By Leah Selk –

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

Many of you may know me as a fixture in the local arts community. I grew up as “that artsy girl” among peers, went away to art schools, and returned to play a role in arts administration and in furthering the development of the arts through my employment and involvement with various area arts organizations. While the arts are still a major part of my life, and always will be, I’m now finding myself on a new and different path going forward.

Leah in her garden. Photo: Froese and Co Photography
Leah in her garden.
Photo: Froese and Co Photography

I’ve recently enrolled in a natural nutrition diploma program, which will see me engaging with the community as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in about two years’ time. This is a drastic shift for me in some ways, but is also something I feel I’ve been gravitating towards since settling back into the Cariboo nine years ago. I found myself struggling with various health issues and never finding answers, other than another prescription in my hand for drugs that would inevitably cause more health issues. It was time to start taking some responsibility for myself – mind, body, and spirit – and to consider the root causes of my problems rather than just attempting to treat the symptoms (and only creating more symptoms!) What I sought mostly, though, was empowerment.

Gardening, and an interest in food security, found its way into my life around the same time. I grew to learn the importance of organic, fresh, local, and seasonal food; of working with the rhythms of the Earth in a glorious harmony; of finding connection, grounding, and balance in ways I’d never thought possible; and, of pure joy and awe in watching life unfold before my eyes. Nature provides an abundance of resources – food, medicine, materials, lessons, hope – if we choose to listen, respect, and utilize them.

Like the Earth, our bodies have a remarkable capacity to heal themselves. Society has attuned us to living a high-stress and highly-processed lifestyle, almost as if it were an achievement of sorts. We all know some folks who wear their exhaustion and busyness like badges of honour. But at what cost? We are working more than ever, while rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease continue to soar, despite being primarily preventable. It’s certainly not too late to consider how we treat our bodies and minds, as well as the Earth, and to take preventative and proactive measures for health, happiness, and vitality.

As individuals, each of us is biochemically distinct and has unique nutritional needs. There is no cure-all, and no quick-fix diet (sorry!). That Atkins diet that works so well for your neighbour may be horribly detrimental to your own health. This is where holistic nutrition comes in, where we assess and adapt your own unique needs to fully address body, mind, and spirit, and to give you the tools you need to obtain your own sense of empowerment. Foods are extremely important, but it is also important to look at how we handle other aspects of our lives, such as stress, sleep, emotions, and relationships. Our nature is to be healthy and happy. Identifying what’s causing a disturbance to our innate health and happiness is the key.

I find health and happiness in the soil. Recent studies show that the microbes in the dirt actually help to battle depression, along with the therapy that comes with gardening itself (exercise, a sense of accomplishment, fresh air – it’s all good). The bounty is a blessed bonus! Growing my own food increases those good feelings exponentially, especially when it’s the middle of February and I’m mixing up a crock of homemade kimchi with homegrown veggies—to me, that is nourishment and empowerment at its finest.

As we head into summer, may you be blessed with your own bounty (either homegrown or through supporting our many local growers and producers). Eating locally ensures the freshest, and therefore most nourishing and flavourful foods, and decreases our footprint by reducing excess transportation and packaging. Supporting our local economy is a good thing. Summer is also a great time to try eating in season as there is no shortage of selection and availability. Meals should consist of lots of fresh fruits and veggies, which support the need to keep cool and hydrated. And don’t forget to drink lots of good, clean water.

It is my hope to share this passion with the community through sharing my knowledge of building, growing, harvesting, storing, cooking, and eating a garden. May we ever keep cultivating.

Leah Selk grew up in Williams Lake and holds a diploma in Visual Arts from Camosun College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University. She is currently studying with the Canadian School for Natural Nutrition, and has a passion for the arts, gardening, and fermenting all the foods.


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