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Happy 30th anniversary, alive!


This month marks the beginning of alive magazine's fourth decade. Over the years, millions of readers have benefited from the information, advocacy, and guidance provided through the pages of alive.

This month marks the beginning of alive magazine's fourth decade. Over the years, millions of readers have benefited from the information, advocacy, and guidance provided through the pages of alive.

Thirty years ago Canadians didn't have the choices or awareness regarding natural health alternatives we do today. Siegfried Gursche, although busy running a bookstore, began importing natural health products from his native Germany. Unfortunately, he and other pioneers of the natural health industry had no way of informing the public of their natural products and advice.

One Man's Innovation and Vision

Siegfried, a Canadian Health Food Association member, attended an association meeting on April 1, 1975 to find out that a long-anticipated newsletter to raise awareness about natural health "was not possible." Undeterred, Siegfried folded his paper placemat and began planning the first issue of the first natural health magazine in Canada. By the end of the meeting, the placemat-turned-magazine had been passed around the table, and he had sold eight pages of advertising - enough for a 16-page publication. Two weeks later, 30,000 copies of the first issue of alive were printed. These were delivered to health food manufacturers and retailers to be given out to the public for free. A tradition began.

"Everything I learned in my life was a stepping stone to what alive became," Siegfried says. His parents had become vegetarians for health reasons before he was born. To defend his way of eating to his schoolmates, Siegfried had to read up on health and became passionately interested in the subject. As a boy, Siegfried gathered and dried medicinal herbs and learned about organic farming. He apprenticed in a health food store upon finishing school. Once in Canada, Siegfried was among the first people to import herbal teas and other natural products. The import business grew into Flora Distributors. Siegfried's passion for photography developed into the high-quality magazine covers that alive became known for early on.

A Trusted Source

The public responded to alive with encouragement and interest. "From day one it was alive's philosophy to help readers take responsibility for their own health and to show them how to get the most benefit from whole food as well as the herbs and food supplements sold in health food stores," Siegfried says. Those contributing to the magazine were the best in the field, a tradition that continues today with the alive editorial advisory board; the magazine quickly became a trusted source of information. Siegfried's vision and dedication not only helped others become healthy but opened the doors for many to succeed in the natural health industry - manufacturers, retailers, authors, and publishers alike.

"The magazine has helped build our business," says Murray McMahon, of the Good Health Mart health-food-store chain in Ontario. "It's the best source of information out there," says McMahon, who gives out 5,400 copies of alive through nine stores each month. "In fact, customers get upset if we run out."

Sam Graci, creator of Greens+ and a best-selling natural health book author, says, "The one steady, driving force that has propelled the Canadian health movement is, simply put, Siegfried Gursche. He has been an absolute pillar of strength, sacrifice, and encouragement to every consumer and manufacturer in Canada." In 1997 the Canadian Health Food Association entered Siegfried into their Hall of Fame as "The father of the health movement in Canada."

The magazine's success developed in part because Siegfried's intentions were not to make money but rather to help others. It's routine to visit the publisher's office with a question and leave with not only an answer but a fascinating summary of the latest health research and, if one is lucky, a sample of homemade pickles or sauerkraut. Each day over the past 30 years, Siegfried has asked himself, "How can I help readers find answers about what's important to them?" His logic and innate sense of justice have served many well. He has a way of keeping things simple and focusing on the end result, or "glorious sunrise," as he calls it, which is available to all who embrace true health.

Millions of Monthly Readers

In the very first issue of alive, Siegfried wrote, "I sincerely hope that alive will find a large readership uniting all health food conscious people in Canada - the producers as well as the consumers." His vision has been more than realized. Today, alive is read by more than 500,000 people each month, and, according to alive CEO Wes Beeston, natural health is now reaching a larger demographic, one which includes young adults. As readers' hunger for trusted health information continues to grow, Beeston predicts that alive will continue to bring education and awareness to those in Canada and beyond. Beeston says, "Ultimately this success was the vision of one man, whose only intention was to better society."

After 30 years, Siegfried is simply happy that he's helped people and says, "I have had a wonderful time of it."

Editing alive

While a publication such as alive results from the work of many - including assistant editors, proofreaders, researchers, artists, photographers, recipe developers, cooks, graphic designers, and advertising representatives to name but a few - the editor-in-chief holds a key position.

Rebecca Clarkes

The very first editor of alive Journal was a dedicated young writer and health food advocate. "She lived natural health," Siegfried remembers. "She believed in natural health and nutrition, and that was important to me," he says. Rebecca certainly had her work cut out for her in the first decade of issues. Starting out with a skeleton staff, she worked in a time when the government was attempting to have vitamins sold by licensed pharmacists only. Rebecca brought awareness to the readers and supported the Canadian Health Food Association's battles against unfair legislation around dietary supplements.

Rebecca was also involved in the 1978 and 1979 alive retreats, where participants were treated to a practical education and experience in natural health and nutrition at the Emerald Lakes Resort. She also joined Christel Gursche, wife of Siegfried and alive's long-time food editor, in giving tours of European health spas in the early 1980s.

Rebecca's sincere and genuine passion for natural health, along with her writing and editing skills, served the readers well.

Rhody Lake

To date Rhody has served the longest term as editor of alive, from 1991 to 2002, and she left quite a legacy of awareness and change. "Rhody was full of vim and vigour," Siegfried says with a smile. To her loyal readers, she was a reliable source of clarity and information. To industry and government opponents of alternative health, she was a royal pain in the neck.

Rhody could not help but be outspoken when she saw flagrant violations of the principles of natural health by government and industry. As a result her editorials were usually quite controversial. People would often tell her, "If you don't publish this kind of information no one else will." Government workers in the health, environment, or agricultural departments knew her well, as she was a tireless advocate for the health of people and the planet. Those in the commercial and food manufacturing industries were also well-acquainted with Rhody. In fact, she received more than one threatening letter from the Monsanto corporation during her editorship.

In 1994 Rhody made it alive's business to demand a government moratorium on bovine growth hormone (BGH). While the moratorium wasn't imposed, approval for the use of BGH was halted in Canada. Rhody also kept readers up-to-date during the infamous court case of Dr. Josef Krop, who was charged by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons for practising natural health. alive readers contributed more than $100,000 to the doctor's court fees.

Upon retiring in 2002, Rhody's final words to her long-time readers were, "Maintain your focus and keep up the fight for freedom of choice."

Terry-Lynn Stone

alive's current editor-in-chief, a former nurse and a professional writer and editor, continues to ensure that the pharmacartels do not stifle or overtake the natural health industry by providing honest, well-researched health reporting for the pages of alive.

Terry-Lynn has been at the helm of alive for close to two years, and it didn't take her long to realize that alive readers truly live the alive philosophy of natural health and nutrition. "It is they who demand the excellence we strive to provide," she explains. Her enthusiasm and dedication has attracted a dynamic team of writers and researchers.

Terry-Lynn's personal philosophy matches alive's - she believes in helping people help themselves. "Siegfried Gursche's original values and vision are as relevant today as they ever were," Terry-Lynn says, "and these values will guide alive into the next 30 years and beyond."

The Pages of alive

1975 - The alive Canadian Journal of Health and Nutrition is born in April. The magazine was published six times a year for the 12 years that followed.
1978 - The alive books department is born, publishing leading experts such as Paavo Airola, Zoltan Rona, and Siegfried Gursche.
1992 - The alive Academy of Natural Health accepts its first students. Today it offers 12 correspondence and online courses.
1993 - alive becomes a monthly publication.
1993 - The alive Awards of Excellence are created. These still serve to represent quality in the industry more than a decade later.
1997 - Siegfried Gursche is entered into the Canadian Health Food Association Hall of Fame.
1998 - The Encyclopedia of Natural Healing is published. It is the first health book to win the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award.
1999 - The alive Natural Health Guides series, with more than 35 titles to date, is started with Fantastic Flax.
2000 - alive celebrates its 25th anniversary with a gala event at Vancouver's Sheraton Wall Centre.
2001 - The alive website goes online.
2005 - alive celebrates three decades of leadership in the natural health industry.



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