Photo: Corinne Steel, right, a student in the UVM Farmer Training Program, talks about the power of farming and why food matters.
We talked to UVM Farmer Training Program student Corinne Steel – a nutrition consultant and holistic health coach transplanted from Oakland, California – about how she has been transformed by local food and sustainable agriculture in the face of lifelong struggle with Lyme disease.
What is your background?
In Berkeley, Calif., I graduated with honors as Nutrition Consultant at Bauman College, a holistic nutrition and culinary arts school in 2012. I received my holistic health coach certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2013, and represented Designs for Health, a professionals-only supplement company, as a health educator since March 2014.
My calling was to learn about nutrition in the context of biochemical individuality, which understands and respects that every human will respond to the same nutrient differently, and we all have emotional, social, and environmental factors that affect the availability of nutrition found in foods we eat all the time.
What appeals to you about farming?
There are many aspects of a farming lifestyle that appeal to me. I appreciate the diverse physical and mental task required to operate a farm business. I respect Mother Nature and her unpredictable intensity.
I found the UVM Farmer Training program after eight months of IV antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease. Instead of going back to physical therapy in a fluorescent-lit room, as I have plenty of times in my life, I wanted to get stronger in the sunshine. By using and building my muscles in a nontoxic environment with plenty of educational support to create a healthier ecosystem, the duties and diligence of an organic farmer have me feeling stronger than ever.
You have overcome many health challenges over the past several years, and worked to manage Lyme disease and other ailments. Could you describe to us what you’ve gone through?
My journey to be healthy has been over two decades in the making. Living with extended periods of intense pain caused by Lyme disease, I’ve gone through hospitalizations, periods in a wheelchair, immunodeficiency disorders, and neurological complications.
Lyme’s disruption of my immune system contributed to food allergies and sensitivities. When I eliminated allergenic foods, I found many symptoms of my chronic illnesses dissolving. It was an “aha” moment — a life changing perspective — and I realized that food is the most important component of health and recovery.
Did these health issues lead you to farming? What exactly made you want to become a farmer?
Absolutely! Food is everything.
I decided to learn organic farming to ensure personal access to the organic, whole foods that heal my body best. I consider the UVM Farmer Training Program as the next step in my nutrition education, complementing nutrition principles with soil health and sustainable cultivation for a healthy planet long-term.
How would you describe your experience so far in the UVM Farmer Training program?
The Farmer Training Program exceeded all of my expectations. I came here to get healthy and engage with the food systems of the future. Thanks to the amazing staff and rounded curriculum of the Farmer Training Program, we’ve been connected to Vermont’s sustainable farming community that proves any farming dream is possible.
What are your plans after completing the program this fall?
Come November, you’ll find me working at the historic Old Brick Store in Charlotte. Across the street from Old Brick Store is my home office, where I invite nutrition consultation clients.
A few years from now, however, I’ll be opening the doors to my own farm stand sourced from the food grown on a private homestead with my man and our two Dobermans.