Jeannie Herford and Joyce Bittner have a passion for healing and they've combined their energies and talents to create what they call "The Gathering Place," a special nature retreat.
"I think the setting is intriguing," Bittner said. "People get some education as well as nature. We're creating an experience."
Herford said she realized there was a local need for such a place when 185 of the 200 women who attended Payson Regional Medical Center's Women's Symposium signed up for a class she taught at the event.
"It wasn't because of me personally," she said. "It was the topic, a systematic approach to nutritional deficiencies. That shows an interest. The reason they wanted me at the clinic in Pine is because a majority of the people come in for medical diagnosis and want to treat themselves with natural remedies."
Herford is a graduate of the Health Enrichment Center in Michigan, a school she describes as a leading massage school in the East. She is presently getting her certification as a herbalist and works with patients at the Pine Strawberry Clinic.
"I've taught classes for the last six years in health and nutrition here and in Michigan," she said. "What I'm attempting to do is bring education here because it's so beautiful."
Herford and Bittner will be offering a schedule of "Tree of Life Institute" courses at Bittner's Fossil Creek Llama Ranch in Strawberry.
The day-long classes will be held from March 5 though June 25 and will provide information on vegetarian cooking and raising children naturally, including discussions on the use of herbal and natural remedies for children and prenatal nutrition and natural childbirth. There are other courses on eating right for your blood type and herbal preparation and certification.
"Working with herbs, people actually help the body get to a state of balance where it can do its own healing."
She said Steven Horn, president of the American Herbalist Guild, is setting the standards for herbal remedies. Horn developed the certification courses in the Tree of Life Institute schedule that is being offered in a 3,500-square-foot renovated barn at Bittner's llama ranch.
Bittner's interest in healing was sparked by the relocation business she and her husband, John, operated for new Arizona employees.
"I helped them integrate into the community," she said.
And while Bittner was helping new residents get settled, she noticed many of them had stress-related problems.
"My husband, John, and I bought Fossil Creek Llama Ranch about seven years ago with the idea of eventually having a place where people could come and relax and enjoy nature and learn, whether it was about their emotional, physical or spiritual well-being, 'cause it all works together."
When Bittner met Herford at a health practitioners' networking meeting in Pine just seven months ago, the two recognized that each could provide what the other lacked to fulfill their commitment to healing.
"Jeannie comes with the medical background and the link with all these worldwide speakers," Bittner said. "I just provide the environment and create the space.
"As part of my earlier business experience, I saw a lot of stress in people's lives. In creating the llama ranch, I wanted to provide an environment in which people could renew their spirits and let their hearts sing."
Bittner said that both she and Herford see the Rim country as a wonderful place to live."
Tree for Life course schedule
The Gathering Place in association with Fossil Creek Llama Ranch are offering the following courses:
• March 5: Vegetarian Cooking School. To register phone Lynette Cunningham at 472-9351.
• March 24: Raising Children Naturally presented by Steven Horn, founder of Tree of Light Institute
• March 25-26: Herbal Preparation and Application Certification
• March 27: Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type presented by Kimberly Balis, a bio-chemist who has worked with Dr. D'Adamo, author of "Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type."
• April 8: Introduction to Iridology, a brief introduction to what the eye can tell us about our constitutional state and potential problem areas, presented by Bonnie Wellington
• May 20-21: Constitutional Iridology Certification Course
• June 24-25: Hitting the Target with Herbs Certification Course
For information, contact Jeannie R. Herford at 472-7672 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above Tree of Life courses, Fossil Creek Llama Ranch is offering a llama hike and T'ai Chi class June 17.