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How Linda Bolton Of Natural Calm Canada Is Helping To Address The Growing Challenge Of Food…

How Linda Bolton Of Natural Calm Canada Is Helping To Address The Growing Challenge Of Food Insecurity

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Listen to your instincts. Remember that you are in a leadership role because of your wisdom, experience, and talents. Take advice, but when you feel something strongly, go with your own gut.

In many parts of the United States, there is a crisis of people having limited reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. As prices rise, this problem will likely become more acute. How can this problem be solved? Who are the leaders helping to address this crisis?

In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who are helping to address the increasing problem of food insecurity who can share the initiatives they are leading to address and solve this problem.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Bolton.

Linda Bolton is an award-winning Canadian entrepreneur, health influencer, and philanthropist. She is the founder of Natural Calm Canada and co-founder of Thrive for Good, a not-for-profit created to help end hidden hunger.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

For 20 years, I worked in healthcare, first as a nurse, and then in administration and executive positions in seniors’ homes. I also taught nursing at college.

We’re very lucky to have universal healthcare in Canada. Yet, half of the world’s population can’t access essential health services. I saw this first-hand when my husband and I traveled to Malawi in 2004.

We went to visit an orphanage that we had helped to fund. The children were loved and cared for, but we knew their lives were precarious. If a child gets sick, they may not have access to basic medicine, let alone a hospital with doctors.

What’s more, the orphanage could only afford basic, starchy foods for the children. We knew that with such poor diets, the children would be more vulnerable to disease and wouldn’t grow to reach their full potential.

My husband Dale grew up on a farm, and so he asked, “Why can’t we grow what the kids need to eat?”

Answering that question led us to found the not-for-profit that we originally called Organics 4 Orphans, which is now Thrive for Good.

With our partners and team in Africa and worldwide, we created Thrive for Good to train and equip people to grow an abundance of nutritious foods at a very low cost. Thrive teaches communities — from schools and orphanages to prisons, churches, and villages — how to grow what we call Life Gardens.

Life Gardens not only help people with food security. These gardens also prevent “hidden hunger” (or a lack of nutrients), which is a major cause of disease around the world.

The communities Thrive for Good reaches are transformed because they are resilient against disease.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Founding Thrive for Good has been the adventure of a lifetime. We have travelled to Africa dozens of times over the past 20 years and created a training centre in Kitale, Kenya. Spending time in those communities has been a profound privilege.

I’ve met women who are the only living caregivers to half a dozen of their grandchildren. They devote their lives to these kids, and when we show them how to grow Life Gardens, these women are unstoppable. You should see the gardens they grow!

I’ll never forget a woman in her 50s who came to our 5-day workshop to learn how to grow Life Gardens. She was caring for a number of orphans — her grandchildren — and was barely able to feed them.

After the workshop, she went home and created 40 garden beds. She not only was able to feed her family, but she also sold surplus to her neighbours. When she earned income from her produce, she was able to buy a simple mattress for the first time in her life. Until then, she’d been sleeping on burlap bags on the floor.

When we went to see this woman, she brought out her sponge mattress to show us. We were all in tears. It meant so much to her.

We asked her if there was anything else we could do for her. She showed us a coffee can she was using to water her 40 garden beds and said she could use a proper watering can. That was all. Her spirit and determination were such an inspiration. That woman went on to teach and influence others in her community to grow Life Gardens, too.

It’s proven that when you invest in women, you improve entire communities. That’s why for me, the most inspiring thing is to empower other women entrepreneurs.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

We started with a problem that we wanted to solve, Malnutrition. But over the years, we evolved the solution.

It’s one thing to grow your own food, but people need to understand which foods are healing, why, and adopt a mindset of nourishing your body with nutrients. Otherwise, people tend to prefer calorie crops, like corn and sweet potatoes, which satisfy hunger but don’t nourish the body. It’s very similar to how we tend to prefer pastas and breads to kale salads. Yet, when you know that kale salad will help you live longer with a better quality of life, you’re more likely to make the right choice.

A big leap was discovering what Dr. Furhman calls the “Nutritarian Diet,” which focuses on eating the most nutrient-dense foods that heal and prevent disease. My husband, Dale, and I took Fuhrman’s Nutritarian course and it influenced us to expand Thrive’s training.

After taking the Nutritarian course, we expanded our training from a 5-day workshop to a one-month curriculum that included teaching on nutrition. We also incorporated training on natural medicine, which we adopted from a German organization (anamed international), and we developed training on how to create simple technologies for hygiene, such as homemade handwashing taps and fly traps, to help prevent disease.

Building the training centre in Kitale, Kenya, was also a tipping point. Once we had the centre, we could host people from around the world for the one-month training. The centre helped us to achieve international reach.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Ambrose Motian is the International Director at Thrive, and he has been our long-time friend and partner. Dale first met Ambrose when they were both training in organic growing at Manor House. You can read Ambrose’s story here:

James Woller has been integral to the growth of Thrive for Good. He is now the Executive Director and fills a gap in our leadership. Dale and I are visionaries and idea people. James is a talented leader and administrator. He has helped us to modernize our online presence, create online training, bring in essential analytical capabilities, systems, and develop partnerships to expand our reach. He is also a very close friend.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I wasn’t brought up in a wealthy family — in fact, we lived in a neighbourhood in Toronto that was lower income. Perhaps because I didn’t come from privilege, I knew that I had to succeed based on my own efforts, and I developed a strong work ethic.

In nursing and in leadership positions, as well as in previous businesses that I started (including real estate investing), my drive and determination were key success factors.

Most people who know me would say that I have a very soft heart. I have a lot of empathy and compassion for people living in poverty. Their struggle is on my mind every day.

Having empathy can be difficult in business. However, empathy is very important in developing solutions for complicated social and economic problems. You need to know people and their lives intimately to develop relevant solutions. You cannot solve poverty from a distance.

Also, to influence and encourage people, you need to have a trusting relationship. That trust is earned by caring. People can see that Dale and I truly care for them as individuals and that our hearts’ desire is to end the unfair suffering, not by imposing solutions, but by working with them to solve problems.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My best friend, Sharon, always said, “As a man thinks, so he is,” which is from the book of Proverbs. I believe that our thoughts are very powerful. Many years ago, I read Napoleon Hill, and I was inspired by his quote, “Whatever a mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” These two quotes express my faith that we can shape reality first through our beliefs.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you describe to our readers how your work is helping to address the challenge of food insecurity?

Thrive for Good takes a preventative and sustainable approach to food security.

Too often, the world only responds to food insecurity when people are at risk of starvation. War, drought, and inflation create emergencies where suddenly, aid programs are strained simply to deliver enough calories to enough people.

Thrive is looking upstream to prevent food insecurity before it occurs. We also focus on hidden hunger, which often goes overlooked.

You can have hidden hunger even if you’re overweight. Calories aren’t enough to prevent hidden hunger.

Hidden hunger occurs when people don’t get enough nutrients to fight disease and it occurs when children don’t get enough for their bodies and brains to fully develop.

Food aid programs can’t address hidden hunger effectively because they are crisis-oriented. Their focus is on the emergency delivery of calories.

So, Thrive for Good exists to create a sustainable solution for hidden hunger. We help people to grow enough food to meet their calorie needs, but also to meet their need for life-giving nutrients.

We’ve tested Life Gardens in areas with very little rainfall, and we have communities growing plenty of food in dry lands. The gardens also replenish the soil, so the model helps prevent food insecurity from drought, and the crops create a ground cover that prevents further erosion. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Communities with Life Gardens are also less vulnerable to supply chain disruption and inflation. They are more self-sufficient.

That’s how Thrive for Good is creating a sustainable model for food and nutrition security.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

I’ve very proud of the fact that Dale and I have been able to work together all of our married life. Anyone working with a spouse will know that it’s not always possible.

We’re very different, but we’ve been able to combine and blend our gifts to achieve more together. He has helped me to build Natural Calm Canada, our social enterprise, and I have helped him to build Thrive for Good.

I believe the Thrive model will have a long-term impact in helping to end poverty. It’s the legacy of our relationship.

In your opinion, what should other business and civic leaders do to further address these problems? Can you please share a few things that can be done to further address the problem of food insecurity?

I believe every business should be a social enterprise with a mission to improve the world.

Business leaders must be aware of global poverty. It’s our responsibility to do something with our influence and our resources. I’d encourage every leader to look at the poverty statistics. See the way billions around the world are struggling to meet basic needs. Then take action.

I believe our business has been successful because of our social mission, and I believe that other business leaders would be, too, if they would give. You reap what you sow.

Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address the challenge of food scarcity? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.

There are many admirable organizations that give food aid, and provide basic daily needs. There are few that create sustainable models by helping people to help themselves. I would love to connect with more organizations that are truly sustainable.

If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws that you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

One of our most successful programs has been in Kenyan prisons. The government invited Thrive for Good into prisons to teach inmates to grow Life Gardens. The impact has been phenomenal. Not only are inmates sick less often, they have hope for a future when they leave prison. I would love to see more governments require that prisons adopt Life Garden programs.

Around the world, we’re seeing many refugee crises. Countries are not prepared for the volume of migrants, who suffer in their journey and suffer for extended periods of time while they shelter in refugee camps. Governments would do well to bring a model like Thrive into those camps. Within a few months, we can have Life Gardens growing and help to prevent malnutrition and disease while lowering the camp costs.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

Listen to your instincts. Remember that you are in a leadership role because of your wisdom, experience, and talents. Take advice, but when you feel something strongly, go with your own gut.

Get good legal advice on all of your partnership agreements. Trust is important, but you can’t leave everything to trust.

Look beyond skills and experience when you are hiring. Heart and dedication can be even more important. Some of the most loyal team members we have came with the right attitude and have developed the skills.

Invest everything you can back into your organization. We took very modest salaries from Natural Calm Canada so that we could invest more into marketing. That has paid off in growth and allowed us to donate to Thrive for Good, which is our passion.

When you’re selling an idea, a service, or a product, you need to pound the pavement and learn to handle rejection. We spent years putting in very long days at trade shows and on the road, doing presentations and delivering training on our product. That’s how we got Natural Calm into retailers across Canada and made it a household name. It took an enormous amount of emotional and physical energy, but we wouldn’t have been able to create Thrive without that investment.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

As an entrepreneur, I’m passionate about business, but I believe business should have a purpose beyond profits. I would love to inspire a movement of entrepreneurs dedicated to sustainability initiatives, especially food security.

As business leaders, we’re responsible for the ROI of our investments and the same should be true of our giving. We must make sure that our giving generates long-term change. I’d love to see business leaders obsessed with the rate of return on giving.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d be inspired to meet Melinda Gates, who I admire for her leadership in philanthropy, her work for children, women, and health.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

To hear what we’re doing with Thrive for Good, sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the website:

You can also follow Natural Calm Canada on social media, and subscribe to our newsletter at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.

How Linda Bolton Of Natural Calm Canada Is Helping To Address The Growing Challenge Of Food… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.