Hometown: The East Village
Lives in: Stone Ridge hamlet of Lyonsville
Lived there since: 1998
Dina Falconi, herbalist, teacher, and author, has spent over 40 years looking for nothing less than the meaning of life. The search has brought her to master the fields of nutrition, herbal healing, and permaculture.
Falconi’s ideals define the beauty of her property—a rustic utopia that developed through engaging the natural life found there. The six-acre homestead where she settled with her husband, Tim Allen, and raised their son Sam, nestles into a hillside, integrating the Arts-and-Crafts-accented farmhouse with domesticated and wild gardens, orchards, a chicken yard, stacks of firewood, natural meadows, and woodlands. Over 200 plant species thrive in the gardens, providing ingredients for the herbal formulations and body care products Falconi makes.
The barn, an airy, light-filled laboratory within rough-hewn walls, is an inviting space for working with plants. Protected from sunlight, the apothecary stores rows of bottled dried herbs and handcrafted potions. Falconi’s consultations take place in a cozy office. At a central table she teaches medicinal plant identification, wild food foraging, self-treatment, and making homemade plant-based medicines, skin-care products, and foods.
The inclination to understand how to live well has been with Falconi since childhood. She discovered the culinary arts at age 11 when a family friend, who had cured himself of terminal illness through healthy eating, gave the young headache sufferer an herb book. She eliminated processed foods from her diet and started cooking for herself. Her headaches and overall health improved.
Falconi studied theater and dance at the High School of Performing Arts, pre-med at Colgate University, and yoga and Tamil philosophy in India before completing a degree in choreography and fine arts at Bard College, where she met her husband.
Later, she completed a two-year apprenticeship with herbalist Pam Montgomery and three years of tutorials with New York-based herbal clinician William LeSassier. While reading Weston A. Price’s 1930s studies of the eating habits of extremely healthy indigenous populations worldwide, an abiding question arose: What makes a healthy person? “He asked, ‘What have healthy native people been doing for thousands of years? Obeying the laws of Mother Nature,’” she says. “It’s such a simple, beautiful message, I constantly refer to it in my life.”
Falconi’s book, Foraging and Feasting: A Basic Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook (Botanical Arts Press, 2013), encourages people to appreciate “the rhythm and step of nature, smelling, touching, and tasting the wild.” But that’s not all. “Luring people to beautiful foods becomes a way of activism,” she says. “To eat healthy, we have to become activists. As soon as food is for profit and not nourishment, food loses its sacred place in our lives.”