Everyone has a story…
Hi there, I’m Colleen Cheechalk, and by profession I’m a web developer and marketer, but who I am in my soul is a cook, grower of unique culinary ingredients, and a therapeutic wellness professional for people…and their cherished animal companions.
Like so many, I entered this world of healing foods and wellness out of need 20 years ago. We had just moved from the city to a small suburban farm that had been in the same family for more than 100 years.
We affectionately named it Green Acres.
The carefully cultivated and maintained flower gardens I created to accompany my former sleek glass filled cedar contemporary were replaced by acres of shrubs, trees, weeds, and haphazard plantings of old favorites like lilacs, peonies, old heirloom roses. I was sooooo out of my element, and these plants all seemed to have a mind of their own! I was overwhelmed, and it was a full time job trying to tame this wild landscape and keep it from constantly crowding out the hundreds of ornamental plants I brought with me when we moved.
I was working in the veterinary field at the time, and adopted a senior Lab mix with chronic and severe allergies. He was very ill, and we accepted the fact that our time with him was likely to be short and that we were acting as a sort of hospice home for him in his final days. As we went through products and foods designed to help keep him comfortable, his health just kept deteriorating further. Something in the back of my mind kept telling me that there had to be a common denominator in all this, like all of his health problems were working together and making him sicker, and all of the products and foods we were using just fueled it all. I started reading and researching…which wasn’t that easy back in the days of 1024k computers and dial up internet!
I started with his prescription food, the last type available that hadn’t been tried. The ingredients were shocking! Corn gluten meal, wheat, and other additives were the primary source of nutrition. I have environmental and food allergies myself, corn is something that I need to avoid. Things started clicking, and I asked my Veterinarian if cooking meals made with whole foods would help. Considering that he was so ill, it certainly couldn’t hurt, and within days of starting with simple meals of chicken, vegetables, and herbs his symptoms began to ease. I quickly dove into soap making, essential oils, herbs, and all things healing foods. He not only improved…he thrived.
Illness and disease is holistic in its own way, and as we found out with Buddy treating the allergies will help but it won’t necessarily help alleviate the effects they have on the rest of the body, mind, and spirit. Within a year I found myself cooking professionally, creating recipes and products for people who also found themselves desperate to help their pets, and to eat locally sourced, seasonal and ethically produced foods themselves. Our farm, and my battles with those “weeds” became a biodynamically managed environment filled with thousands of culinary and medicinal plants that we cultivate and preserve for careful foraging, and to give back to the creatures who live within it all. I began to focus my energies on the use of safe and delicious herbs and plants that are accessible and easy to incorporate into our day to day through food, not only for us but for our horses, dogs, cats, chickens and the rest of the farm. And just like that…my work as a culinary and wellness professional began, and became a significant part of everything I do.
My culinary experiences
My culinary adventures have led to so many wonderful experiences including a personal chef and private catering service, a lovely vegetarian cafe, and our wildly popular artisanal foods store, Taste. I have studied with many wonderful chefs and educators over the years, and make it a priority to constantly learn and evolve in this every changing environment. I’m a SUNY graduate with a degree in the arts an a minor in health/wellness and Nutrition. When it comes to food I specialize in recipes that are raw and plant based, and special dietary considerations such as gluten free, grain free, and dairy free, as well as seasonal eating through connections with local farms.
My work with animals
Since my origins in all of this began with animals, my heart and every spare moment is spent in service with them and for them. After all, it was Buddy who led me to study in herbalism, essential oils, nutrition and wellness, and most everything in between. Along with my formal education and training in veterinary assisting and technology, and equine nursing, I have studied the nutritional needs of pets and livestock extensively, and I am currently completing the NAVC/AAHA Pet Nutrition Coach Certification program to best help animal clients, and the people who love them. I have studied pet food nutrition, and advanced canine nutrition, and raw food nutrition with Meg Smart DVM, as well as Canine Herbalism with Rita Hogan. I became certified in Clinical Aromatherapy by the Pacific Institute, and in Reiki in 2001, and have helped countless dogs, horses and people use essential oils safely in the years that have followed.
During the time Buddy was with us, I was also diagnosed with a life altering health challenge. Alone and afraid of how it would affect my young family, I turned to my dogs and began training them for service work. While I was no stranger to the human and animal bond, learning about the field of Animal Assisted Therapies, especially equine assisted therapies, became my passion! I’ve spent the last 12 years connecting individuals with special needs to the healing power of horses as an Equine Specialist in Psychology, Learning and Hippotherapy, and most recently with Equestrian Tai Chi, guided meditation and life skills coaching. I became an Equine Sports Massage Therapist in 2014 to help round out my skills and to have the ability to keep my team of healing horses comfortable and well.
It’s time to share all this with you…
In the fall of 2019 we will celebrate 20 years on our farm, and it seemed like the perfect time to embrace all that we’ve done, experienced and learned, and create the opportunity to share it with others, no matter where they are. As this website evolves, you’ll find new and creative ways to connect to your local farming community, how to use and grow healing herbs, and we hope to launch an online learning program very soon. In the meantime, I am available for private coaching and consultations as well as workshops, so please feel free to contact me if a personalized approach to learning feels like a good fit for you.
Once again, thank you for visiting and I hope to work with you soon.