Matt grew up partly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Houston, Texas. Jerica was born in Austin, Texas, but was raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. They met during college at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, and have been best friends ever since. After marrying, they began to dream of ways to make a living at home using their technical innovation. Lots of ideas entered the picture, but none of them quite fit.
Meanwhile, Matt underwent his second major flare-up of ulcerative colitis, a chronic (i.e. incurable) auto-immune disease that he had developed during his early years of college. By 2007, it seemed that he was being hospitalized annually with side effects like severe anemia, extreme fatigue, and rapid weight loss of 40 pounds or more.
Doctors said he could do little to control it other than to take steroids and immune-suppressing drugs and eventually he likely would have to have his colon removed. Diet didn’t help, they said, but Matt and Jerica felt sure that food matters for good health. They began learning about the benefits of grass-fed beef and about the work of Dr. Weston A. Price and that there was a piece missing in the American Diet: nutrient-density. When they started to seek out pasture-raised foods and found that farms were scarce and often offered only one or two products that were seasonally available at best, they realized the need for a good farm in East Texas and Shreveport, but the obstacles seemed tremendous.
So they asked God to give them a farm.
Long story short, Matt and Jerica began farming with some friends on leased property under the name TrueFields LLC, in 2008, in order to supply East Texans with the most nourishing, natural, and delicious foods available. A year or so later, Matt’s parents approached them about partnering to start their own farm, and so Shady Grove Ranch in Jefferson, Texas, was founded. God had answered their prayer!
God has also answered their prayers for restoring Matt’s health. He is now off all medications and symptom-free as of the summer of 2010. Because of all the inquiries about Matt’s strategy for healing, Jerica set up a website dedicated to sharing updated information about the things they have learned about food and health: saveyourguts.com
Now Matt and Jerica love discussing farm management and thinking up new ideas for improving quality and cutting costs and labor. They were both trained in engineering at LeTourneau University prior to starting to farm. They use their learned skills daily! Whether it’s developing a multi-use tractor implement for cheap, designing a shade structure for the critters, or streamlining a pasture management technique, the challenges of running a farm and business and raising a family are ever new.
They enjoy showing off the farm to visitors and friends and teaching people about the freeing truth of food–that you can eat the things you love, like butter, bacon, gravy, etc–it’s the source of the ingredients that matters! They dream of becoming a model for quality and productivity among small, natural farms.
Matt and Jerica don’t take much time off, but when they do, they enjoy meeting new people, seeing new places, and being outdoors. Leisure at home is spent playing with their children or building them a new play-thing, or watching a movie or playing a boardgame. They also love spending time at coffee shops enjoying live music, though that’s hard to find in East Texas. Perhaps some day they will open an on-farm restaurant for socializing with their customers and friends. What a joy it is to work for both!