Wynde Kate Reese is a dark-haired, petite bundle of energy as she whisks through Green Goddess Natural Foods, where she is the co-owner with friend Tammy Loewy, smiling, waving and stopping to answer a customer's question. Wynde Kate cuts a vivacious wake.
Raised in Tupper Lake, Wynde Kate chose to forego a formal education until she knew she could use her degree. Choosing instead to "get to know the rest of this beautiful country" before exploring other nations, she moved to Oregon to work on a farm and then to Colorado to be a self-proclaimed ski bum in Leadville, Colo. to ski Copper Mountain as well as the backcountry. It would be in Colorado where she met her future husband, Matt.
"Life experience has been my biggest classroom," Wynde Kate said. "I did distance learning for my entire bachelor's degree. Because of that, I was able to travel. I was able to start a business. I was able to raise a family. I was able to move when I wanted to move and stay when I wanted to stay without a penny of debt.
Wynde Kate Reese
(Photo — Diane Chase)
"I still had to do the work. Yes, it was all self induced. There was no one telling me that I needed to read this book. It was all self driven, fitting everything in."
She and Matt traveled to Alaska for an extended road trip, which led to a journey to Belize. The first year, they bought a boat, snorkeled and lived "the island life." A pattern developed where she and Matt would work long enough back in the U.S. to make enough money to get them back to Belize.
They came back to the Adirondacks and worked at Rivermede Farm in Keene Valley, saving enough money to eventually buy three acres of vacant farmland surrounded by jungle, outside of San Ignacio in Belize. Wynde Kate describes how they both fell in love with Belize and wanted their own little piece of paradise.
She lovingly describes this land surrounded by jungle inhabited by howler monkeys and parrots flying overhead, and of course, snakes and spiders.
For the past 11 years, she and her husband have been traveling back to Belize, healing a piece of vacant land.
"Our goal was to create a forest garden and rehabilitate the land that had been leached away, grazed by animals," she said. "We planted native species and tropical fruit trees. We recently planted coffee and some sugar cane. Since coffee needs shade we couldn't plant that until the other trees were large enough. So we are now able to create an understory, which is the next phase of our forest garden. We probably now have about 200 trees."
She said she can't remember a time that she wasn't gardening. Her parents had vegetable gardens where she grew up in the woods, learning the different names of plants, what was edible and picking berries.
"I worked on and off at Rivermede for about three years," she said. "When we were here, in the area, I wanted to be working at an awesome place, farming. We were doing everything from cultivating the fields to working the farm store. The goal was to just get back to Belize. We had thought we would eventually live there. It was inexpensive there especially in the winter because we didn't have to pay for heat. Plus the fresh food is amazing."
It was through her travels that she became communicative in Spanish. She had taken language class during high school, but it was traveling to Guatemala and Mexico and being immersed in the culture that made her comfortable speaking.
While pregnant with her now 5 1/2-year-old son, Bladen, Wynde Kate and Matt made the decision to forego a permanent move to Belize.
"We realized that we wanted to be close to family," she said. "We were in unknown territory. Family support was so important and it has been. I love that our families live so close, for Bladen, as well as our parents. We wanted him to have a relationship with them that he wouldn't have had if we lived so far away.
"The season at Rivermede ended and I got a job at the Cliffhanger Cafe and worked there through the winter. I worked there through the spring of 2002 and that was when Matt and I started Earth Roots Landscaping. We do sustainable landscaping and have the means of moving earth in a positive way to add benefit and value to the landscape."
With extensive experience in farming and landscaping, Wynde Kate and Matt use their own Belize forest garden as inspiration to create Adirondack landscapes with native species. Along with indigenous plants, the goal is to provide plants with multiple functions, whether its medicinal leaves or edible berries, location of plants for shade or water to manage a property. The idea behind sustainability is restructuring the landscape for the long term so there will be minimal maintenance needed on the property. They try to utilize the existing resources that are there or close by.
"Sustainable or edible landscaping does require some work," she admits. "It is work harvesting and being part of the landscape. People enjoy being integrated into the landscape because it is beneficial to the soul and to good health. What better way to live than to harvest your own berries or nuts off your own trees."
It was at the Cliffhanger Cafe that she would meet friend Tammy Loewy, who would lead to their eventual partnership in Green Goddess Natural Foods.
"Tammy and I already had this idea of Green Goddess Foods in the works," Wynde said. "Farmers' markets have always been of interest to me. I have always loved local food and using local food and giving people ideas on how to use local food. We thought we would have a booth and use the fresh local ingredients to give people an idea of what they could do. That was the beginning of Green Goddess Foods. From that we began to wholesale to places like here and various other stores," she gestures around her store that used to be known as Beans Goods.
As a brand new mother, Wynde Kate brought her son with her to all the markets. When she was two weeks past her due date, her son was there while she made smoothies at the farmers' markets and he was there two weeks later while she worked the farmers' markets.Besides the farmers' markets and catering, Tammy and Wynde Kate, as Green Goddess Foods, began teaching wellness classes in community centers, schools, at the Adirondack Medical Center and even at the current Green Goddess Natural Foods location.
Green Goddess Foods developed wellness classes to educate on topics such as heart health, stress relief, women's health and cancer prevention.
Wynde Kate holds a bachelor of science in holistic nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health. This gave participants the opportunity ask questions and share experiences. Participants then took that knowledge into the kitchen to cook a meal related to the topic. Lastly they would all sit down and have a meal together and converse.
"We enjoyed getting out and connecting with communities but when the owner of Beans Goods wanted to sell the store, the opportunity was too good to pass up," Wynde said. "At that time, Tammy was pregnant with her daughter, so Green Goddess began when I was pregnant with Bladen and Green Goddess Natural Foods began when Tammy was pregnant with Zarela.
"I am also the gardening instructor at Northern Lights School (a Waldorf-initiative in Saranac Lake)," Wynde said. "I think that gardening with children is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give them. Having learned gardening from my parents has led me to garden in some form for the rest of my life."
She teaches 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders a variety of subjects like the stages of plant growth, cover crops for the fall and composting, while creating various garden beds for flowers and vegetables. Wynde Kate also recently designed the new nature-inspired Lake Placid Elementary School playground "Paw Print Park" with architect Andrew Chary.
"Working with the elementary school in the landscaping aspect of the business has been wonderful," she said. "I would love to build more natural play spaces whether small spaces in someone's backyard or large areas like community centers or schools. I believe that there is such an important connection we need to make and keep with nature, which is largely being lost today. That is how to change the future, to get kids to love and respect nature.
"For Green Goddess, I would like to do more outreach and education. I always go back to kids. They are so permeable. They are open to learning whatever we teach them. We need to keep educating ourselves but the children are going to be the stewards of our planet in a really short time. If we don't educate them on how to care then they will be lost. With both businesses we are drawn to the children and how to make healthy choices.
"At Green Goddess Natural Foods, we strive to provide healthy foods from conscious companies. We strive to buy locally as much as we can to keep money in the community. We are trying to create ways to make food more affordable though we understand organic is more expensive," she sighs. "We are hoping to educate people on the value of food.
"I had read a statistic that said that about 50 years ago about 50 percent of the average American income went to food and now it is less than 10 percent," Wynde Kate's voice rises with conviction. "I feel our vision has changed and we put other things at higher value than food and it is food that sustains us, it is food that is with us from the time that we are born to the moment we die and all the time in between. It directly affects our health, our life and the environment around us. We hope that Green Goddess can help the community by providing healthy food at as reasonable a cost as possible.
"We want to also encourage people to value food at a higher level. We have a frequent buyer cards, senior discount days, if you walk or bike to the store you get a discount, have a note from your physician for a supplement you get a discount. We do have a newsletter at greengoddessfoods.com with other discounts, sales and events. We understand the need to save and we are doing what we can to help.
"I hope my son will realize that both his parents work really hard at their goals. He has two self-employed parents who chose alternative ways of getting their education, so it is possible to be creative and innovative in many ways. Life just doesn't happen; you have to work for it. That is one thing Bladen sees with both Matt and I, we love what we do. Many people ask how I do it, and I tell them if I didn't love what I do, it wouldn't be possible."