We recently interviewed Saint Rose alumna Elisa Haggarty (BA 2006) over email. Elisa is the founder of Culinary Farmacy, a soul-centered hub for delicious food, healing and weight loss. As a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Foods Chef, she is inspires women to transform their lives with powerful dietary and lifestyle upgrades. Her custom health programs are informative, empowering and life-changing. Oh, and the food she designs for her clients and audience is delicious and nourishing.
Can you tell me a little about your experience at Saint Rose?
My experience at Saint Rose was a bit of a roller coaster- although I guess every college experience is a bit of a roller coaster right? I was very into my role on the basketball team for my first two years and didn’t quite put as much attention on my studies as I could have. It was in the beginning of my junior year that my role on the basketball team started to lessen and I was distraught. I threw myself into my English and education courses and found purpose in the community of professors and classmates. In many ways, the professors and friends I made in the English & Education department opened my eyes to the world outside of sports. I found solace in my English classes and because of the support system I was surrounded by, I was able to earn Dean’s List the last three semesters of my career.
Can you describe a memorable moment, professor, or course from The Saint Rose English Department?
I had so many influential professors at Saint Rose, but my favorite course was English 317, with Megan Fulwiler. The safe environment created by Megan Fulwiler for all of us to find our inner voice and creativity left the most profound impact on me as a writer and person. It was the most enjoyable, challenging and rewarding class of my time at Saint Rose.
Other notables were Critical Theory with Dr. Palecanda–I never left a class without feeling like my brain had just been working in complete overdrive! For sure, it was one of the more enlightening courses of my entire career at Saint Rose.
Do you have any advice for future English majors?
Soak it all up. You have an amazing community of educators, people, advocates, thinkers and all around dynamic movers n shakers. Also, keep an open mind to possible career opportunities. Being an English major gives you an amazing foundation to pursue unique and creative careers. Don’t believe what anyone tells you, English majors can do anything!
What did you do after graduating?
I accepted a job as the Graduate Assistant for the women’s basketball team at St. Lawrence University and also pursued a M.Ed. My stay in North Country was short-lived; the environment and job situation was not healthy. So I took an English teaching job at Hopewell Valley Regional High School in Pennington, NJ. I was there for 2.5 years and this was where I was able to grow into the English teacher I was groomed to be. I felt I had a unique edge in the classroom because of my experience at Saint Rose and the exceptional professors who challenged me for four years.
After teaching there, I lost my job due to budget cuts and decided to pack my bags and teach abroad. I took an English teaching job at Yew Chung International School in Hong Kong. I had a great experience teaching abroad and had the chance to learn so much about Asian cultures. In my two years in Hong Kong, I visited 12 new countries and met some life long friends. Teaching English has opened up so many doors for me and it has literally taken me around the world and back. I’ve been blessed.
How did you end up working on the Culinary Farmacy project?
Culinary Farmacy is the name of my private practice for Holistic Health and Wellness where I help women and families prevent and overcome chronic disease through dietary and lifestyle upgrades.
I started on this path of health for many reasons. Food and healing has always been present in my life. After I left Saint Rose, I went through a state of chronic depression and anxiety and after being fed many prescriptions by Western doctors, I decided to find my own healing path. I realized that getting out of a deep depression was not going to come in a pill and so I dove head first into food, herbs, and spirituality and began my healing process. Once I got to Hong Kong, I was shocked and devastated to see so many local people eating fast food and junk food. The students in my school who were mostly all Asian, were living off American staple foods like KFC, Burger King and the like. In fact, it became clear to me that my former students in New Jersey had a healthier and more balanced diet.
At one point, I realized that half of my students who were only 11-12 years old, had visible patches of grey hair. That is a sign of vitamin and mineral deficiency, and it was because their lunches consisted of hot dogs, refined carbs, sugar and more sugar. I felt compelled to start teaching them the most basic skill: how to feed themselves for optimal health. I started showing my students how to make green smoothies; healthy snacks and I even had my older students write reflective and critical essays on documentaries like Food Inc. and Forks over Knives. I found a way to weave my English background into my new-found passion and it became clear that a career change was inevitable.
While in Hong Kong, I started to study at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s online professional health coaching program and in just one year, learned enough to leave my English teaching job and become a full time Holistic Health Coach and Natural Foods Chef. Currently, I am studying at The Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC, a unique culinary school that specializes in health supportive cooking. I work with women and families in private health coaching programs, run cooking workshops/demos and offer a variety of online home study courses which are all geared towards helping others find health, vitality and happiness in Mother Nature’s greatest gift: whole foods.
Any other comments about the faculty at Saint Rose or the English Department?
I think they are the most unique and amazing group of people I have ever met. I think about them often and have even kept in touch with a few over the years. I don’t teach English anymore obviously, but I would not be the professional I am today with their guidance and support during those years at Saint Rose. One day, I hope to come back to Saint Rose and run a workshop and cooking demo for the department.