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Omega in Action

Omega in Action highlights inspiring people and organizations making meaningful change. From protecting the environment to empowering women, healing veterans, and serving nonprofits, you'll find fresh perspectives, trending news, and the latest information on noteworthy events here at Omega and around the world.

Lyme Scholarship Recipients Give Back

1 year 7 months ago

The second annual Living Well With Lyme Disease conference at Omega in June 2015 brought together people with Lyme along with health-care practitioners, caregivers, and others impacted by the condition.

The response from the community was one of both resounding support and empowerment. Almost 200 people attended the weekend with 119 people receiving full and partial scholarships.

Participants of all ages and genders came to seek answers and find solutions, including Noelle, Elizabeth, and Rebecca, three scholarship recipients.


“Someone once told me that getting a chronic illness is like getting a PhD in being alive,” said Noelle, a scholarship recipient from Massachusetts who is getting certified as a life coach to help others dealing with Lyme. “There were so many PhDs at the conference, people that have learned so much.”

“I’ve been sick for 14 years, off and on,” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of support groups and done a lot of communing with other folks with Lyme but doing it in this environment was extra special. I was filled with more joy and energy than I’ve ever felt.”

To help reach Lyme sufferers who don’t have access to in-person coaching, Noelle is working on a virtual support group that will offer tips on how to heal yourself from the inside out. 


Elizabeth, a family nurse practitioner for almost 35 years from New York, also suffered with Lyme. She says she attended the conference to learn more about treatment not just for tick illnesses but also for environmental pollutants and coexisting conditions.

“The conference is going to allow me to be a more comprehensive practitioner in my work," she said. "With this scholarship I am able to use the information I have received at Omega to help my patients. As a licensed family nurse practitioner, I can write prescriptions and order appropriate tests. I’m very excited to get back to work, and be even more helpful to people dealing with Lyme and tick borne illnesses.”


Rebecca, from Vermont, has a 12 year old son who is now eight years into his healing journey. She shared that once his symptoms improved and the family was out of crisis mode, she realized all they had been through.

“It didn’t have to be as bad as it was,” she said. “The social isolation piece. The financial disaster. So many different aspects of our lives were affected. There’s an intense focus on the ‘who done it’ of the politics and what’s causing the disease, but my take is that the experience of the disease is not being fully addressed.”

Rebecca is now completing a master's degree to become a mental health clinician.

“Before this conference, I had been on the fence about whether or not I wanted to focus exclusively on Lyme in my practice,” Rebecca said. “It was said several times here and it was really affirming: the root for everything is compassion. I now feel I can invest in this community because the conference reminded me that there’s more than just the darkness.”

Omega Recognizes Poughkeepsie Farm Project With the 4th Annual $10,000 Leadership in Sustainable Education Award

1 year 7 months ago

Award Ceremony & FREE PUBLIC EVENT With Vandana Shiva, Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, Maude Barlow, and

Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus Planned for Saturday, October 10th at 8:00 p.m.

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega Institute, home of the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), today announced the fourth recipient of their Annual Leadership in Sustainable Education Award. The award recognizes nonprofit peers who exemplify leadership in sustainable education and who share Omega’s commitment to building a more just and sustainable world. This year, Omega recognizes Poughkeepsie Farm Project, an organization working to provide hands-on education about where food comes from and why it matters.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project will be honored with the award on Saturday, October 10th at 8:00 p.m., during Omega’s Seeds of Change Conference. The evening, which is free and open to the public, will include the special presentation Living in a Time of Transition, featuring environmental activist Vandana Shiva, political activist Ralph Nader, Ojibwe activist and economist Winona LaDuke, author and human rights activist Maude Barlow, and Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus.

“We are delighted to recognize Poughkeepsie Farm Project as a nonprofit that has made great strides with community partners to increase support for growing and serving local food in schools,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega and visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. “Poughkeepsie Farm Project has involved thousands of urban youth in powerful learning experiences, leading to excitement about farm-fresh food and understanding of the systemic causes of hunger and food insecurity.”

In addition to the $10,000 award, Poughkeepsie Farm Project will also receive a strategic planning retreat at Omega, to help strengthen organizational development and further its mission.

"We are truly excited to receive this recognition from Omega for our work in the sustainable food systems movement through education and outreach over the last 16 years,” said Lee Anne Albritton, executive director of Poughkeepsie Farm Project. “It is an honor to be in the company of other great organizations in the Hudson Valley who've received this award in the past. These partnerships and collaborations are what strengthen and expand awareness of the need to protect our most precious resources through progressive social change," concluded Albritton.

Omega created the Leadership in Sustainable Education Award in 2012 to further its commitment to environmental stewardship and education. Past recipients include Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (2012), Scenic Hudson (2013), and Groundwork Hudson Valley (2014).

Founded in 2009, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) originated as the first green building in America to achieve both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certification—the highest standards currently available in sustainable architecture. The OCSL has since evolved into an environmental leader, offering programs that teach the regenerative environmental practices modeled by the building.

Join the conversation on and on Twitter @omega_institute #OCSL.

To see the complete schedule for the Seeds of Change Conference taking place Friday October 9–11th, visit or call 800.944.1001.

About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation's most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 250 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world.

Omega Contact:

Chrissa Pullicino

845.266.4444 ext. 404

About Poughkeepsie Farm Project

Founded in 1999, Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) is a nonprofit organization that works toward a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley. It operates a member-supported farm on land owned by Vassar College in the Town of Poughkeepsie. PFP had 70 CSA members in its first season. That number has grown to more than 500. In addition to providing organically grown food for its members, PFP donates about 20 percent of its annual harvest available to low-income families and emergency food relief organizations. PFP also provides over 50 college internship and field work positions, and close to 4,000 visitors with educational programs on nutrition, seed production, and other agriculture-related topics for at-risk teens and youth throughout the region.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project Contact:

Lee Anne Albritton


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Local Teens Can't Stop Talking About Omega

1 year 7 months ago

Omega recently hosted tweens and teens from two Hudson Valley organizations, Mill Street Loft and the North East Community Center (NECC), to explore campus and some quintessential Omega offerings. 

Tweens who visited from Mill Street Loft, based in the City of Poughkeepsie, were part of an outreach program that addresses issues for at-risk girls, providing learning and life skills and fostering self-esteem and personal empowerment.

The tweens took a tour of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), enjoyed lunch at the dining hall, took a movement class, and interviewed Robert Turner, executive chef at Omega FoodWorks about the food served at Omega. 

“It's hard to explain what Omega is to 10- and 11-year-olds, but at Omega they felt so at ease,” said Michelle De la Cruz, director of Latino Programming at Mill Street Loft. “Just the experience of getting out of their environment, out in the country, and walking around was fantastic for them. They loved the self-sustainability project [OCSL]. They had a million and one questions about how the plants clean the water, and on the van ride home, they were explaining it to each other. One of the girls asked why they're not doing this in every city. They wanted to know how the water is cleaned in the city. They had never thought about it before.” 

Teens from the NECC's Teen Team Youth Leadership Program also enjoyed lunch at Omega and time with chef Bob, explored campus and the lake, and took an introductory yoga and meditation class.

“We all really enjoyed our trip to Omega, it was amazing,” said Sara Campbell NECC Teen Program Coordinator. “The teens couldn't stop talking about it all the way home.”

Food Justice From Seed to Market: Live Online Event

1 year 7 months ago

In light of the important national conversation on GMO labeling and access to quality food for all, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living is pleased to offer online access to Food Justice From Seed to Market, part of the Seeds of Change Conference.

Renowned environmental activist Vandana Shiva will be joined by Hudson Valley Seed Library cofounder Ken Greene, cofounder of Freedom Food Alliance Jalal Sabur, author of The Color of Food Natasha Bowens, CEO of Growing Power Will Allen, and many regional leaders and organizations advocating for GMO labeling and equal food access.

Join us in person for the whole weekend, or watch Sunday morning, October 11, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time (Time Zone Converterlive from anywhere.

Learn more about the conference

Register for the online event

Seed Freedom Leaders Return to Omega This October

1 year 8 months ago

During the Omega Center for Sustainable Living's 2014 Where We Go From Here conference, internationally renowned seed activist Vandana Shiva met a group of Hudson Valley farmers, gardeners, and seed activists working to establish seed sovereignty in the region. Ken Greene, cofounder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, said meeting Vandana Shiva was "a seed saver's dream come true.”

When she spoke, Dr. Shiva urged everyone present to "get involved in the [Hudson Valley] Seed Library and challenged us all with the idea of creating a Hudson Valley Seed Freedom Zone," said Greene. "After a decade of working on seed issues for our region, I felt reinvigorated to continue our work preserving, developing, and celebrating seed diversity.”

This year's OCSL conference, Seeds of Change: Cultivating the Commons, October 9–11, will bring Shiva and Greene back together to the Omega campus, along with Winona LaDuke, Maude Barlow, Ralph Nader, John Todd, and others.

As we explore the interconnected nature of the many challenges ahead, how to bring about change, and questions of equity and social justice, we will delve deeply into issues relating to seeds, food justice, GMOs, transparency in food labeling, protecting and stewarding water resources, and the political and social context within which we live and work.

Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus says by focusing on seeds as an important theme, we’re addressing “something fundamental to human rights and the preservation of the Commons: The ability to renew life. That is held in the quality of the seed. That cannot be owned.”

Whether you are already working closely with these issues, or are interested in learning more, we invite you to be part of a growing global community coming together to protect the Commons, including the pivotal right to share and save seeds.

Jill Taylor's Health Transformed With Dr. Tom

1 year 8 months ago

In October of 2010, Jill Taylor turned 50 and decided it was time to do a cleanse. She had suffered for years with chronic health issues, and a friend suggested a trip from Rochester to Omega Institute.

Taylor had never been to Omega or met Dr. Tom Francescott, a naturopathic and intuitive doctor who specializes in Transformational Cleansing™. She was excited to treat herself with one of his workshops for the week.

Taylor says it was one of the best decisions she has made for herself. She learned how to juice and how to meditate—two things she had never done before.

“It was the first time ever that I got energy from food,” she said. “I didn’t need coffee or soda to feel energetic.”

When she returned home, she bought a juicer. She also learned that eating gluten free and dairy free made a huge difference with her weight. Since her visit, she has lost and kept off more than 60 pounds.

“The cleanse jump-started my metabolism,” Taylor said. “I didn’t think I had one before. And it’s not about how I look, it’s that I feel comfortable in my pants now. I owe Dr. Tom so much.”

She also met new friends in the cleanse workshop that she continues to stay in touch with.

“I went home from Omega so filled with hope that I could have a future more than just feeling blah and overweight,” Taylor said, “You can grow.”

Taylor continues to eat organic, meditate, enjoy fresh juice, and maintain her healthy lifestyle.

“Even though my health is not 100 percent yet, the cleanse provided a life change for me,” she said.

Learn more about Dr. Tom Francescott.

Learn more about cleanses. 

Family of Woodstock Builds Relationships at Service Week

1 year 9 months ago

The motto of Family of Woodstock (Family) is, “Any problem under the sun.”

This year, Family celebrated its 45th anniversary in part by returning to Omega Service Week, an initiative that supports fellow nonprofits who come for self-led organizational retreats on Omega’s campus. More than 30 organizations took part in the retreats this year.

“Omega Service Week is a rare and special opportunity to get past the day to day and look at what we are doing, how it is working, and how we support each other,” said Family executive director Michael Berg.

The organization, which is one of the largest providers of human services in Ulster County, New York, began in response to the impact on the town of Woodstock after the famous 1969 festival drew crowds of young people to the hamlet with only two police officers.

The community began to meet to figure out what to do. At one meeting, a woman said, “Call me if there is any problem.” This was the beginning of what is now one of the oldest 24-hour emergency hotlines in the country.

Family responds to more than 200,000 requests each year, providing a vast array of services from suicide prevention and child-care services to domestic violence services and shelters for homeless adults, families, and teens.

Family runs on three principles based on Rogerian philosophy: 1) Don’t tell people what to do. They won’t listen. 2) Don’t burden people with your judgments of their behavior. They’re not going to listen to that, either. 3) Maintain privacy and confidentiality.­

And while the organization serves so many, their volunteers and staff don’t always get to interact on a regular basis, or have much time to identify common understanding about important cultural issues within the organization. 

Family’s main goal at Service Week this year was to help identify better ways to communicate and collaborate. "We focused on crucial conversations and how to promote dialogue," Berg said. "This is a skill that we all need and all need work on. In order to feel safe to bring up difficult subjects, there must be a significant level of trust. The time at Omega helped us build those relationships and connections.”

This wasn’t Family’s first visit to Omega. They've attended Service Week several times before. 

“One of the lasting effects of Service Week has been the growth of our staff. It has been exciting for staff to get out of the normal working environment to connect to people and resources they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. To see their own roles and the role of Family in a broader context supports staff in their development as leaders. Omega has helped us grow,” said Berg.


Omega Yoga Teacher Supports Tibetan Children

1 year 9 months ago

Yin Yoga teacher Biff Mithoefer has been part of Omega's community since 2003 and he says he takes Omega's support with him in all of his work.

"I feel the intention behind Omega’s mission to be of service and to create a place for people to not only grow, but to feel part of a community with a larger purpose," he said. "It’s been a great support to me to be part of the Omega family."

Mithoefer is the founder of the Jamtse Sponsorship Project, an organization that supports, educates, and nourishes Tibetan refugee children and their families living in settlements outside of Tibet. He got the idea for the project at an audience he and his wife Amy had with the Dalai Lama.

The name comes from the Tibetan word for kindess, jamtse. In the Tibetan language, jam means care and tse means love. So the organization literally puts the practice of kindness into action.

“Jamtse is a small project, but I think it has made a difference is children’s lives,” Mithoefer said. “We’ve been consistent in supporting children through their whole school career, and I think that has been important in helping them feel secure and perhaps more at home in a world where they find themselves in exile.”

One of the first girls sponsored by the project is now at Amherst College on full scholarship.

“It is certainly her achievement, not ours, but I’m happy to have been able to be a part of it,” he said.

Mithoefer teaches yoga workshops throughout the world and is also on the advisory board of the Give Back Yoga Foundation.

Pioneering Media Literacy Activist Jean Kilbourne Is Juno Resident

1 year 9 months ago

Jean Kilbourne, internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on images of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising, recently stayed on Omega's campus as a Juno Leadership Resident with the Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC). 

Kilbourne's most recent film, Killing Us Softly 4, was screened at the Ram Dass Library to a large audience of staff, participants, and local residents. The film, which explores the dehumanizing images of women in mainstream advertisements, was followed by a question and answer session.

Jean began her work in the 1960s, exploring the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women and eating disorders. She launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems, an original idea at the time that is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs.

Jean has transformed the way organizations and educational institutions around the world address the prevention of many public health problems including smoking, high-risk drinking, eating disorders, obesity, the sexualization of children, and violence against women.

This year, Jean is an inductee into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca, New York, along with nine others, including Eleanor Smeal, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Barbara Iglewski, and Martha Graham

Find out more about Jean Kilbourne

Buying Local is About Building Relationships

1 year 9 months ago

Omega FoodWorks, the team responsible for overseeing the food at Omega's Dining Hall and Café, is committed to using as much local produce as possible. FoodWorks executive chef Robert Turner says over the last eight years he's been able to increase the amount of local produce he uses by working with Red Barn Produce, a distributor in Highland, New York.

Prior to working with Red Barn, FoodWorks would buy directly from a number of farms, something that Turner describes as “really great, but really inefficient.” Working with Red Barn gives Omega access to many more local farms than it would otherwise be able to buy from, which has many positive effects on the regional community.

“We can buy individual cases from Red Barn that aren’t worthwhile for a single farm to drop off to us,” Turner explains. “Right now we have access to 10 farms.” Red Barn is able to meet the farmer's minimum and then distribute the produce to multiple locations. 

This arrangement has enabled FoodWorks to source locally-grown greens earlier in the season. “We normally source greens from Markristo Farm in Hillsdale, New York. But they don’t do any greenhouse growing. So in the spring, while all the local crops are still maturing in the field, we’d have to buy mesclun shipped in from wherever. But through our relationship with Red Barn, we can get local mesclun early in the season, grown in greenhouses at Sorbello and Taliaferro farms.”

Omega has also been able to help out local farmers by connecting them with Red Barn for distribution, Turner says. Both Blue Star Farm in Stuyvesant, New York, and Ironwood Farm in Ghent, New York, which supply to Omega directly, now also distribute their produce through Red Barn.

Ultimately, local produce is about building community relationships.

“At Omega, the nation’s largest holistic learning center, we believe in reciprocal relationships that benefit the community at large,” Turner says. “If we can purchase from a distributor that has local produce, everybody wins. The farmers make money, and the headache of distribution is taken off their hands. The distributor makes money. We get a good product, at a good price—one that’s fresh and that we can turn into delicious food for our guests.”


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