Student J Atkins

Congratulations to our December student of the month, Jenn Atkins, CNC, LMT!

My career as a holistic health practitioner formally began through my family business, Brazos Natural Foods, which opened in Bryan, Texas, in 1988. I worked on odd jobs in the store since its opening, but came on as customer-service staff in 1995, and my duties have expanded considerably since then.

What a lot there is to know in working at a natural foods store! I had a familiarity with some products already, having been raised by eclectic parents (comfrey root powder was a standard in our medicine cabinet), but was soon immersed in learning. I was also challenging my usually introverted nature to be more confident in working with people, and the store setting was a superb if demanding one for that!

If you’ve ever hung out in a busy Whole Foods supplement section and just looked at all those bottles, you can imagine that the customer service staff have to know where to find each item, what it’s for, contraindications, what’s in it (and I mean even the fine print and sources), about the company, which product would most suit the needs of the customer (having first tactfully asked about the issue and about some suspected related issues), and do all this within the limited and often grey scope of authority to advise the customer. It’s one reason I’d love to see a training program that covers all such needs for store staff, a field in itself.

In 2005, I began to challenge myself to become a formal practitioner. I started Quantum-Touch energy work classes and enrolled in a holistic diet and nutrition course by correspondence. In 2007 I became accredited through AADP as a nutritional consultant and enrolled in massage school. In 2008, I earned my massage license. Then I realized I needed better diagnostic skills to able to assess the needs of customers and clients. I’d known of Michael Tierra’s course since 1990 and had read his books since childhood, and the store had carried Planetary Formulas since opening. So I knew just where to go to study, and in 2008 enrolled in the East West Professional Herbalist course. Immediately I gained a better ability to direct customers to their needs.

Some of my next goals include learning reflexology, continuing my nutrition and other studies, and perhaps someday becoming a licensed acupuncturist, which would allow me to better practice in my state. I also will continue my studies in ecology and horticulture. Informally, I want to have a large property to maintain as wildlife habitat, a luscious garden and some poultry, a modest profession as artist, and to be part of a thriving business that enhances the health and awareness of the community.

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