Edward Hospital ER technician brings the farm to local families

November 14, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Sometimes we find our passion unexpectedly. Ten years ago, Tony Vargas, 34, of Fox Lake, could only describe himself as someone who took advantage of attending all the latest parties. It wasn’t until one day that something clicked.

Vargas decided to enroll in community college to become an emergency medical technician (EMT) so he could provide care to others. He thought he found his passion, until he got injured. He applied for a patient care technician job in the emergency room (ER) at Edward Hospital. If he couldn’t help others as an EMT, he thought this was another way he could help people.

“You never know what you are going to see,” Vargas says. “I know I have seconds to read the room; is the patient happy, tense or sad? I really enjoy connecting with our patients and getting to know them on a personal level,” he adds.

Vargas quickly became familiar with common medical issues that often lead to ER visits. He met a lot of patients who struggled with their weight and, in return, were dealing with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. That’s when he decided to find a way to connect local farms to local families.

“I started following a YouTube channel and listening to a podcast on ways to do it,” he says.

The start of “Farmers Pick”

Vargas visited farms throughout northern Illinois to see if he could provide services for farmers in exchange for their produce. In return, he could bring produce from the farm to patients and their families at the hospital.

“Many of these farmers struggle with a labor shortage, so it was a win-win for both of us,” he says.

Over the past two years, in addition to his 12-hour shifts in the ER, Vargas has learned how to transplant seeds, harvest crops and drive a tractor while working on various farms. He describes himself as a freelancer for farmers that can show up whenever and wherever he is needed.

“From June to the end of October, I’ve been setting up a stand in the Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness parking lot on Saturday mornings to sell the crops I get from the farm,” Vargas says.

He founded “Farmers Pick,” a company that provides fresh, natural and organic food from local farmers via a subscription service.

“Every week, local residents from around the Naperville area visit my stand to pick up their meat, vegetable or egg subscription box,” he says.

Vargas enjoys the one-on-one relationship he has with families that subscribe to his service. He often gives recommendations for recipes or healthy meal ideas. His goal for 2023 is to own a storefront in the Naperville area where families can pick up their subscription boxes year-round. After that, he wants to invite people to the farms he serves.

“I really feel like I’m making a difference by trying to keep the community healthy,” Vargas says. “I hope to continue connecting local farms with local people.”

Learn more about our commitment to keeping our community healthy.

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