Life Arts

Part Two - Harmonious Living: Talking with Rachel Kriger, Ethical Vegetarian, Organic Gardener and Acupuncturist

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Welcome back for the conclusion of my interview with vegetarian and organic gardener, Rachel Kriger. You were telling us about your farming experiences, Rachel. Please continue.

planting garlic at Adama Fellowship farm, CT

The story continues - as I took online prerequisites to prepare to enter a Masters Degree in Acupuncture at Tai Sophia Institute in Maryland, I took on one more farming gig. I was the farm manager at the Adamah Fellowship in Falls Village, Connecticut []. This fellowship teaches Jews in their 20s to learn how to live communally, grow food, connect to spirit, and grow themselves as strong leaders. As I immersed back into my native seasonal climate, I began to draw even bigger connections between the growing seasons on a farm and the Jewish holidays, especially Shabbat [the Jewish Sabbath]. While I had been in California, I had been observing Shabbat as a day of rest and it finally made so much sense to me. We need to rest, not only in the winter, but also once a week. It is also a strong faith practice to turn over our control over the crops (and over most everything else) to a higher power for one day a week, and more on holidays.

Being the farm manager was much less labor intensive because I had 12 vigorous 20-somethings carrying out my plans, and I helped them and taught them techniques along the way. And we made sure to have fun too! But still, as I used my skills and knowledge that I had gained since farming in Pennsylvania, I kept saying to myself... ah, how nice it will be to have a small garden!

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The happy ending to the "farming" chapter of my life is that I started a Five Element style Acupuncture school, and in the first month of classes, I was overjoyed when I heard my teacher say, "You will be tending your patients like a farmer tending her fields." I almost cried as I was reassured that I had actually been on my path that whole time.

So, you're now in the midst of your acupuncture studies, and still a vegetarian. How will you combine your interest in farming when you become a full-fledged acupuncturist? Do you hope to practice in a more rural area so you can have the best of both worlds?

I have been quite happy these past two years having a small garden. It is manageable and produces more than enough for me and some friends and family. My vision for the future is to practice acupuncture from an office that has a greenhouse as part of the waiting room and a garden that patients can enjoy before or after treatment. Ideally, this will be in a somewhat rural or suburban area with a bunch of trees and maybe a small stream too, and not too far from a large population pool of people who are interested in holistic health. I'm a sucker for the natural landscape, and, although there is a huge urban gardening movement, the concrete jungle just won't cut it for me.

I know from experience that the best healing space is amidst the elements. They reflect our internal states of being, and I want my patients to be able to associate their emotions and life journeys with nature in each season, and on each unique day.

You've been a committed vegetarian for many years, in fact, since your childhood. Has your vegetarianism evolved over the years? Can you talk about what motivated you initially and what keeps it going for you now?

Actually, I have never eaten meat in my 30 journeys around the sun on this earth. My mother became a vegetarian when she was 19 when she found it impossible to bite into a hamburger, and she chose to raise her children on an organic vegetarian diet in the 1980s. Most people are surprised when I tell them that I have never eaten meat, and I've met a few friends who had a similar upbringing. There are times when I am curious if or how I would feel different if I ate meat. Maybe I would have had more energy to keep up the rigorous farming lifestyle. And I still continue to be a vegetarian and to create and enjoy delicious whole foods meals. I also enjoy making fermented products like sour kraut, pickles or kombucha. And when I have an abundance from the garden, I put some in the freezer.

Mostly, I like to eat with the seasons - more raw, or very quickly cooked foods in the heat of the summer, and slow-cooked warm foods in winter. Sometimes I also choose to be vegan, or gluten-free for a few months at a time to see how my body likes it or doesn't like it. I have not come to any clear knowing about this, so the experiment will continue. I am definitely in practice to listen to my body when deciding what to put in my mouth. I do know that I usually have more energy and focus when I don't eat much sugar. And I am realistic about my participation in this culture, so I allow myself to enjoy yummy homemade treats in good company.

I have learned that the most important thing for me is to enjoy my diet, to put love into my food preparation, to savor the yummy food that I'm eating, and to share it with friends and family when I can. If I'm alone, I put leftovers in the freezer and enjoy them on another day when I don't have as much time to cook. Cooking with vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and sometimes eggs and dairy is super fun and tasty. Sometimes I keep it really simple to enjoy the natural taste of the veggies, and sometimes I engage in an alchemical process of taste formation. I hardly ever make exact same dish twice. I love creating interesting new recipes and knowing where most of the ingredients were grown.

Yum! Is there anything you'd like to add, Rachel?

I now have an acupuncture practice, which I started in the student clinic. I will be getting a Maryland license in January and will be practicing in three locations in Maryland. Your readers should email me if they would like to know more:

Thank you for talking with me, Rachel. And good luck with your acupuncture practice!

Part one of my interview with Rachel

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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