Former officer, wife make living selling fermented products
by Hannah Morgan
October 05, 2013 11:56 PM | 12770 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Steven and Dana Rankin, owners of Ancient Awakenings in Woodstock, sell cultured foods like kefir and cultured vegetables that contain beneficial bacteria called probiotics that aid the digestive system. Steven boxes a new batch of his naturally sparkling grape kefir on Tuesday afternoon. <br>Staff/Todd Hull
Steven and Dana Rankin, owners of Ancient Awakenings in Woodstock, sell cultured foods like kefir and cultured vegetables that contain beneficial bacteria called probiotics that aid the digestive system. Steven boxes a new batch of his naturally sparkling grape kefir on Tuesday afternoon.
Staff/Todd Hull
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WOODSTOCK — Steven Rankin’s kitchen looks like a science experiment. On an average week, he spends about 40 hours in his kitchen, making sure all of the bacteria he plans to sell is growing.

The Woodstock resident sells fermented foods at the Saturday Marietta Farmers Market and many other markets. The former police officer has made a living culturing vegetables, coconut water and tea, after a nearly fatal injury seven years ago.

While working a night shift in February 2006 for the police department in Cordele, Rankin was shot through the mouth by a man he had pulled over.

The bullet lodged itself in his spine, just underneath his brain, and began to spread lead into his bloodstream, he said.

Rankin, who was always a healthy eater and into fitness competitions, began getting intense flu-like symptoms every two to three months. Doctors told him the lead counts in his blood were five times higher than what is considered “lethal,” he said.

Rankin said he was in the hospital six times in one year, before a woman at his gym dragged him to an acupuncturist at Turning Point Healing Center in east Cobb near Shallowford Falls Shopping Center.

The treatment lasted two hours, and, “I was overwhelmed by how quick I responded,” Rankin said.

The acupuncturist recommended Rankin begin eating fermented foods, and he and his wife, Dana Rankin, began making them for themselves in their home.

The stomach, intestines and gut inside the human body are supposed to be completely coated with bacteria, Rankin explained, and if people take antibiotics, or certain drugs, their bacteria can die out. Without that healthy bacteria, the vitamins and nutrients in food will not be absorbed into the bloodstream, and people can become malnourished, he said.

Food can be digested, and people can still survive off of the calories they consume, but the body cannot function optimally without all of the nutrients and vitamins in food, Rankin said.

When the body is depleted of nutrients and healthy bacteria, conditions like acid reflux, indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome can develop, Rankin said, because “with no bacteria in the system, the body is trying to burn up its food so it can get to those nutrients, which acidifies the body.”

The solution? Increasing doses of fermented foods, which contain probiotics, a type of bacteria, said Rankin, which work to, “enhance immunity, regulate hormone balance, protect from food-borne illness and allergies,” by increasing the “good bacteria,” or microflora, in the body.

With regular doses of acupuncture and fermented vegetables, Rankin was back on his feet after his surgeries, feeling better and rarely getting sick.

He began to bring jars of fermented vegetables to his gym, and give them out to his clients, who noticed positive changes in their training, and many even went off of their prescriptions, he said.

They soon began demanding more, and Rankin and his wife began spending more time in their kitchen, and “In three years, it just became a full-on business. It has taken over our lives,” he said.

The couple named their business Ancient Awakenings, and now sell their products to seven of the Whole Foods Markets in Atlanta and at the Marietta, Alpharetta and Cumming Harvest Farmers Markets, he said.

The couple now employs two full-time and three part-time workers, and they are looking to expand their business soon, Rankin said.

Jars of fermented vegetables, including beets, red cabbage, carrots and broccoli are jam-packed with enough probiotics, or good bacteria, Rankin said, that eating it is like taking a vitamin supplement.

He also sells bottles of a tart, fizzy drink, called Kombucha, a fermented tea, which also provide ample amounts of probiotics, as well as jars of cultured coconut milk, called kefir, which contain multiple strains of beneficial gut bacteria, and can be eaten like yogurt.

While not working in the kitchen, Rankin operates a muscle therapy studio, Primal Awakenings Studios, where he works with patients on injury and disability rehabilitation work, he said.

Since increasing the amount of fermented foods in his diet, Rankin rarely gets sick, and now works to provide healthy foods to clients all over metro Atlanta, he said.

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