Kitty R. Lynn is, without a doubt, an idea person on a mission.
A lifelong agriculturalist who currently works as a grower at Our Sustenance Greenhouse, she is known to many as the creative problem solver behind “Ask Kitty”, a gardening column featured regularly in the Two Row Times. Kitty also sits on the organizing committee of the Healthy Roots program, where she lends her experience in horticulture as a consultant and workshop facilitator.
This year, she is committing herself to her work even further by taking part publicly in the Healthy Roots challenge — a 12 week health and wellness campaign which follows nine people who are following a traditional Haudenosaunee diet.
“It was a chance to share things that I’m pretty passionate about,” said Kitty, “We talk a lot in our program about climate change, and I think the only way that’s going to change is if we change. How we change is by what we take in — take in to our minds, take in to our hearts, and take into our physical bodies.”
The Healthy Roots challenge includes foods that would have been commonly eaten by indigenous people prior to European contact — things like wild rice, corn, fish, squash, strawberries, and herbal teas.
Studies have shown that when indigenous foods are eaten by indigenous people, the risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer is reduced. Also, producing and harvesting these foods on a local level can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which was a key motivating factor for Kitty.
But, transitioning to a new way of eating does present the occasional challenge.
Kitty says that early on in the challenge, the thought of sourcing and preparing foods from the list was daunting. It wasn’t until she took some time one night to journal all of her thoughts and feelings that she realized that the foods available to her were simple and abundant, and it was her thoughts that needed to change.
“I was being given an opportunity to be the best that I can be”, she said. “I changed my thoughts from ‘it’s a bother’, to the thought that I’m lucky to be able to do this. It changed everything.”
Kitty shifted her focus to forming a deeper and more mindful connection to the foods she was eating.
“This morning I was reveling in the taste of a duck egg that I cooked with a little bit of wild rice and some duck fat. And I was thinking about how it would have been for those who originally found this food. How did they find wild rice? How did they decide that we could eat that? And I was thinking about how we would have watched the animals eat that food and been a little more attentive to our environment then. And those thoughts sort of regress you to this place where you think ‘I am so grateful to be where I am right now. I’m so grateful’”
Kitty shares that for her, the Healthy Roots program may have initially been a challenge, but now she has come to see it as an opportunity to create positive change.
“Our job is to do one thing every day, to make one per cent of a difference in the world. For me, I’m very fortunate, because when I started doing this I was able to influence someone else to do it as well, who is so happy now with the tiny changes made in a week’s time.”
Fostering connection — whether it be between herself and her food, community or family — is what the challenge comes down to, says Kitty.
“The thing I would like people to take from Healthy Roots is the connectedness that we have to each other, to the world around us — the animals, the plants, the thought process that we have. We’re all connected. And if changing our lifestyle by eating something a little different brings that to the forefront and helps us to remember that, it might be a little easier to make the world better. That’s all it’s going to take.”
Tips from Kitty
Exercise: Try something different to get your body moving in a new and challenging way. Are you used to walking for your exercise? Try yoga, or CrossFit to target different muscles in your body.
Emotional health: Journal, write and reflect on your reasons for making positive change. Allow this process to bring some clarity in regards to your health. Be open and allow your epiphany to come. What is your why?
Meal planning: Carve out an afternoon on the weekend or your regular day off to gather the ingredients for some of your favourite Healthy Roots recipes. Go home and spend the rest of the afternoon making large batches of the meals you like to freeze, or portion out for convenient lunches and dinners throughout the week.