The story of a Vietnam era couple whose exposure to Agent Orange changed the way they look at GMO and chemical farming practices today.
In a little desert town known more for its cowboys than its food you will find an unexpected couple. A duo from the Vietnam era with a mission to introduce healthy farming practices and organic principles to the Verde Valley in Arizona. Introducing Merle and Michele Herrick, organic farmers and Non-GMO activists.
Michele and Merle are founders of GMO Free Verde Valley; an organization dedicated to educating people on the dangers of genetically modified food. Both lifelong organic gardeners, Merle grew up eating fresh vegetables grown naturally by his grandmother. He later found himself in the horrors of war and the results that come with it. While in Vietnam he was repeatedly exposed to chemical sprays, including Agent Orange. He returned home with health issues. In his research to heal his body, he discovered the frightening similarities between the toxic chemicals he was exposed to in Vietnam and well known herbicides sprayed in copious amounts on crops and vegetation. He was able to return to health through organic eating and natural detoxification yet the seed was planted for his life’s work.
Many years later Merle met Michele. She describes him as her neighbor that had become her best friend. A fellow organic gardener, and naïve to his romantic interests, she had found a most compatible pal. One day he held her hand and didn’t let go. That was eighteen years ago. She still lights up when referring to her ‘bestie’ and now husband.
Michele, an RN, and Merle, a plumbing contractor by trade, retired and relocated to Arizona yet definitely did not choose the path of R&R. Instead they started Heartstone Farm; selling their produce and worms (yep, worms!) to those interested in vermiculture as a composting method. (Vermiculture is a system of using worms and organic food to enhance the nutrients in soil). Michele describes having gratitude for her family choosing to raise her on all organic real food. She tells me about her Northern California family growing their own food, grinding their own feed and flours, canning, and even drying and smoking to ensure that nothing was wasted. She proudly refers to raising her children the same way.
The couple first became aware of genetic modification long before any of us had heard the term GMO. They can tell you little known facts from decades of research. Ask them! As GMO was becoming more and more prevalent, their concern over the dangers grew. Rather than sit back and hope for a fix, they decided to utilize their knowledge to educate the community. Michele and Merle began by purchasing non-GMO education materials and shopping guides (charging to their credit card to be exact) to hand out at the farmer’s market. Merle received his first donation and was inspired to take the work to greater heights. Today they conduct workshops, show films, and lead speaking engagements all with the goal of healing the earth and helping us live healthier lives.
To learn more about the issues of GMO check out Michele and Merle’s Website. Even better take a trip to Arizona, drive to Camp Verde and ask for Michele and Merle. The neighbors will point you in the direction of their home and together you can take steps to ensure we all eat healthy clean food.