Shannon Gowland: Planting Seeds of Wellness in the CommunityDec 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By Angel Bhardwaj
Shannon Gowland (Photo: Kelle Mac Photography)
“The laws of nature are just mimicked in us,” says Shannon Gowland, owner and operator of Roswell Farmers’ Market, Seeds of Wellness Center, and the S.O.W. (Seeds of Wellness) Institute. “All of us are small universes. Just the same way that we have to take care of the soil and the Earth, we have to take care of our bodies.”
Gowland is an herbalist, yoga teacher, tai chi and qigong instructor, farmer, environmentalist, and a married mother of two children. Through her businesses, she offers a wide array of services, including herbal therapy, food therapy, Reiki, qigong, and wellness coaching. Her mission in life, she says, is to lead others on a path to recovery and peace through the power of holistic medicine.
Her journey to discover that mission began early in life. She spent her childhood on an 80-acre farm in East Cobb, Georgia. “I’ve had my hands in the dirt and been working with nature since I was little,” she says. Gowland’s great-grandfather, a Creek Indian, bought the farmland in the early 1900s. He and his family had faced violence and were pushed out of a community in Long Creek, South Carolina. Cotton farming made it possible for him to purchase the land, where he started farming food crops. He also raised Gowland’s grandmother and her two great-aunts there.
“Mine was the first generation that he felt comfortable talking to about his heritage,” says Gowland. He also taught her indigenous farming practices and how to harvest herbs to heal physical ailments. Native remedies were used as medicine, such as the use of seasonal Elderberry every summer to prepare for winter illnesses or the use of cleavers plants in the spring to clear the lymphatic system. A native legend called “The Three Sisters”—referring to corn, beans and squash—was one way she was taught to honor Earth and the farm. “They are known as special gifts from the Creator, and the wellness of the farm is believed to be protected by them.”
Gowland also learned to grow crops using biodynamic methods such as crop rotation and using cover crops. Biodynamic farming is a holistic farming practice that emphasizes the importance of a diverse ecosystem that takes every part of the land into account—the spirit, soil, animals and plants that live there. Such methods are necessary for a healthy living soil—preventing erosion, mineral leaching and maintaining a healthy ecosystem, says Gowland. “I grew up knowing how to respect the land and how to work with nature—and to not only take what we were growing but give back as well.”
Traditional to Holistic
With a foundational knowledge of farming and plant-derived medicine, Gowland felt drawn to explore the physical sciences. She pursued biology and chemistry in her studies at Georgia State University Perimeter College and Kennesaw University and then began a career in traditional medicine at Wellstar Kennestone, formerly Kennestone, and Emory Crawford Hospitals.
“I went into the healthcare field, not because I wanted to practice medicine, but to learn more about pharmaceuticals and how they metabolize out of the body.” Learning how to communicate with doctors of traditional medicine allowed her to complement traditional medicine practices with herbal medicine.
In 2007, at the same time that she began her conventional medical career in Atlanta, Gowland opened Seeds of Wellness Center’s first brick-and-mortar location, offering an herbal therapy clinic. Her medical career was difficult, she says. “When doctors hear that somebody’s practicing herbal medicine, they tend to shy away, and they don’t want to talk about it.”
Despite that, she incorporated herbal wellness practices into traditional medicine by providing patient advocacy services to her clients, which entailed communicating with medical practitioners to create holistic post-surgery recovery plans. “I had my conventional medicine hat and my herbal hat,” she explains.
In 2009, after 15 years in traditional healthcare and the birth of her second child, Gowland and her family relocated to Roswell. That was when she decided to leave conventional medicine completely and go full-time with her herb clinic at Seeds of Wellness. In Roswell, she noticed a lack of healthy sources of food in the area. “We had the open-air farmers’ markets, your weekend farmers’ markets. But the problem was, you still wouldn’t even know if they were growing [the food they were selling].”
Gowland started Herbal Infusions, now Roswell Farmers’ Market, with the intention of bringing biodynamic food to the community. Even with its success, for Gowland, something was still missing: food therapy, the practice of using food to heal the body.
“People were coming back to me, saying, ‘I want to cook this’ or ‘I want to eat healthily’ or ‘How do I eat healthily?’ I found myself doing consultations again after focusing on farming for Roswell Farmers Market. That morphed into cooking for people.”
Her food therapy clients soon took an interest in her herb clinic, which she took as a sign to address the need for holistic health education in her community. So she created the S.O.W. Institute, a hub for professional certification classes and health education. The popularity of the school and the clinic has now surpassed the number of produce buyers at the farm. We have more herbal students and clients coming in every year. More people are concerned about preventative medicine, being healthy and overall wellness.”
She considers her health consultation to be her forte, in which she performs comprehensive analyses for clients, creating a personalized wellness plan that incorporates her business’ services. “Bringing harmony back into the body is what I enjoy doing most.”
A Healthier Future for the Community
As interest in Seeds of Wellness grew, Gowland added retreats and group classes that feature meditation, qigong, yoga and massage therapy to the clinic’s repertoire. It received nonprofit status earlier this year, and it is generally the focus of Gowland’s energy these days.
She feels it’s important that Seeds of Wellness be accessible and convenient for her clients. For those who are new to holistic health, especially those facing medical problems, the challenge of finding multiple reputable practices in one area is daunting. “It’s much more beneficial to have one place where they know they can find good food,” she says. “[They] can do everything the same day if they have time.”
The nonprofit will serve populations that don’t typically have access to holistic wellness, such as neighborhoods that have at-risk populations, inner-city schools and people in shelters. “We see more and more people getting sick because there’s no nutrition in the food because of conventional farming methods.”
“I’m doing things on a larger scale, but I’m not taking away from the smaller community that we’re serving,” she says. She plans to operate her nonprofit and clinic internationally one day.
People have lost touch, says Gowland. They’ve “lost touch with the meaning of reciprocity and with taking the time to give back. It’s not just with the land but with our bodies as well. We have to have a healthy external environment as well as the healthy internal environment. And what’s going on out there is going on inside our bodies, too.”
She wants to start a movement of holistic healing. “I want more people out there who understand the body and the environment the way that I do so that they can bring it to other people. Giving [people] their lives back.”
Touching the Lives of Others
Linda Sandler, a client of 10 years, describes Gowland’s presence in her life as a blessing. Sandler discovered Gowland at the Roswell Farmers’ Market and eventually bought food from her exclusively. “I quickly learned she had more to offer than produce,” she says, and began getting consultations from Seeds of Wellness Clinic for her family and other families as well.
“There is no judgment from her,” says Sandler. “Your full disclosure is never frowned upon.” As Sandler observed the wide range of health concerns Gowland addresses—including anxiety, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune conditions, asthma, gastrointestinal issues, epilepsy, depression and low energy levels—she couldn’t help but notice the love and care Gowland gives her clients. Gowland offers relief for a variety of ailments, ranging from mental health issues and hormonal imbalances to cancer and epilepsy.
Gowland sustains her family tradition and passes down what she’s learned to her children. “When [the kids] get a cold, they know what to do: go outside and get some golden rod, akinesia or dandelion,” she says. “They know how to use them, they know how to harvest them, and they know what to do with them.”
Her son Colin, 18, says he grew up with a spiritual awareness as well as a respect for ancestral knowledge. “If your spirit is not healed,” says Gowland, “you can’t be well in the body.” ❧
A UGA Grady graduate, Angel Bhardwaj is a digital strategist for WUGA radio, an NPR affiliate, in Athens, Georgia.