We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelley D’Angelo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelley, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
Starting Lark Ellen Farm was a big risk as I am a single parent with primary custody of my children. As my company has grown so have my children, now 18 and 20. As the company has matured so have they while witnessing the sacrifices, dedication and hours required to successfully grow a business. Both children have managed our Farmer’s Market booth, delivered orders and worked in the factory. They are both so proud of the company and want to see it succeed. They have had to work at times when it wasn’t convenient for them and perform jobs that weren’t their ideal. In the process, they have learned what happens when team members don’t perform or cut corners or are dishonest. These are invaluable life skills and ones that I hope will make them successful in their chosen professions.
I think that life is just a series of problems that need solving and have taught my children to not let life, or the problems it presents, to deter them. They are very tired of hearing me say that “every problem has a solution and we just need to be creative to find the right one”. However, it makes me so happy when I see them address new challenges with an open mind and heart. My children are independent, strong willed and wonderful human beings which makes me very proud!
What should our readers know about your business?
Lark Ellen Farm is a natural food brand that crafts healthy foods from sprouted, organic nuts and seeds. In the beautiful Ojai Valley, California, we handcraft low-carb granola, trail mix and savory spreads from nuts and seeds that we take through a special process called sprouting. Sprouting is our way of finishing the germination process that nature started and it produces the most delicious and nutritious products.
Sprouting is not new as it has long been regarded by nutritionists as the best way to prepare nuts and seeds. Sprouting is special because it takes time and is labor intensive so most companies don’t take the time to do it. However, at Lark Ellen Farm, we believe in making products the right way regardless of the challenges. There is too much food in the system already that is rushed, extruded, processed and preserved. We prefer to look to nature to see what she has provided and how we can use processes like sprouting and dehydration to make foods that provide deep nourishment.
It hasn’t been easy to build this company. There is a lot of pressure to make products cheap and quick, thus giving up on the ideals that keep a brand honest. We have been able to strike a balance, and though some profits haven’t been realized due to our ideals, in the end we feel we are contributing good food to the system and that is what matters to us. Because of these standards we built our own plant to produce our products. Running a production facility, and scaling it, has been one of the most challenging parts of this endeavor.
Success can be elusive especially when not well defined. I learned early on to take a hard look at what success looked like for me. I had to set my ego aside and decide what will really make me happy. Is what I am creating going to get me there? This can be scary, especially if what you want is not what you think it should be. The importance of facing this head on is the key to fulfillment.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We’d start the day with an early morning hike on my favorite trail, Shelf Road. It is a fire break road carved into the side of a mountain that hugs the Ojai Valley. Ojai is a small valley only 3 miles wide and 10 miles long and Shelf Road looks out on this beautiful valley with its farms and orange groves. In the morning, the light is beautiful and it is a fantastic way to center yourself and start the day refreshed. Coffee at LOVE cafe would be our second adventure. With a lovely patio filled with tables and comfy couches, it is the perfect place to have a cup of joe. Next, we would head into town to meander in the quaint shops that line the main street of Ojai. Art galleries, clothing stores and handcrafted jewelry stores grace the historic Arcade on Ojai Avenue. Across the street is Fig, my favorite little shop, tucked in between two storefronts, that features well-curated unique items.
The next stop would be at Revel where we could enjoy handcrafted Jun Kombucha made from local, organic ingredients like lavender and pixie tangerines and share an acai bowl topped with our very own Lark Ellen Farm granola.
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa will be our afternoon destination. Just driving onto the property makes us feel like we are instantly on vacation as we breathe a sigh of relaxation. We will lounge by the pool in our robes and sip water infused with oranges and lemons while waiting to be summoned by our masseuse.
Feeling pampered and relaxed, we head home to get ready to meet family and friends at Boccali’s, an iconic outdoor Italian eatery on the east end of town. Framed by orange groves, Bocallis faces west and is perfect for watching the sunset. Ojai is famous for its pink moment when the sun sets on theTopa Topa Mountains emanating a glorious pink glow. We will enjoy family and friends, and the view, while sharing the famous strawberry shortcake.
Feeling gratitude for all that nature gives us and for those we share it with – we head back home.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not have been able to start, or grow this business without the love and support of my family. My parents (Don and Ann Scanlin), my sister Lisa Mendel and her family, my children and my partner Mike Mendoza who stepped aside from his own career to help grow Lark Ellen Farm. All of these extraordinary people are at the core of Lark Ellen Farm. In fact, today, while I write this, my 85 year old parents, my sister, and our kids are in our factory labeling jars for our new almond pâté. My sister and her son are visiting from out of town and when they heard we were overwhelmed with orders they came down to help. I tried to convince them to enjoy their vacation but they insisted they wanted to help. My family is my rock and it isn’t just their physical help that I appreciate but the emotional support they have provided. My parents taught us that “there isn’t anything we can’t solve if we stick together”. I definitely won the parent & family lottery – such wonderful, kind and supportive people.
I would also be remiss not to mention our dedicated, honest and valued employees. We consider them family and they have worked overtime and banded together to find new solutions to challenges. We are so grateful to have a team of wonderful people like Bryant Sanchez, Kanyon Schumacher and Kyle Townley who work to make Lark Ellen Farm the best it can be.
Our town of Ojai, Ca just North of LA, is a small village and has a supportive and active community. Everyone from our Farmer’s Market customers, to the local grocery store managers, have supported us and been partners in our success.