Welcome Back is a new monthly column reacquainting us with recent returnees to our community. We will find out what they have been up to, why they are returning to Powell River and what skills, knowledge and experience they bring back with them.
First up, we have Lisa Bhattacharya (formerly Whitaker). Born and raised in Powell River, Bhattacharya is now a registered holistic nutritionist who has been based in Vancouver and on Bowen Island for the past 15-plus years.
Bhattacharya left the community after graduating high school and says she was drawn to the Lower Mainland for its educational opportunities and social scene. She and her nine-year-old son Oskar returned to Powell River in late summer, just before the school year started, and so far she says she is thrilled to be home.
"I'm in this Powell River honeymoon phase," says Bhattacharya. "It's so beautiful and I'm seeing it through this new lens. There seems to be so much going on, so many niches, so much vibrancy."
What drew Bhattacharya back to the community was a mix of realities, including her aging parents and affordability.
"I was finding it harder to get ahead anywhere near Vancouver," says Bhattacharya.
She says the Upper Sunshine Coast is an ideal place to raise her son.
"Oskar is the perfect age to be here," she says. "The outdoor activities are kind of endless. We have all these things other smaller communities pine for, such as the bike park and the trails."
Bhattacharya spent five and a half years working with InspireHealth, an integrative cancer-care centre based in Vancouver. After that, she decided to settle full-time on Bowen Island, where she worked as a nutrition consultant, provided a personal cooking and delivery service and started a program in the local school called Seed to Plate.
In this program, students went through the whole process of planting seeds, tending and harvesting their plants, then celebrating with meal preparation and eating together. It taught children about food security, healthy eating and community building, among other things, she says.
Bhattacharya is now working to implement similar programs in the schools here. In addition, she has led a variety of teaching workshops with a particular focus on cultured and fermented foods. This includes a very popular workshop on water kefir she brought to Powell River in the past.
"Lisa is a fountain of knowledge and really down to earth," says workshop participant Amy Price. "I attended one of her water kefir-making workshops and have been making it ever since."
Bhattacharya can also be found working at local health food store Kelly's Specialty Shop. Kelly's owner Nicole Rumley says she is pleased to have Bhattacharya on board.
"She'll be a wonderful addition to our team," says Rumley. "Being a registered holistic nutritionist, she brings a lot of knowledge and we're very excited."
In the future, Bhattacharya says she also hopes to connect with local chefs who are interested in foraging for wild edibles in the forest and at the seashore. She credits the agriculture and food-security potential of Powell River as another of its major assets.
"There are progressive people who have protected the agriculture and helped farmland really flourish here," she says.
Bhattacharya says the community makes her feel extremely optimistic about her future in her new/old town.
"We have it all in this beautiful place," she says, "that’s not too little and not too big.”