Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories


Betty Berchtold


Honored June, 1995

Betty Berchtold

In her long and wonderfully productive life, Betty Berchtold was an innovator and a visionary, often doing things and developing ideas years and even decades before other people caught on. She made things happen, and she changed things for the better.

In 1960, when America was barely conscious of what is now called “health food,” she published her Avant-Garde Cookbook, which focused on nutritious natural foods, prepared in tasty ways to keep the body healthy. She believed that the body has a great ability to take care of itself and to heal itself if nourished properly, and she showed readers how to achieve the benefits. Re-published many times by Natural Food Associates of Albuquerque, the book is still in print, and Betty also spread its message in person, through many years as a nutritional speaker and counselor.

A great lover of flowers, most especially roses, she made her Santa Fe home and yard a spectacular showcase, with more than 500 rose bushes, all organically grown, long before “organic” became a household word. As fame of her garden went out, she welcomed visitors from all over the world, and led tours for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Council of Garden Clubs, and the American Rose Society. She initiated the idea of having flower shows at the New Mexico State Fair, and was instrumental in creating the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, which began operations in 1987.

A lifelong seeker of spiritual insight and wisdom, Betty studied comparative religions in college, but found most belief systems rigid, inhibiting and suspect. Then she discovered the Unitarian/Universalist church, with its humanitarian focus and casual structure, and committed herself to it. First in Albuquerque, where she lived before moving to Santa Fe in 1970, she helped the congregation move from meeting in a music studio into buying land and building its own church. Then in Santa Fe she was active in expanding the local church from a room in a private home to a large, handsome structure.