Q&A discussion on living greener and healthier in Scotland with Stirling Health Food Store owner Josine Atsma
Josine Atsma owns and runs Stirling Health Food Store, located in Dumbarton Road, Stirling, and is a passionate advocate of living greener and healthier in Scotland. She grows (almost) all her own vegetables and gets her eggs from her own chickens. Her wonderful independent shop has 40 years of experience in the health food sector, selling ethical, organic, vegetarian, vegan, chemical free, natural, fairtrade, local, foods and products.
Other members of the team working with Josine are Stuart and Gregor and they pride themselves on their independent status, knowledge, customer service and competitive prices. Their main aims are to provide great products, support the local community and minimise environmental impact. Regular customers visit the shop from Stirling, Dunblane, Falkirk, Alloa, but The Stirling Health Food Store also delivers throughout Scotland and the UK. If you are interested in living greener and healthier in Scotland then The Stirling Health Food Store could be an excellent way to source your essential supplies no matter where you live.
You can get in touch with Josine via her website.
Q.You own and run Stirling Health Food Store in Stirling. When did you start the business and what led you to open a health store?
A. The Stirling Health Food Store was established in the late 1970’s, so it’s been around for some time. I only took over 5 years ago from Mr. Robison who had the shop for over 25 years. I was already working in the shop for 4 years before I took over.
Q. How have things changed in the time you have been running your store? Are natural products gaining in popularity?
A. Natural toiletries like skincare, hair care and cosmetics are definitely gaining in popularity. Also local shopping is a big thing, so we stock quite a large range of Scottish products.
Q. Can you give us some examples of Scottish products that you stock?
A.We stock Scottish oat products (oatmeal, oatcakes, porridge oats), Scottish honey, skincare made (and partially grown) in Scotland and Scotland is really big in producing vegan foods! We stock chocolate bars made in Stirling (just 2 miles down the road) and made in Dundee. And also vegan ‘sheese’ from Isle of Bute and vegan ‘mheat’ from Paisley. To promote Scottish products we hold our annual ‘Scotland Weeks’ with tastings, information and 10% discount.
Q. Is there a high demand for your vegan and vegetarian products? Has this level of demand risen in recent years?
A. There is much more interest in vegan and vegetarian food these days. Stirling had got a university and we find a lot of students are into vegan foods and ALL (apart from one) food in the fridge is vegan.
Q. Would you say people are more or less knowledgeable about living greener and healthier in Scotland than, say, 20 years ago?
A. I was only 18 at that time and was living in The Netherlands. But I think in general, people around the western world are becoming more conscious about healthy living and are more aware of GM crops, animal living standards and our impact on the environment.
Q. There is a vast and wonderful range of products available via your website, from supplements and remedies to wholefoods, toiletries, even homebrew kits and supplies. Can people order from anywhere in Scotland and, if so, is it a simple process and what are the typical delivery charges?
A. We use Royal Mail for our online orders, so there is no extra charge for people living in the Highlands & Islands (or Northern Ireland for that matter). The usual charge is £2.79 for second class. If it’s heavier than 2kg it’s more expensive. It’s simple to order from our online shop; payments are per debit/credit card. Or you can just phone the shop to place an order and pay directly over the phone.
Q. Are you a big fan of homebrewing as you have a lot of information and equipment available via your website?
A. I make my own wine and beer myself. It’s because of this shop that I started doing it years ago. I grow nearly all of my own vegetables and I make wine from my own strawberries, red currants, gooseberries and elderberries. The good thing about making wine in Scotland is that it is legal to pick food from the wild as long as you don’t dig up plants, destroy wildlife and leave some berries for the birds to eat. Trust me; homemade elderberry/bramble wine is the best!
Q. Please sum up why people who are interested in living greener and healthier in Scotland should visit your shop or website.
A. Because we sell a large range of products which have less impact on the environment, like organic food, Scottish grown, vegan and vegetarian foods. Also people can leave their leaflets for eco-events in the window and we have close connections with a group called ‘Transition Stirling’ which promotes eco-living.
Q. You are a locally owned, independent Scottish retailer and I know this is something you are very proud of. Can you explain why you feel being a small-scale independent venture is beneficial for you, your customers, and Scotland?
A. First of all; indie shops pay their taxes! Also, indie shops hire local tradesmen like accountants, electricians, builders and the likes. Being an indie retailer means I can choose what I stock and gives a real close relationship to customers. We order things in especially for customers, so they can pick them up at any convenient time. I write a very personal monthly newsletter, which the customers really like and we hold various competitions and events throughout the year.
Q. Why should people be buying natural, chemical-free, organic products?
A. You should try and reduce the use of chemicals firstly because of your own health and secondly because of the health of the planet. Did you know we come into contact with thousands of man-made chemicals each day! It’s everywhere; in your toothpaste, in the food you eat, in the carpet, your clothes, you name it, it has chemicals! Scientists can’t tell me all of these chemicals are safe to use, or that you can’t get toxic overload. For non-vegans buying organic milk or eggs for example also means better living conditions for the animals.
Q. Supplements and natural herbal remedies are expensive. Do they represent value for money?
A. Not all supplements are expensive. You can get a good multi-vitamin for only £3.99 for 3 months, which works out at 4 pence a day. Also my belief is that it is better to try and heal yourself with alternative remedies, then to pop another antibiotic from the doctor. Or to take all sorts of medicines which have side-effects, for which you have to take even more medicines, with again have side-effects etc. etc. I think doctors are too eager in writing prescriptions without realizing what the effects might be. That said, I wouldn’t advise anything if I thought it wouldn’t help the customer.
Q. What do you believe are the foundations of healthy living?
A. The foundations of healthy living are: diet (wholesome, made from scratch meals, but with the occasional treat), exercise (can also be walking and gardening), fresh air (the great outdoors, even in Scotland!), and less stress.
Q. In what direction would you like to see things move in relation to everyone living greener and healthier in Scotland?
A. The ban on GM crops is a big step in the right direction. I hope fracking won’t be approved in Scotland and that they continue to develop green energy. Hopefully TTIP won’t go ahead either.
I would like to thank Josine for getting involved with this Q&A on living greener and healthier in Scotland and wish Josine and her store all the very best. If you fancy speaking more with Josine on this topic or about other things related to health foods and supplements you can visit her website.