[This story originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of The Cultivator, The Cornucopia Institute’s quarterly print publication available to members and online.]
Many of us have had an aha! moment or moments that sparked our decision to farm, garden or eat organically. In this issue, Cornucopia board member Amanda Love tells how a cross-country journey awakened her to an organic lifestyle. Today she offers workshops, classes and retreats on how to prepare delicious, nourishing meals and live a harmonious life.
by Amanda Love, Board Member, The Cornucopia Institute
Was it my grandmother who owned a health food store in New Mexico long before they were popular or my health-conscious mother? Was it reading Emerson and Thoreau in high school that opened my mind to new expanses? Or the college study-abroad trip to Italy, where I experienced real food, real family values and la dolce vita?
I’m not sure which of these had the most influence on me or if they all converged to make me begin to question my way of life and start doing things differently. But I do know that the real turning point for me came the summer of 1997, when I rode my bicycle across the country. This trip unequivocally changed my life.
Suffering from a broken heart and knowing an adventure could be the cure, I signed up for a bike trip that was all about spreading awareness for “sustainable transportation.” I had no idea what “sustainable” meant at the time, but I considered myself an environmentalist and I knew it sounded good—despite the fact that I had never ridden a bike more than 13 miles in one stretch, much less the proposed 70 miles a day! But I was up for the challenge.
Starting out in Portland, Oregon, I was in bliss as I took in the nature, green landscapes, waterfalls, brilliant sunrises and sunsets. My legs ached and moaned for about a month biking through Oregon and Idaho until we summited the Grand Tetons. Finally, we enjoyed some coasting relief while riding through the plains of eastern Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio—only to climb again starting in West Virginia. By the time we reached the Appalachians, my legs were old pro’s at this biking business, and I had woken up in many ways.
At the start of the trip, I gave no thought to where my food came from. I didn’t even know about organic food much less free range, sustainably produced or grass-fed. By the end of the trip, I had not only become a conscious eater, I had become an activist.
The long days out on the road had purged me of my addiction to TV and unconscious eating. I saw the beauty as well as the ugliness and unconscious ways of this country. My nose took in all of it—the scent of wildflowers in bloom, forests and mountain air as well as the stench of factory farms, road kill, toxic fumes from every tailpipe, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that went on for miles.
This trip was the turning point that helped me become empowered to make my own decisions about what I eat, whether or not I own a car, and what I want to support with my dollars. After we triumphantly reached Washington, D.C., two and a half months after our journey began, we lobbied Congress to support sustainable transportation, a term I was now very familiar with.
A few months later, I moved from my home state of Texas to Northern California. There I was surrounded by like-minded people who not only cared about what they ate and how they lived, they were willing to protest to protect what they held dear. I joined the steering committee of a successful campaign designed to help defend our small town against corporate abuses. During the process, I met activist Julia Butterfly and got to sit with her for an hour, in a treehouse, in Luna, the ancient redwood she was protecting.
I then found myself at Heartwood Institute, where I learned to cook amazing health-conscious and nutritious food. I was immersed in a world of healers and those becoming healers. I knew this world was my home and I would continue on this path.
Since I was a little girl, my body had always been sensitive—or maybe just intelligent enough to know that nothing but real food worked for it. Finally having real, organic, healing food to eat all the time, I could feel my body being nourished on a level it had never known before. Going back to eating chemically produced food would never again be an option for me.
For the last 16 years, I have shared my message with others and have hoped to inspire them to take their health into their own hands by the simple (and yet complex) choice of what they put into their mouth.
AMANDA LOVE is an inspirational “chef-tivist” who teaches families, farmers and food lovers how to reclaim the power of simple, nourishing cooking. She has served on Cornucopia’s board of directors since 2011. Learn more at www.thebarefootcook.com.