Couple practices sustainable lifestyle

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, March 5, 2017

By Ann Austin

When spring comes and flowers start to bloom, the dandelion isn’t typically considered a desirable part of people’s landscapes. But to Ariel and Derek Barkheim, it’s a nutrition-packed and easily attainable part of a sustainable lifestyle.

More people are expressing interest in the art of survival, whether it’s growing a garden, learning to can or make clothing. The Barkheims take it to the next level and have focused on educating themselves about many facets of working in nature.

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“If you can feed, clothe yourself and house yourself, it gives you an extra level of security,” Derek Barkheim said of their lifestyle.

The Barkheims met in Winona and moved to Portland, Oregon, where they began their sustainability journey. Derek Barkheim was part of an effort called Trackers Earth, which featured different camps for people to experience nature and learn survival skills. He is mostly self-taught with other skills such as foraging. He currently offers various camps during the warm season.

Ariel Barkheim, a naturopathic practitioner, was focusing on her degree and studying the science of using herbs and other natural forms of medicine to treat ailments ranging from stomach issues to high blood pressure, mental health to the common cold.

Derek and Ariel Barkheim seek to learn more about living a sustainable lifestyle. – Provided

“Our ideal is to follow the laws of nature,” she said.

She and her husband focus on creating optimal health by following simple rules such as eating with the season to get a more varied and nutrition-dense diet, going to sleep when it’s dark out and finding locally grown produce through foraging. Foraging is acquiring food through hunting, fishing or gathering vegetation.

The foraging class includes a walk along Brookside Trail and learning about plants that can be harvested for food or medicine — such as cedar, which can help with cough and colds and as an insect repellent.

When foraging, it’s important not to harvest plants that have been chemically treated or in a highly polluted area, such as along a roadway.

Ariel Barkheim serves as board chairwoman for Wintergreen Natural Foods. The class was a fundraiser, and she and Derek  Barkheim plan to offer more classes this year.

“We want to be a hub to pull like-minded people together,” she said.

If someone is interested in foraging or learning survival techniques, the Barkheims suggested to first do a lot of studying and observing — get a good picture book and pay attention every time you are outside or going for a hike.

“The wall of green will turn into individual plants,” Ariel Barkheim said, and then you can distinguish which plants to harvest for different uses.

One must be open for continuous learning along the way. Derek Barkheim equated the experience to traveling a winding path up a mountain. Rather than focusing on how long it takes to get to the top or how tired you may be, or anxious to finish, what matters most is the journey.

Lessons will be repeated to discover deeper knowledge.

“When you’re on the right path, eventually you come back to the beginning,” he said.

They take a humble approach to their lessons.

“We’re constantly learning so you have to be open to changing your mind,” Ariel Barkheim said.

Of course, they are human too — and occasionally will eat not-so-healthy food or binge on Netflix. It’s all about balance and taking one step at a time, or focusing on one goal at a time.

If you slip up, Ariel Barkheim’s advice is to “Forgive yourself and move on.”

A passion for naturopathy

Ariel Barkheim practices naturopathy at Rooted Family Medicine in Albert Lea and Winona. Her local office is inside Touchworks Massage in Skyline Plaza. Visit for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Derek Barkheim’s outdoor education/survival skills classes are offered through, in both Albert Lea and Winona, at the Hormel Nature Center and other vicinities during the warm months.

The couple plans to offer more foraging classes and other opportunities through Wintergreen Natural Foods. People are encouraged to like Wintergreen’s Facebook page to get information about upcoming classes.