by Cody Brotherton, Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach

Have you ever gotten that big bite of gristle when you are eating steak (sorry to my vegetarian friends) and no matter how long you chew, it seemingly grows inside your mouth making it impossible to swallow.  Eventually, your jaw gives out and you have to do the politely spit into your napkin trick.  HOW EMBARRASSING!

I believe many people FAIL on diets because they move way to fast and try to do TOO MUCH! (more on this in a moment)

As a personal trainer, you would fire me instantly if I put you under a 500 lb squat for 3 sets of 8 if you have never even done a bar bell squat before!!!!  While hopefully this is glaringly obvious in the weight lifting context, MANY PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO DO A SIMILAR THING IN TERMS OF DIETING AND WEIGHT LOSS!!! (sorry, I like using extra exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!)

This is where the “I can do THAT” dietary approach comes in.

  1. Strategically attack your greatest limiting factor

You don’t think you can go from eating fast food 3 times a day to whole 30 overnight …. Don’t want to go Keto and eat bacon cooked in butter and topped with heavy cream …      Going from 6 Dr. Peppers a day to none overnight might place everyone around you in imminent danger…

GOOD!!! Ease into it – or to borrow from Happy Gilmore


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Do not underestimate the power of progress.

Any small progress is leading you closer to your goals, your best self, and having a more fulfilling life."


Did you ever have a problem with the tortoise beating the hare?  I know I did; and to this day I often find myself acting just like the hare – inevitably needing a nap and realizing that my sprint actually is the thing that robbed me of making any PROGRESS (and PROGRESS is the NAME OF THE GAME PEOPLE)

In order to do the I CAN DO THAT approach, you must start RIDICULOUSLY EASY!!! YOU HAVE TO WIN YOUR FIRST STEP!!!

And I know that in order to speed up the process you are going to try to make your first step a giant leap.  Avoid this temptation at all cost, and start with a give me putt.

Do you not have the energy to feel like exercising? ADD IN 1 serving of fruit or vegetables DAILY and see how much that helps.  I CAN DO THAT! Also, addition is a way better step than trying to cut out something … because BEHAVIOR CHANGE is REALLY HARD for everyone y’all.

Is the aforementioned sugary drink your greatest limiting factor? (Many of my clients don’t like me bringing this one up for some reason) — Don’t give them up completely – Cut down by 1 a day or leave weekdays the same (for the sake of your co-workers) and try cutting them out on weekends — is this still to hard?  Ok, give up 1 sugar filled drink (sweet tea, lemonade, and that oh so good Carmel Macchiato are equal offenders here) a WEEK!  Can you drink just 1 less to get you started in the span of a week? Yes, I can do THAT! 

Do not underestimate the power of progress.  Any small progress is leading you closer to your goals, your best self, and having a more fulfilling life.  Start today with something easy, and don’t wait until tomorrow or next week because most true progress in life is a slow process..

Let me know if you need help finding a starting place; many times that first step is the hardest part!!!

I also offer an online personal nutrition coach that utilizes this approach if you would like even more help getting control of your food game!!

What to eat? Where to begin?

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by Cody Brotherton, Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach

I grew up in a small town in the Texas panhandle, and if you wanted to get directions to the pig farm it would sound something like this.

“Go over the train tracks, and keep going straight past the grain elevators.  Then take a slight right at the rusty green fence, you can’t miss it.  After that you will see a dirt road, take that until you see a giant barn full of hay bails.”

Today, I rely way too heavily upon my smartphone to get to the address I type in and hope to not end up driving into a lake like Michael Scott.

You can find countless “directions” on how to eat healthy and lose weight.  How should you navigate through the noise out there?  I also recognize the irony of this blog being more noise added to the digital landscape. :)

Here are 3 of the best nutrition practices that should be a part of any healthy diet.

     1. Eat REAL FOOD!!!

My favorite ingredient labels contain 1 item.  For instance: steak, avocado, or tomatoes!  Also, if you pick up a food and you do not know or cannot pronounce the ingredients, maybe think twice about eating this regularly.

Quick story on me.  I lost 85 pounds (and have kept it off for 5 plus years).  What is the number 1 reason?  Eating REAL FOOD that God made!  This involves shopping, reading ingredients, and cooking your own food, but for me that is a small price to pay for the increased energy, health, and personal growth I have had eating REAL FOOD!!!

     2.  Calories In VS. Calories Out 

Energy balance is king as far as weight loss goes.  Now, energy balance is a really complicated subject that we may not know everything about yet, but its simplest form goes like this:

Burn more calories in a day than you eat!

This rule should be what we type in our address bar if your destination is weight loss.  (If it is muscle gain, you need to eat more calories in a day than you burn – and muscle gain comes with fat gain most of the time.)

Portion control methods, plate sizes, calorie counting, mindful eating, and tracking macros are all ways one can go about managing energy balance.

3.  Nutrient Density

Did I mention eating REAL FOOD is important to health and weight loss?  One huge reason is nutrient density.  Real food sources maximize the protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and zoo nutrients you get per calorie.  This gives you more bang for your buck and eating less food can be more filling.

Organic fruits and veggies, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, and wild game helps us maximize nutrient density.  Farm-raised salmon vs. wild-caught salmon have very different fatty acid profiles, with the wild-caught having more of the “oh so good for you” omega 3 fatty acids.  True organic farming practices rightfully treat the soil as the living organism it is and also helps take care of this earth (We only have 1 EARTH PEOPLE!!).

The flip side to this is highly processed foods.  These foods are stripped of their precious nutrients (I am hearing Nacho Libre talk about his eagle eggs here), and while many of them taste incredible, they merely taunt the body and leave your hunger signals wanting for more.  The sad reality is many overweight people are severely undernourished.

So… What Can You Do?

Information is great, but ACTION leads to transformation.  Here are a few suggestions to implement these 3 strategies into your life.

·       Find your local farmers markets or, even better, connect with local organic farmers!! Hug-A-Root Family Farms is my organic vegetable provider if your are in the Abilene, TX area!!

·       Shop outside of the grocery store – buy ingredients, not things in boxes in general.

·       Download a calorie tracking app on your smartphone (MyFitnessPal is a good one to start with).

·       Find a nutritionist, personal trainer, or nutrition coach — There never would have been a karate kid without Mr. Miyagi.

Finally, if you have any questions please feel free to connect with me on Facebook or contact me through email, or if you are ready for nutrition coaching or personal training (I have both in person and online options), contact me for more info.