Photo Courtesy of McDowell Photography Project
Rain Parker missed her period...for months. In the fall of 2010, the 30-year-old finally visited a doctor and found out why. At 300 pounds, she was too heavy to ovulate. Rain also learned she had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and was pre-diabetic. "I came home a mess," she says. That night, Rain told her girlfriend, Temica, she needed to make a change—before it was too late.
A graphic design professor, Rain spent a typical day behind a desk and her evenings on the couch. She didn't cook much. "I ate a lot of Hot Pockets. Anything I could microwave. And as long as it contained bread and cheese, I was so in." For the last few years before that appointment, Rain dreamed of a different life. She read Mother Earth News. She pictured growing her own vegetables; raising chickens and goats.
That doctor's appointment convinced her: she had to make those dreams her new reality. That week, Rain and Temica quit their jobs. Six weeks later, they rented a 16-acre farm. Two years after that, they purchased 10 acres in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina.
Working outdoors, growing her own vegetables and raising rabbits and chickens, Rain lost 150 pounds in the first three years. She also cut sugar from her diet. Typical meals for her now include eggs from her own chickens and lots of salads using vegetables from her garden. "I make our own bone broth and we grow a ton of pumpkins and squash, so I make a lot of soups."
Today Rain and Temica, now her wife, run Eight Owls Farmstead
. An educational, donation-based homestead, Eight Owls teaches permaculture and foraging, hosts school groups, runs camps and workshops, and focuses on immersion stays for women interested in farming.
Rain's kept the weight off for three years now and all of her health issues have resolved. "It's because I'm eating good food and getting a lot of exercise out in the sunshine," she says. "Growing your own food becomes your gym membership and grocery store. And you don't need some big piece of land to do it. Just pick one small thing. Start there."
Watch: Organic vs. Nonorganic Vegetables