A family that "pulled up stakes" in the big city to live and work on a Parkland farm are sharing how to better live a healthier lifestyle while proclaiming their down-to-earth Christian faith with others.
Keith and Sheri George, along with their two children, 15-year-old Dylan and 13-year-old Kailyn, have named the acreage they purchased "Liberty Mission Farms L.L.C." Located at 1272 Highway OO, in Farmington, the family recently opened a farm store that sells garden produce, poultry, eggs, honey, baked goods, handcrafted jams and personal care products such as soaps and goat's milk lotions.
"We have lived in four states and always in a large city," said Sheri George, as she pointed at several tables filled with fruits, vegetables and other natural and homemade items for sale in the small store. "Until just a few years ago we felt called to leave the comfort of Keith’s job as senior vice president at a large financial firm in St. Louis to become farmers right here in Farmington. People thought we must be crazy, but this is where the Lord has led us and it’s been an amazing journey."
It's a journey George said began seven years ago when Kailyn, then only six years old, was incorrectly diagnosed with epilepsy.
"It was our desire to find a means to help her when no neurologists could find answers for us," she said. "We finally learned through research of our own that Kailyn has a rare disorder called 'Sunflower Syndrome.' Through meeting many other families, we began to learn about the causes and possible solutions for this and many other health issues we see today."
George admitted that what the couple learned from their research came as a shock to them.
"The food we eat and toxins in our environment cause problems ranging from autism to epilepsy and many other neurological issues, she said. "We began to change our diet making more and more of our food at home and buying from local sources we trusted. We got back into our kitchen and learned to make things from scratch that we had always purchased from the store previously."
The couple started making their own mayonnaise, ketchup and cheese, along with a long list of other items.
"We drank only raw milk and only eggs from chickens on pasture," she said. "We changed everything about our diet during that first year and we saw incredible health results. Kailyn no longer needed medication and the whole family saw a difference in ourselves — we were not getting sick as often. In fact, we rarely were sick or in need of a doctor. Years went by without us having as much as a head cold.
"At that time we were purchasing eggs from one farmer, meat from another farmer and produce from still someone else. We finally decided we should try to do some of this ourselves, so we began searching for land to start our own farm. We purpose to live without any debt so we had to find something we could buy with the cash we had saved."
The family searched for several years — 80 miles in every direction of St. Louis — and eventually fell in love with the Farmington area.
"Even the story of how we came across this farm and house while remaining debt-free is a miracle," George said. "The first thing we did after the house purchase was final was stand in this empty house — which needed a lot of work before moving in — and dedicate it to God.
"For our first two years here, we kept the city job. Everyday Keith drove the hour-and-a-half drive each direction and worked weekends on the farm until last year on July 4th when he left his career behind and began the full-time work of becoming a farmer."
The parents and their two children became involved in the process of working the land. It eventually become a multi-generational farm once Keith George's mother and father left Texas to come live with them on the acreage.
"Keith's parents help with everything from keeping the grounds tidy to caring for the animals, she said. "Then my parents moved from Arizona and purchased a place here in Farmington that's just a few miles from us. My mom is at the farm almost everyday helping with the gardens, greenhouses, store, animals and just about anything else that comes up.
"Dylan keeps bee hives, harvests honey and does lots of labor around the farm, like keeping our compost piles running. Kailyn is in charge of our many household needs, along with helping prepare for and run the store and attend fairs and farmer’s markets."
Explaining the family's mission, Keith George said, "Liberty Mission Farms is family-owned, local-market farm that is focused on healing the land. We use a specific method of growing produce and raising animals without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or GMOs.
"Our focus is on replenishing the nutrients in the soil through crop rotations, composting and livestock rotation on the pastures. This encourages healthy soils which produce healthy plants that are naturally more pest and disease resistant.
"Finally, we purpose to have nothing go to waste on our farm. Each animal has a specific purpose. For example, our laying hens eliminate waste by eating vegetable scraps from our gardens, in addition to their fresh pasture.
"They in turn produce eggs and fertilizer and act as a natural bug removal system. It’s all a symbiotic, synergistic production model that yields far more per acre than industrial models — and it’s aromatically and aesthetically pleasing."
And then there's the other side of the family's mission — it's ministry of faith in both practice and proclamation.
"Besides food and farm, we purpose to tell others what Jesus has done for us and what he can do for them," Keith George said. "We are passionate about encouraging families to be strong in the Lord and to love one another.
"It is God who has called us to this place and we endeavor to shine his light any way we can. We thank him for all we’ve been able to do thus far and look forward to serving our community as he allows."
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or email@example.com
"Besides food and farm, we purpose to tell others what Jesus has done for us and what he can do for them." — Keith George, farmer