Oak Communications
November 5, 2010
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It was Sunday afternoon and we had barely eaten any of the vegetables from the box of fresh picked produce from Gotreaux Family Farms in Scott, LA. This was because of all of the fun we had been having away from home including music lessons with Mitch Reed and Steve Riley and attending the Blackpot Festival. I would be picking up another box of fresh vegetables this Tuesday.

So, while at the opening of the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana Dupré Library, we spontaneously invited two couples to join us for dinner promising them locally grown, organic vegetables.

I came home and got busy chopping onions, garlic and a wide assortment of vegetables. I steamed the green snap beans and sautéed onions, okra, gita beans, jalapeno pepper, purple bell pepper, kale and more. I cooked a big pot of brown rice and prepared bowls of grated cheese, nuts, steamed sweet potatoes and marinated and sautéed tofu as lagniappe.

We are learning that in Louisiana, even having too many vegetables on hand is a good excuse for a party.

To continue reading the Gautreax Family Farm story please  see the box below entitled, Real Food. To see photos of the farm, check out the Oak Communications blog.

All my best,

Sue Schleifer
Gotreaux Family Farms
Gotreaux Familly Farms CSA box
Gotreaux Family Farms CSA box

You can subscribe to the Gotreaux Family Farms newsletter to learn when new subscriptions to the CSA will be available.

Besides selling food at their farm on Tuesday afternoons, they also have a farm stand at the Lafayette Hub City Farmer's Market at the Oil Center on Saturdays, which they were instrumental in founding.

Working with a Life and Career Coach

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Have you been thinking about working with a life or career coach? Below are what some of my clients have said about the experience.

"Doesn't everyone need a coach? From working with Sue, I'm convinced of it. I am spending more time on the activities that are most important to me and have set aside some old patterns (like worrying too much!) that got in my way. Sue is helping me achieve my interpersonal as well as career goals."
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"Sue is the best!  Her insightful questions and analysis have been immensely helpful and enlightening.  I was admittedly skeptical at first, but the practical exercises and structure of the conversations helped me clarify my goals and made the individual steps significantly more manageable.  I am so grateful to Sue, and would strongly recommend working with her to anyone who is ready to take it to the next level."

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"Sue is an excellent listener and an astute observer. I sought her help at a time when I was dissatisfied with my business, had some vague idea that changes needed to be made, but couldn't see the way forward. In our coaching sessions, she provided tremendously useful feedback, helping me to uncover and understand the sources of my dissatisfaction, and guided me towards making many positive changes. If you want to make changes in your personal or professional life, and need coaching to help you find your way and follow through, then I would strongly recommend working with Sue.
Small Business Owner

"Whether in my work or private life, Sue has an uncanny ability to see situations from many different angles. Her attention is complete; she really makes you feel like you matter. If I circumvent an issue, she brings me back to what is important. Sue has become one of my most important teammates. I can tell her anything, never feel judged and always feel supported. It doesn't get better than this!"
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I would love to talk with you about how I can be your resource in building a satisfying life and career. Call me for a complimentary half hour telephone coaching consultation.

Whether via telephone or in person, Coaching is extremely effective in helping you to fulfill your goals. Let's talk.

Sue Schleifer
510.316.3319 - cell
Writing Down Dementia Writing Workshops

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 Ruth Bancroft Garden

Do you have a loved one with dementia? 

Have you lost someone to Alzheimer's disease?

Are you feeling isolated or overwhelmed?

Writing Down Dementia offers a rich experience of creative expression and emotional support to people who have, or have had, a loved one with dementia. This workshop is also designed for caregivers and professionals working in the field of aging services.

Through short writing experiences and discussion, we share our fears, frustrations, joys and challenges of watching our lives change - and those of our loved ones - with the advent of dementia.

No writing experience is necessary.

If you would like to schedule a Writing Down Dementia Workshop for your organization, please let me know.

I will be starting a Writing Down Dementia workshop in Lafayette, LA in mid-November. Kim Fowler and I also have an ongoing group that meets in Oakland, CA and via telephone. If you are interested in either of these groups, please contact me real soon.

Here is a link to an article in Louisiana Medical News for which I was recently interviewed.
Real Food
(Gotreaux Family Farm story continued from above.)

At the Gotreaux Farm, I learned that besides growing vegetables, they also raise tilapia. Brian Gotreaux not only researched the variety of fish that would be best to farm raise using a balanced ecosystem approach, he also designed and built the greenhouses, tanks, filtration and hydraulic systems created to reduce energy consumption.

He decided upon tilapia and has built two large greenhouses filled with more than 50,000 fish. He described his job as keeping the delicate balance in the ecosystem so that the fish thrive and provide consumers with delicious and healthy fish.

They use the same approach for raising and nurturing their laying hens, chickens, lambs, and cattle. Each element is part of the overall ecological balance of the farm. Their goal is to produce nutrient dense food without hormones or antibiotics, with care for the animals, water systems, soil, their customers' well-being as well as that of their family.

And what a family it is. It consists of Brian and Dawn Gotreaux (42 and 40 years old respectively). They grew up in Jennings, LA, a small city (population approximately, 11,000, near Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana.)

Brian's neighbor was a rice farmer, and he grew up helping out on that farm. He drove a tractor by the time he was ten years old. He always had a garden, growing and selling vegetables to his teachers as a young boy. Even at that age, he never used commercial fertilizers. He learned to use compost and manure to keep his soil rich.

Dawn was a "city girl" as she described her early life. Her parents both worked, so she was a latch-key kid. Her diet primarily consisted of fast food. She knew nothing about growing her own food or about eating a healthy diet. They married after high school and then Brian served in the air force for six years.

They lived in Germany, Texas, and Florida. While living in these locations, they would visit farms and learn about the local growing practices. While in Florida they came back to visit family in Louisiana and that is when they found the land they own today. Initially, they bought 5.5 acres and now they own 22 with their sights on purchasing more soon.

After moving to their land, Brian soon started growing vegetables and then added chickens for eggs. He built a barn (later destroyed by Hurricane Lily) and started his own business, Progressive Auto Care. He used top diagnostic equipment and performed "high tech auto repair." He also started experiencing stress and chemical toxicity. The toxicity could have been both from his time in the service and also from the chemicals he was using in his shop. Also at that time, Dawn was experiencing digestion problems.

They were trying to change their diets and discovered the only organic food they could find was milk and potato chips. They read on the internet about how chickens were raised commercially and were appalled. They decided that they wanted to raise chickens themselves, but instead use sustainable and healthy methods.

So they built a chicken coop on wheels so that it could be moved daily to a new grazing spot. The chickens are free range and produce the most beautiful and tasty eggs. Today they have 1000 laying hens that produce anywhere from ten dozen to 30 dozen eggs a day, depending upon the season.

They also are raising 76 sheep which will produce spring lambs, 13 beef cattle, three dairy cows, 18 milking goats, 1500 laying chickens, 400 broiler chickens, and 50,000 tilapia. Ten acres of land are devoted to growing vegetables with some of that acreage set aside for cover crops, such as peas and turnips, that get plowed under to build up the fallow land.

They are constantly adding to their farm - building greenhouses, planting fruit trees, and developing a sustainable food system. If you have seen the films, Food Inc or Fresh: The Movie, or have read Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, you may recall farmer Joel Salatin, from whom they have taken inspiration.

Dawn and Brian are raising ten children, all adopted. The children range in age from 9 - 13 years old. Four of the children are a sibling group from Guatemala and two are twins from Haiti. They learned about each child from friends and neighbors who knew of the children's (or babies') circumstances and each they believe were God-sent.

Dawn describes the most satisfying part of their life as the "unity our family has in working together." She home schools the children with some help from her mother and outside music teachers. She cooks three meals a day and on the day I interviewed her, she admitted she was tired. She had picked and boxed vegetables for the market at their farm for that afternoon.

The one thing that she misses in this farming lifestyle is camping with the family. It is just too hard to get away now that they have so many animals to care for. She describes the work as physically hard and yet relishes what she calls the "simple lifestyle" that she would not trade.

I am participating in their CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture). I love the concept of being a part of the Gotreaux Farm's success. In exchange for my check for $290, I am receiving a fresh box of vegetables (and sometimes fruit and flowers) for twelve weeks. Of course, if a bad storm comes along, my box may not have much in it that week. I like supporting what Brian calls "beyond organic: without chemicals but with nutrients." They do add nutrients to the soil when needed such as kelp or other seaweed products from Norway and Canada. They live according to the maxim from Hippocrates, "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food."

I certainly appreciate their dedication to growing food densely packed with nutrients. And, I enjoy the opportunity to see where these delicious fresh vegetables, tilapia and free range chickens come from. The Gotreauxs are the Acadiana equivalent of the ground-breaking small farmers sprouting up around the country to provide their communities with healthy food.

The Gotreauxs are living and working with passion. Through dedication and perseverance they have managed to come back after major setbacks. The first time they offered Community Supported Agriculture was in 2005. Two weeks after they started Hurricane Katrina hit and they lost their entire crop. It has taken them five years to be in a place to offer this service again to the community. Thank you!

Oak Communications

Lafayette, LA and throughout the country

510.316.3319 - cell

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