Wheat grass and a wheelchair are two things Chico Garcia never thought would be essential to his life.
In August 2011, Garcia was in a boating accident that changed his life in more ways than the obvious obstacles he faces every day as a quadriplegic. The former LSU cheerleader and cheerleading coach is now the founder of Cajun Organics.
The 33-year-old Garcia became unhappy with the whirlwind life of therapy, doctors and medication he was living. He started researching nutrients and foods that could take the place of the medications.
Garcia does not burn many calories in a day, so he started looking into low-cal food items with high nutritional value. And that’s how he stumbled upon wheat grass.
He began growing wheat grass, figuring he knew he couldn’t be the only person interested in it. He quit his job at Apple in July to pursue his dream of opening an organic lifestyle business. What resulted is Cajun Organics.
Only a few months into operation, Cajun Organics has more than just wheat grass shots. Garcia says it’s turning into an “organic lifestyle one-stop-shop.”
The company currently has wheat grass shots, filtered water, almond butter, salsa and trail mix, with a greenroom to grow herbs. Cajun Organics is operating out of Garcia’s Baton Rouge-area home.
Instead of using pesticides or chemicals, Cajun Organics uses the aquaponics method in which plants soak up water that is full of nutrients provided by Koi fish waste, ensuring products are 100 percent organic.
Being a college athlete, then a coach and practitioner of Jiu Jitsu, Garcia was living an active lifestyle, and he’s still mentally active today. Because of his activities, Garcia also had to live a healthy lifestyle.
“People are my thing, but now it’s basically providing those people with healthy solutions that are for the busy person that want to be healthy.”
Through working at Apple, Garcia met Lauren Cross, LSU public relations and religious studies senior. Garcia’s company along with his story immediately peaked her interest. Garcia hired Cross to be Cajun Organic’s marketing director. Cross is one of two employees plus two volunteers..
Cross says that as a public relations student, her efforts have been involved with companies and organizations with a similar goal behind them. Cross is involved in the local arts scene, especially in the North Gate area of Baton Rouge.
LSU took up a majority of Garcia’s life for 12 years. Garcia was hired his senior year as a cheerleading coach and retired after eight years following his accident. Now Garcia is on a new chapter in his life.
“I never thought in a million years that I would be growing grass,” Garcia said. “I’ve got a green thumb and I’m rolling with it. It’s my new kind of later in life hobby.”
His green thumb isn’t the only change Garcia has encountered since he became paralyzed.
Garcia said before his accident he thought he was a down-to-earth person, but looking back he sees that he was not as down to earth as he thought, and now he is. He referred to his previous lifestyle as somewhat flashy.
“Of course, boys and their toys,” he said. “I had all the toys -- motorbikes, boats, dirt bikes, go-carts, four wheelers, you name it. I would get a toy, just to have a boy toy.”
Garcia said being confined to a wheelchair most of the time has made him more understanding and open-minded, less prone to flashes of anger, and more willing to help others.
For about two years after the boating accident, Garcia’s parents lived with him. Now he has his own nurse and a maid; his parents only visit for a few days at a time.
Garcia plans to move his business into a larger facility in Baton Rouge and hopes open more sites in Lafayette, New Orleans and, eventually, Florida.