Revitalized fair celebrates alternative care

A bright yellow sign hanging outside the Almost Home Maternity Centre proclaims Heather Ashthorn’s philosophy on gardening.

A bright yellow sign hanging outside the Almost Home Maternity Centre proclaims Heather Ashthorn’s philosophy on gardening.

“No pesticides,” it says. “I love my family and the environment more than my lawn.”

The sign has been up there for six years, said Ashthorn. But this is the first year people have noticed it.

“To me, it’s proof that people are starting to notice the climate changing, the food getting worse and their health getting worse,” said Ashthorn, while sitting cross-legged at her kitchen table earlier this week.

“It’s about trying to get people to make the connection between the health of the Earth and the health of our bodies.”

And fostering that connection is the theme of this year’s Wholistic Health and Wellness Fair, slated to run this weekend at the High Country Inn in downtown Whitehorse.

The fair will be an opportunity for the holistic health community to come together to share information, and for curious newbies to come out and see what the field is all about.

There will be more than 40 booths on a wide range of topics from doulas to naturopathic doctors, GMO-free Yukon and a full slate of workshops that will be run by donation.

“There’ll be chances to chat and we’ll have a room where they can come in and get hands-on healing,” said Ashthorn.

Holistic health is a broad term encompassing everything from energy therapies like Reiki, to Chinese medicine to organic local foods.

It focuses on preventative therapies, and on treating the person as a whole rather than tackling individual symptoms.

It’s a different approach to taking care of the body.

And that scares some people.

One of the hardest things to do has been to buck the granola-eating, flowerchild stereotypes surrounding the field, said Ashthorn, who has been a practicing midwife for 14 years and has assisted on more than 200 births.

“It’s really hard for people to get past that.

“We’re so trained to think that we need to be carved up and injected with things and given pills, and that’s the only way to fix ourselves.”

The fair is a gentle way to introduce people outside the field to new ideas.

“People can come out and see that people practising in the field aren’t just wackos.

“My practice couldn’t be more grounded,” said Ashthorn.

“The medical perspective is brand new and yet that’s where 99 per cent of people go and the midwives get seen as flaky granola-heads.

“You can liken it to the residential school phenomenon — you take one generation away from its roots and you’ve destroyed the whole chain.

“And it takes hundreds of years to get back to normal.”

Local naturopath Janice Millington, who describes herself as a “green doctor,” is co-organizing the two-day fest with Ashthorn.

Naturopathy is healthcare that considers the body as a whole — it looks at the root cause of illness and uses natural remedies, like herbs and diet, to bring people back into balance.

“Often people come in with a problem that their medical doctor might not see as a major concern, and we can work to fine tune those things,” she said.

Whitehorse is a special place, said Millington.

But the fair’s organizers are looking to build on the Yukoners’ big love of what is natural.

“We really like to take care of ourselves here,” said Ashthorn.

“Communities that are really supportive of the arts, which Whitehorse really is, also tend to be really supportive of the holistic health field.

“Also people are really open-minded here and the holistic field can be seen as an alternative to Western thought.

“And it seems now a lot of people are looking to complement their Western medicine with other things.”

This year’s fair will be the seventh hosted by Yukon’s Wholistic Health Network.

It’s enjoyed strong support from the community in the past, but last year it went through a rough patch.

Some people found the fair “boring” and “stagnant”, said Millington.

“Membership waned last year, and it was the same volunteers organizing the fair every year — year six got to be a bit much,” said Ashthorn.

“It’s like a relationship, everyone says years six and seven are really hard.”

So the organizers took a year off.

And this year they’re back with a completely new group of presenters, and a whole new outlook on what the fair should be.

“We’re really focusing on making it more fun,” said Millington.

The fair runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the High Country Inn and Jim Light Park.

From 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday there will be a slow food potluck set to music by the Rising Sun Band, Nichole Edwards and Cate Innish.

Visit for a complete listing of events.