Kelley D’Angelo’s story and her business fit perfectly with the ethos of Ojai, the town she calls home in a mountain valley near Santa Barbara.
Life changes brought her home from the East Coast, but health issues caused her to make big changes in her diet. Digestive problems and constant knee pain prompted her to seek the advice of a personal trainer who suggested the Whole 30 elimination diet. “The world is full of people trying to tell you what to eat. This concept of having my own body tell me is what worked for me.”
She learned that she was especially sensitive to grains. “I hadn’t been following the Paleo movement, but I decided to try it. Eliminating grains resolved the health issues I had been struggling with, and I had so much more energy.”
“However, the problem for me was that I was a huge bread and cereal lover. So I wanted foods that I would love and that would be kind to my body.” While Kelley is quick to say that each individual has to find out what works for them, she knew there were other people who wanted delicious grain-free foods.
“There was nothing in my background that would logically lead me to be a food entrepreneur,” she laughs. “I graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with an Agriculture Business degree, but I ended up with a career in corporate communications. There was no farming in my family, outside of a few avocado trees in our back yard.”
Her diet changes were a strong motivator, and experimentation and education followed. Kelley learned two key things that are the hallmarks of her products: sprouting and her low-heat dehydration method.
“I discovered that nuts and seeds are protected by an acid coating that prevents them from germinating prematurely. Normally, they’re harvested before they germinate, and If we eat them then, the coating also inhibits our digestive system from getting their full benefit and can cause inflammation. So the first step in our process is to sprout them in a brine bath, which breaks down the coating.”
“The second step is to dehydrate the nuts and seeds, very slowly at a very low temperature. (The more usual method is to bake them at high heat.) This very low heat means that the nutritional value we have achieved with the sprouting is preserved. Our process also means it is a ‘raw’ product because of the low temperature.”
Kelley explains that her method doesn’t make her ingredients more nutritious, rather it makes their full nutritional value available to our bodies. In addition, it gives Lark Ellen Farm Granola Bites their satisfying crunch.
Don and Ann Scanlin, Kelley’s parents have played key roles especially in her early days, helping her with production, packaging, and selling at the farmer’s market. “We were selling out every week and developing a loyal customer base. Then the local Rainbow Bridge Market wanted to carry Lark Ellen Farm. The business continued to grow, and we quickly outgrew our first facility. We’re now in a beautiful 2,000 square-foot space, where we have a dedicated crew working, including my two children.”
“Our tagline is ‘Feed your body, feed your soul,’ and we want to encourage everyone to do that, one tasty granola bite at a time!”