By Amanda Flinn
This story was first published in the August 2023 issue of “The Best Years” as “Faces of Southeast Missouri: Becky Brown.”
Becky Brown grew up on her family’s farm near Olive Branch, Ill. While the farm harvested wheat, corn and soybeans, her grandfather’s garden was her personal favorite. As he walked through the garden, she walked right behind him. And when all the cousins got together, they snapped green beans on the front porch with their grandmother and enjoyed barbecues with all the fixin’s from the garden. It was this simple life — big on food and big on family — that became the foundation for her own journey into natural health.
“I lived on fresh garden vegetables and fruit,” Brown says. “We canned our food and could freeze stuff. When I moved to the city, I thought I had moved past the farm life, but it was part of who I am, and I cycled back around.”
After graduating from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., Brown began working in the food industry as a restaurant manager. It was during this time she met her husband, Mike, who was very much into food and nutrition. Noticing there were few options for clean, organic foods in Southeast Missouri, they started traveling to St. Louis for groceries. But not long after, they quit their jobs in the restaurant business and opened the Natural Health Organic Foods store in Cape Girardeau.
At the time, the Browns were pretty strict vegans, but now, they eat a little bit of everything, choosing to focus more on locally-grown products that are certified organic, with minimal exposure to herbicides and pesticides. They are always looking for the least amount of processed food possible, with no artificial colors or sweeteners. Because of this, they get most of their groceries from the store, but have a personal garden, plus three acres of land where they grow their own blueberries, strawberries, figs and apples.
“Diet and exercise and lifestyle changes make a huge difference,” says Brown, who loves to cook, kayak and hike, and has recently taken up pickleball. “I believe this 100% with my heart. I feel so much better in my 50s than I ever did in my 20s.”
Over the years, Brown has learned physical health and mental health go hand in hand. When she eats better and moves her body, she experiences increased energy, a better mood, less anxiety and more restful sleep. But for those just getting started on their natural health journey, even Brown admits “it can be overwhelming and intimidating.”
Availability, cost and time are all factors of living and eating clean. And with so many resources, fad diets and products on the market, it can be difficult to know which choices are best.
“Start small. Ask questions. And don’t be afraid of change,” Brown says about the journey.
With retirement right around the corner, Brown is excited about the change that lies ahead. She is hoping for more weekends at the farmer’s market and extra time for crafting, and she might even open an Etsy shop.
No matter what, good food and family will be forever a part of the journey.