At the heart of Natura’s mission is reconnecting people to the nourishment that comes up out of the Earth, and the healing that happens when we gather in appreciation thereof. Natura became a new program of Commonweal in July of 2018; many foundational and practical investments have been made to be able to make these connections through demonstrating, teaching, and experiencing deep nourishment. The grant from the Healing Kitchens Institute has been instrumental in supporting many of these initial start-up costs, ranging from kitchen tools and hotplates for outdoor cooking demonstrations to some of the costs associated with putting in a vigorous, beautiful bed of kale. Equally instrumental has been the support of Anna O’Malley’s time in teaching and demonstrating how to use food as medicine.

Anna O'Malley , Director, Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine

Anna O'Malley, Director, Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine

The programs in Commonweal Garden that Anna facilitates (Art of Vitality and Community Medicine Circles) place special emphasis on the use of food as medicine. In addition to chef demonstrations sourced largely from the Garden in each of the Art of Vitality weekends, program participants are supported to bring potluck offerings created from a list of particularly powerful, anti-inflammatory, nourishing foods. (It is very common for some of Rebecca’s recipes to be featured at the potlucks!) Beautifully, members of this activated, nourished Art of Vitality community cooked in this way for members of the organization Abriendo Caminos on a healing retreat in the Garden. During the retreat we conversed about stress and challenges to the health of the Latino community, particularly unhealthy acculturation through adopting of unhealthy eating habits. It was powerful for them to be nourished by others who had cooked such yummy, healthy food for them. It was very powerful for them to reflect on how they could build on what they’d learned about healing foods and reconnect to the nourishing whole foods of their grandmothers, and perhaps integrate more of the vegetables grown locally.


We are now reflecting on the next steps in being able to further our reach in sharing this nourishing goodness. The circle of Latina women mentioned above is interested in a series of cooking demonstrations. The successful Community Medicine Circles, which explore medical topics (eg Cognitive Wellness, Cardiovascular Wellbeing, Women’s Health, Addictive Behaviors) monthly from an integrative perspective provide an opportunity to integrate relevant demonstrations and have participants stay after for a nourishing potluck. We are in the early stages of visioning into our greenhouse becoming a place that could graciously accommodate speaking/social events convened around conscious relationship with the Earth and the nourishing food and medicine she provides (and more). We are planning to begin filming demonstrations to further the reach on social media and internet platforms. The Commonweal Garden very naturally and beautifully holds such space. We are building the foundation for these evolving possibilities and are deeply grateful for the Healing Kitchen Institute’s support.

Natura Institute for Ecology and Medicine at Commonweal Garden