Joan Mathison 💃 founder, Adventures with a Locavore

Meet Joan Mathison

As a pastry chef, history buff and community development professional certified in sustainability, I connect people and place with purpose.


Nature heals and inspires. I know this truth from personal experience. My purpose in life is connecting people with the healing power of nature – even more important today as we all must cope with the fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through my classes, you can experience different places and perspectives through movement, meditation and all of your senses. You will learn about phrenology, the seasonal changes taking place right before your eyes and the history of the place. Artists will encourage us to “see” in new ways. And we will celebrate picnics‚Äî-find your perfect spot on my map featuring 20 scenic locations overlooking the river gorge in downtown Saint Paul. Picnics are memorable because all your senses are alive!

Here’s the story of how I got my groove back, and you can, too. Warning, it may make you laugh out loud at the end:

The simple act of taking a walk around the lake every day – sometimes twice a day – helped me put my life back together after devastating loss.
Newly divorced, I lost my job just weeks after my 14 year-old son was killed in a car crash. Here I was, at midlife, all alone again, starting over one more time.

My walks got me out of the house (and my head), even though at first I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Eventually, I noticed other people on the path, who became familiar faces. The fresh winter air cleared my head and breathed life into my lungs. The physical activity strengthen muscles and the grit I would need for the challenges ahead.

And, soon, the weather warmed and melted the snow. The ice left the lake and the ducks and sailboats returned. The rose garden bloomed again and I found a new job, friends and a sense of peace.

That’s the thing about nature…it’s alive, always there, reliable…you are never truly alone. We were born to live among the trees, flowers and birds, along the rivers and lakes. Nature‚Äôs beauty inspires us with an overwhelming sense of awe. We want, and need, to protect her for future generations. Nature teaches us about the inevitability of change, loss, the cycle of life. Nature heals.

Some years later, my grief bubbled up again. I lost my mother who was the family’s keeper of my son’s memory. I finally went to my high school class reunion and all everyone wanted to talk about was their darling grandchildren. None for me.

A friend introduced me to Kelly Pratt, the visionary force behind this amazing Athena Village, and I joined her salon. I felt alone, stuck, empty and sad. Dead inside. But finding that other women were feeling the same way  – even for different reasons – made me feel connected. I started to feel energized learning my strengths through the Kolbe assessment and began studying trees. And, then POW! it happened.

Researching trees on the internet, I found old photographs of women in trees. Yes, women actually sitting on branches in trees! Many photographs, books of photographs: Women in Trees, More Women in Trees. How? When? Why?
I was hooked.

The answer is that when the Brownie personal camera was invented in 1900, it was a very big deal! For the first time, the magic of photography was available to everyone. It was very easy to use, just point and shoot.

The guys, natch, because of their innate technological ability, would photograph their lover, their partner. And the most romantic place was the forest.

The woman would climb the tree, in her best clothes, and arrange herself the best she could on the branches. Often the look on her face is loving, alluring, but a few women look uncomfortable, like they are thinking “Get me down from here, now!”

The old black and whites made me laugh out loud, want to share them, wonder about the couple and reinforced the spiritual significance of nature for me.

Nature inspires and heals us. Try it and you’ll see.

🎧 Song: Lady Marmalade, Patti LaBelle

Joan Mathison

Joan Mathison

Adventures of a Locavore

I dreamed of being a writer until my first big deadline for a client.

Today, many years later, my apartment is my “studio” where my creativity thrives, nurtured by friends, clients and the river gorge outside my window and door.

Life has been an adventure driven by my curiosity about the things I love –books, art, coffee and good food – how are they made, the people, the history. Can I try?

I’m a risk taker. Becoming a pastry chef, I discovered my business planning skills easily transferred to the exact timing requirements of a successful baker. And, the results could be eaten!

I’m an optimist, a glass half full, see the possibilities, kind of person. I’ve done a lot of things in my life and most of my jobs have been offered me by people I worked with. Another thread is that my own business has taken several shapes over the years, but always focusing on food, history and the nature of a place.

I’ve experienced dramatic highs and lows in my life. I’m a survivor. I’ve been tested and have become resilient. My greatest joy is serving people like you and making the world a better place.

In the Village: