When Val Parker opened her Fairlie health food shop, nearly 20 years ago, she had chosen a small South Island country town where traditional kiwi food and conventional farming were the way of life. Those were the days when the popular perception of health food was a bowl of sugar-loaded muesli and yoghurt made with food colouring instead of acidophilus. The polite term for anything unusual was "it's different."
Val went to Fairlie not because it was a fail-safe business move, but because she was "told to", in the spiritual sense.
Grubs Hold a Clue
Fortune was shining on one man, who credits Val with saving his life. He came to her years ago very ill. He'd been spraying DDT without protection and had noticed that when magpies ate the grubs, they'd spin around and die. He told this story to a GP who told him he needed psychiatric treatment for thinking that birds might hold a clue to his illness. It took three years, working with Val, before he was cured.
Now people hear about the Sunflower Centre (especially the vege burgers) all over the world - even Tibet.
Organic for Fifty Years
Val has been growing organic food for about 48 years, and 30 years ago opened the first health food shop in the South Island, in Timaru. She started growing food organically because she could see contaminated food was making people sick.
"We are what we eat," and badly grown and prepared food is unhealthy, she says.
At home in Fairlie, a paddock has been converted into a vegetable garden, and although not Demeter certified, she gardens using bio-dynamic preparations. The garden includes four big compost piles, 80 apple trees, peach, nectarine and hazelnut trees, and 38 "geriatric" sheep, all of them 16 years old.
Spirituality and Organics
These days, Val sees many locals for natural healing/bodywork and holds two Transmission Meditation classes a week, with up to 14 attending the Friday night session. There are now farmers interested in converting to organic farming, and one in the Fairlie district is getting into worm farming.
She says the best answer to ill health is prevention - eating the very best food in preference to taking supplements, although these can help. More importantly, you can not separate the physical from the mental and spiritual, says Val.
She says humans have neglected the spiritual. Because we live in the physical world, it is important to eat and think the right things, but our spiritual side must be respected if we are to achieve balance and if humanity is to evolve. Nowadays, Val spends a lot of her time devoted to the spiritual things, through Transmission Meditation, a movement which is preparing for the return of the World Teacher in the form of Maitreya.
She is unconcerned about Y2K or the prospect of turmoil at the millennium, although she believes things will happen. Overall, this will be beneficial because it will wake people up. The degree to which we look after one another is the degree to which we will survive, she said.