12.1.14

This post was sponsored by Whole Foods Market, America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.

We’re pretty serious about our avocado intake: from guac to toast to green smoothies – it’s a daily addiction. So put us on an organic avocado orchard like Stehly Farms and we’re in our element. Charlie had Wonka and the chocolate factory, we’ve got organic farmers like Noel Stehly and the sprawling organic and sustainable farms of California. To each their own, but here at the Chalkboard, we’d prefer to pick organic produce straight from trees than tour Willy Wonka’s creepy factory anyday.

We’re meeting new farmers and learning new things all the time from some of California’s best farms – many of them we encounter for the first time in the produce section. Our Chalkboard headquarters here in L.A. are triangulated by three Whole Foods Market locations, (the ideal conditions sought when office hunting, naturally,) each of which has a sprawling organic produce section.

It’s in these Whole Foods Markets that we first got hooked on Stehly Farms avocados (it’s a problem,) not to mention their strawberries and blackberries when in season.

The Stehly family’s sprawling Southern California farm began as a chicken ranch in the 1960’s. When they realized just how much, um, organic fertilizer their chickens produced at a time when organic produce was just beginning to boom, they knew they might have a foot in the game. But it was a personal experience with friends of the family, however, that really sealed the deal for them and made their organic aspirations a reality.

Friends of the Stehly’s were working in 1960’s s biotech and raising daughters just the age of the Stehly’s own nieces. At that precious tween age, their friend’s daughters began experiencing hormonal changes and complications that their biotech-educated parent’s were quick to connect with the modern food supply the girls were being raised on. That was enough for Noel Stehly and family to make the leap and plant their first plot of organic avocado trees.

That orchard grew and to it, the Stehly’s soon added strawberry fields, blackberries, citrus orchards and a whole host of other popular produce. Their adventures in organic farming began as simply as that and soon sprung to life, full force.

It took years for the Stehly farm to become certified organic. But once they were certified, they began a relationship with Whole Foods Market that the Stehly’s describe as a “partnership.” As they do with so many small organic farms, Whole Foods Market worked closely with the Stehly’s to advise them on business matters from packaging to promotion and helped to the farm to create the best products possible.

For us, shopping Whole Foods Market’s produce section is like voting with our dollars in support of organic California farms. As we recently learned from Environmental Working Group President, Ken Cook, Whole Foods Market produce standards continue to evolve, pushing farms higher and higher in their sustainable standards. Their new tiered rating system for produce is the ultimate for those of us wishing to support responsible farming and eat produce that is as “clean” as can possibly be.

There are many perspectives on organic farming and we thought this farm’s perspective was incredibly insightful. Read Farmer Noel’s thoughts below, then enjoy a recipe we whipped up in honor of Stehy Farms: an incredibly delicious dessert made with farm-fresh berries, oranges and avocados from their own farm…

Bug's Life

Organic farming relies on the wisdom of nature to keep plants healthy. An etymologist walks the farm weekly to release and monitor certain beneficial bugs among the plants. The farm literally staples baggies of properly portioned bug eggs to the trees!

Modern Medicine

Our team, and many of our readers, embrace integrated or functional medicine. We prefer to live a natural, holistic lifestyle, relying on drugs andsurgery only in emergencies. The Stehy’s ideal form of organic farming is much the same. Organic, chemical-free farming should be the new modern standard, but every farm encounters emergencies that threaten the life of their plants – in this case, the Stehy’s are proponents of the chemicals available to remedy this as an emergency method. We think that make a lot of sense.

Big + small

The Stehy’s began a relationship with large natural foods retailer Whole Foods Market early on. We love economic solutions like this. A small farm, a large grocer, customers like us, all working together to create a sustainable food culture that works.

Clean Dirt

What so many of us fail to realize the value of a good plot of dirt. When talking about organics, very few consumers or companies spend much time on the topic of soil. For those of us who access our fruits and veggies from grocery store shelves and restaurant tables, soil rarely crosses our minds, but it is the very foundation of our food’s nutritive nature. Organic fruits and vegetables are byproducts of organic soil. More than anything else, going organic is an effort to improve soil – the very earth itself.

It's all about balance

Even when we’re talking about organic farming practices, too much of anything can throw life out of balance. No matter the healthy farming practices employed by sustainable farmers, all things must be done in moderation. The overuse of anything can cause imbalance. Farmers must rotate and adjust their practices all the time.


Chocolate Avocado Pudding with Berries + Candied Oranges

Ingredients:

For the pudding:
4 ripe avocados, pitted and skinned
1/4 cup almond milk
4 tablespoons cacao powder (unsweetened cocoa)
3 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 ounces of unsweetened dark chocolate (80% or higher), melted
2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract

Toppings:
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blackberries
8 tbs. whipped cashew cream
candied oranges

Directions:

Add avocado to a food processor or high speed blender. Spin on high until smooth and creamy.

Add in the other ingredients. Blend until completely combined.

Top with candied oranges, whipped cream and berries. Serve.

This post was sponsored by Whole Foods Market, America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.

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