In my quest to discover and learn from interesting people and lifestyles in east central Saskatchewan, it was recommended that I get in touch with a young entrepreneur from Rhein – a small village located 46 kilometres from Kamsack. It was there that I met Stacey Tress, who runs a business from her home called Garden Therapy Yorkton. Featuring products such as living cultures for sourdough, kombucha, and kefir, before COVID, she also offered workshops in fermentation, permaculture design and nutritional consultation. Although the pandemic has halted numerous facets of the home-based business, Tress hopes the future will see a resurgence of her in-person classes and workshops.
“The pandemic has been hard on all of us. I understand a lot of people have adapted to Zoom workshops, but that’s just not my style. I really prefer working with people in person. When people come to my home to learn, I want them to feel the intention of what we are doing – to feel happy and heard. I want to be able to teach through that shared experience.”
It was mid-morning and the summer heat was already ramping up at the charming Rhein acreage that Tress, along with her husband, Rob, and their two young daughters have been lovingly growing and nurturing for the past four years since their move from Yorkton.
Tress had a large batch of homemade sourdough waffles on the go and the sweet smell filled the air as a band of young girls (her own daughters and two friends from school) gleefully ran in and out of the house with bare feet and swim suits, each eagerly grabbing a hot, fresh waffle to munch in the shade of a treehouse before jumping back in to cool off in the above-ground pool.
The Tress Family are still relative newcomers to the area, having moved to Saskatchewan from Ontario back in 2009. While they now live in “bliss” – enjoying the very best of rural life, the charms of a small town community, good health and happiness…that hasn’t always been the case. At one time, Tress suffered from severe and mysterious health challenges that resulted in her being bedridden for nearly two years. She was only 26 years old at the time.
“My journey into health and wellness started back in 2004 when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis,” shared Tress. “Being 26, I was completely floored by this debilitating disease, coupled with the info that we could not have children at that time (due to meds). I immediately went into counselling, started seeing a naturopath doctor, and studied nutrition. My husband and I were living in Guelph, Ontario at the time. We began a love for raw foods, took sprouting courses and started making our own sprouts and raw treats. I continued studies into holistic nutrition, homeopathy, herbalism and eating raw (the idea was to get my body into a alkaline state so it could help heal the acidic disease I was experiencing). We also started enjoying raw fermented goodies like sauerkraut and microgreens.”
Fast forward to 2009, and Tress had a brain scan for Multiple Sclerosis the day before she flew out to settle into her first Saskatchewan home in Yorkton. Autoimmune diseases are tricky to diagnose and the doctors were still uncertain exactly which one, or what exactly, was causing her pain and debilitation.
“I had been blessed to know a doctor who prescribed me olive leaf extract and by the grace of God, stars aligning, my alkaline state - my blood infection levels started to come back to normal and I was able to walk again…over time.”
With renewed strength and vitality, Tress decided to engage in formal permaculture training. Permaculture can be understood as the growth of agricultural ecosystems in a self-sufficient and sustainable way. This form of agriculture draws inspiration from nature to develop synergetic farming systems based on crop diversity, resilience, natural productivity, and sustainability. Tress first trained in Manitoba at The Harvest Moon Society and then flew to Colorado for an immersive study at the CRMPI (Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute).
With profound changes in her health, (which she attributes to natural medicine), Tress was inspired to offer permaculture training and fermentation workshops across the prairies in hopes that sharing her understanding might serve others in a similar way.
Now established as a creative and experienced permaculture designer, Tress has been invited to contribute to notable projects, including one for the campus of the University of Regina. She has also made annual trips to Winnipeg to be a part of a summer course called Creating a Community Commons where she taught the permaculture component of the course.
During her years living in Yorkton, Tress initiated a number of local food movements in the area including Yorkton Seedy Saturday and the Yorkton Gardener's Market. Along with her husband, the pair hosted a Food is Free stand for a number of years – representing a concept of freely sharing the abundance of homegrown food with others in the community.
Tress said she loves receiving calls and messages from past students offering testimonials regarding improvements to their health. Her cultures continue to be shipped across Canada, and a few have made their way overseas.