Bringing It Home: Kushi Institute Summer Conference By Alex Jack
Photos by Sachi Kato
The 2014 Macrobiotic Summer Conference exceeded everyone’s expectations. For the first time we held it on our spacious 600-acre campus here in the beautiful Berkshires. Over the course of two weeks in August, over 200 guests ate delicious daily meals (featuring vegan and gluten-free options) under a big tent and attended lectures by Michio Kushi and macrobiotic teachers, cooks, and practitioners from around the world. Gourmet chefs Eric Lechasseur and Sanae Suzuki prepared a special Gala fundraising dinner on August 15, and people danced and celebrated under the stars. Participants also enjoyed the outstanding cultural attractions of the Berkshires, including the Tanglewood Music Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Norman Rockwell Museum.
The annual Aveline Kushi Awards were presented at the Summer Conference. The Aveline Award Ceremony took place at the lovely Aveline Memorial Peace Park located at the K.I. campus. Each year, the Aveline Award is presented for excellence in macrobiotic education, innovation, and service. This year’s awardees included macrobiotic senior teacher and artist Rod House (who turned eighty this year), new energy pioneers Woody and Florence Johnson, and the founder of Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Richard Bourdon.
A Macrobiotic Summer Tradition
The Macrobiotic Summer Conference has a long and storied history. In the U.S. summer conferences and camps go back to the introduction of macrobiotic education. Descended from the “New Horizon” macrobiotic summer camps held on Long Island and in the Catskills of upstate New York, the modern summer conference began in 1975 with the Amherst Summer Program held at Amherst College in Amherst Massachusetts. The first macrobiotic summer camps in the United States took place in the early ‘60s and featured lectures and classes with George and Lima Ohsawa. From that beginning, Herman and Cornellia Aihara continued the summer camp tradition in California at French Meadows from the 1970s onward, while on the East Coast, Michio and Aveline Kushi began the annual summer program at Amherst. Herman and Cornellia organized their annual summer camps as GOMF events, while the Amherst Summer Program was administered through the non-profit East West Foundation.
The Amherst Summer Program (referred to in the macrobiotic community simply as “Amherst”) showcased the world’s leading senior macrobiotic teachers, including Michio and Aveline, Lima Ohsawa, Herman and Cornellia, Shizuko Yamamoto, and Hideo Ohmori, as well as the next generation including Lino Stanchich, Rod House, Cecil Levin, Murray Snyder, Evan Root, Bill Tara, Ron Kotsch, Marc Van Cauwenberghe, Jack Garvey, Denny Waxman, Bob Carr, Michael Rossoff, David and Cynthia Briscoe, Edward Esko, Wendy Esko, Diana Avoli, Adelbert and Weike Nelissen, Bill Spear, John Mann, and many others. Special guests and celebrities, including Bill Dufty and Gloria Swanson, also participated.
Aside from the world-class educational program and lovely campus at Amherst College, the Amherst Program featured gourmet macrobiotic meals prepared by the staff of the Seventh Inn macrobiotic restaurant in Boston under the guidance of master chef, Hiroshi Hayashi. Hundreds of people from around the world attended the Amherst Program and considered it to be the high point of their yearly schedule.
In the 1980s, the Amherst Program evolved into the annual Kushi Institute Summer Conference. The K.I. Conference adopted most of the features of the Amherst Program and expanded the roster of teachers even further. Over the years, the Summer Conference was held at a variety of venues in the New England and New York area, including Simon’s Rock College, Chimney Corners Camp, the University of Massachusetts, Westfield State University, and Babson College, all in Massachusetts, Bryant College in Rhode Island, Green Mountain College in Vermont, and more recently, the IBM Conference Center in New York and the Dolce Conference Center in New Jersey. For over three decades, thousands of people have participated in the Kushi Institute Macrobiotic Summer Conference, with teachers and attendees coming from around the world.
The 2014 Conference was special in that it was the first time the Conference was held at the K.I. In order to accommodate guests, the Institute rented a spacious canopied tent. Participants stayed in the cozy Main House and North Hall dormitory. Off-campus accommodation was made available at area motels. Regular shuttle service aided participants with their transportation needs. Marisa Marinelli, a student of macrobiotics and event coordinator for the New York City Ballet, coordinated the 2014 Conference.
Lectures and cooking classes took place throughout the day, held in the K.I. Main House living room and kitchen and the North Hall library and chapel. The tent was reserved for meals, Michio Kushi lectures, and evening keynote presentations, as well as for the Gala dinner. In addition to K.I. Resident Faculty, Guest Faculty came in from all over the country and taught intensively for several days straight. Jane and Lino Stanchich came from North Carolina to teach, David and Cynthia Briscoe, Nadine Barner, and Larry Kushi came from California, Denny and Susan Waxman, Janet Lacey, and Robert and Christina Pirello came from Pennsylvania, Ginny Harper came from Tennessee, David Sergel came from Connecticut, Verne Varona and Susan Krieger came from New York, Gabrielle Kushi came from Minnesota, Dr. Henry Edward Altenberg came from Maine, and Larry and Judy Mackenny came from Florida. Phiya Kushi came from Alaska, as did many of the cooking staff. Michael Potter drove from Michigan to the Conference on his motorcycle!
A number of next generation K.I. guest teachers, including Angelica Kushi, Anthony Dissen, Carol Wasserman, Christine Waltermeyer, Marisa Marinelli, Flor Marques, and Daniel Esko, also gave classes. Patricio Garcia Parades, Director of Education at the Kushi Institute in Japan, journeyed from Tokyo via the Macrobiotic Summer Conference in Holland to present a series of international cooking workshops.
As a special feature, the K.I. held a “SuperLevel” course during the Conference. In addition to their regular leadership-training curriculum, participants in the K.I. Level 1 Program had the opportunity to attend Summer Conference events including evening keynote presentations by guest teachers together with Michio’s lectures.
The response was uniformly positive and enthusiastic. The hardworking K.I. staff and resident and visiting teachers did an excellent job. We thank them and thank our sponsors, donors, and participants. Bob and Christina Pirello told us, “Don’t ever go back (to hotels and corporate conference centers.) Keep the Conference here at the K.I.!” Jane and Lino commented, “The 2014 Kushi Institute Summer Conference was like being in Macrobiotic Heaven! Delicious, balanced macrobiotic food was skillfully prepared and served in an airy tent where friends gathered with music, conversations, and laughter.” Gabrielle Kushi had this to say, “The 2014 Macrobiotic Summer Conference was like a breath of fresh air. The new venue provided chefs, teachers, volunteers, and students alike a chance to support each other on a totally new level, thus providing immense individual and community growth.” David and Cynthia Briscoe summed up the positive consensus by remarking, “What a refreshing experience! It was wonderful to have the grass beneath our feet; trees all around, fresh air, and to feel so relaxed on the KI grounds. It quickly became a family gathering, with plenty of time to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. The food, prepared by the passionate and creative K.I. chefs, was delicious.”
Summer Conference 2015
From July 26 to August 9, 2015, the Macrobiotic Summer Conference will meet once again on the beautiful K.I. campus. We invite you to join us. We are now accepting registrations for this event. Participants can take either SuperLevel 1 and receive credit for our flagship Leadership Program featuring teacher, counselor, and chef training, or attend the Public Program with a plant-based smorgasbord of exciting lectures, cooking classes, and exercise workshops. You can enroll for 1-week or 2-week stays, weekends, or for the day.
Please register early to reserve your room, as campus housing is very limited and will sell out soon. K.I. shuttles will transport people staying off campus to selected Berkshire area motels. Call our registration office to register or for a list of participating motels and the special discounts they offer our participants. For more information call 413-623-5741 x102 and talk to Marisa Marinelli.
Alex Jack is the Executive Director of the Kushi Institute. He is the author of numerous books on macrobiotics, including, with Michio Kushi, The Cancer Prevention Diet, One Peaceful World, and The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health. The above article was published in Macrobiotics Today.More