Snack Spotlight: Health Warrior and Operation Farm & Run
A new Mexican Chocolate Chia Bar created for the Tarahumara of Mexico and Operation Farm & Run by natural foods startup Health Warrior.
What We’re Doing and Why It’s Important
Health Warrior, an award-winning, rapidly growing natural foods brand, is funding a brand new Mexican Chocolate Chia Bar through this Kickstarter, a bar created in honor of the Tarahumara of Mexico through a partnership called Operation Farm & Run.
In 2016 we helped the Tarahumara with the rehabilitation of a single farm and the cultivation of their first commercial chia crop. This first harvest, celebrated together by Health Warrior and the Tarahumara, laid the groundwork for Operation Farm & Run and a plan for continued investment in the Tarahumara's commercial agriculture efforts.
In 2017 Health Warrior aims to rehabilitate two additional Tarahumara farms for commercial chia cultivation. Seeds grown at these farms will then be used in our new Mexican Chocolate Chia Bars and drive continued investment into a native community that has faced many modern challenges in recent years. With the successful funding of this Kickstarter, we will reach this goal in 2017.
Sales of Mexican Chocolate Chia Bars through this Kickstarter will help to restore the drought-stricken farms of the Tarahumara people and, in so doing, preserve their inspiring culture rooted in the joy of movement and ancient, nutritional wisdom.
Who We Are
Mickey, Shane, and the next generation of the Tarahumara.
We started Health Warrior after reading two great books: the best-selling book Born to Run and the Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Born to Run tells of the world’s greatest ultrarunners, the Tarahumara people, who live in the remote, rugged Copper Canyons of Mexico and who easily run 25, 50, even 100 miles in homemade sandals. The Tarahumara’s lives are rich in movement, and their diets are rich in nutrient-dense, plant-based foods like chia seeds.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is the story of where our American food comes from. In short, most packaged food is junk food. Of ~300,000 edible plants, just three (3) make up 60% of our American calories, and we eat them in highly processed forms.
Together, these two books inspired us, three aging former college athletes, to found Health Warrior and create our first product, the Chia Bar, the first bar with superfood chia as the #1 ingredient--a delicious statement of how modern food can be, first inspired by ancient wisdom. Health Warrior is fortunate enough to have grown rapidly, from the best-selling new bar in America in 2013 to being named #205 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in 2016. Even before all this growth, we sought a way to support the Tarahumara people who originally inspired us (more on the history, below).
Last year an opportunity presented itself at the Boston Marathon. At a pre-race event with the awesome running brand Janji and Born to Run author, Christopher McDougall, we met Arnulfo (one of the famous Tarahumara runners described in the book), Mickey (an honorary Tarahumara and Harvard's liaison in the canyons) and also staff from Harvard University's Department of Evolutionary Biology, who are conducting ongoing research with the Tarahumara deep in the Copper Canyons.
Learning of the terrible and extended drought plaguing the Tarahumara, and the hunger and hardship it has caused, we decided to do what entrepreneurs do best and get creative to help this ancient and awesome culture that helped inspire our company. Operation Farm & Run is Health Warrior’s small answer to the Tarahumara’s challenges, a project to help restore their farms and help preserve their inspiring culture, a culture that can teach us so much. The new Mexican Chocolate Chia Bar is our method of driving demand for the chia seeds those farms will grow.
What Is Chia?
Chia seeds are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and the number one ingredient in our Health Warrior Chia Bars - the first one you read on the label.
Simply put, one ounce of chia contains more:
- Omega-3s than 5 oz. of salmon
- Protein than a 1.5 oz egg
- Calcium than 1/2 cup of 1% milk
- Fiber than 3 tbsp. of flax seeds
- Magnesium than 5 cups of broccoli
(Sources available at the link below)
It's this nutrient density that earned chia the nickname "runner's food", powering the Tarahumara on their legendary long distance runs and fueling the modern day warrior with the power to keep moving.
Curious to learn more? Visit the "What is Chia?" page on our website!
What Will Your Contribution Support
Drought left many Tarahumara farms barren and unusable, the Tarahumara seed stocks are highly depleted, and there are no jobs to help reignite a virtuous agronomic cycle in the canyons. For every $10,000 USD invested, we can restore a drought-stricken farm, renew the soil, build irrigation, re-build the seed stock, and provide a continual source of income for the Tarahumara. And make more delicious bars. Here, at the beginning, we are following one of the Health Warrior business mantras: Keep It Simple. We have already gone through one full restoration cycle with a test farm, and the lead farmer was Silvino (one of the greatest Tarahumara runners, as well as an expert farmer).
Here is the plan:
A Report from the First Harvest - 5th December, 2016
Health Warrior CEO, Shane Emmett, sent the Health Warrior team a letter while leaving the deep Copper Canyons, where he was helping with the first harvest at the test location for Operation Farm and Run.
We are back from the Copper Canyons! As the [Health Warrior] team knows, we have been looking for a medium to give back to the Tarahumara since the earliest days of Health Warrior when we made donations to Caballo Blanco's not-for-profit. After he passed away, we lost a good contact. This was remedied after [Boston Warrior sales reps] Tom and Teddy arranged a great event for the Boston Marathon and we met Mickey and Arnulfo there, as well as researchers from Harvard, their sponsors for that event and the marathon (which Tom was running, of course!).
The idea we discussed was that the Tarahumara have more to offer us than we to offer them, but they face daunting challenges with severe drought and the invasion of modernity. Their greatest desires are to farm and run (in their own way). As such, we arranged to finance an initial crop of chia seeds for the Tarahumara to grow for Health Warrior. Eventually, with the help of our Kickstarter campaign, the plan is to restore many farms, use the chia they harvest in our new Mexican Chocolate Chia Bars and return the profits from the sale of those bars to the Tarahumara, setting them up with a recurring source of income to keep their farms sound and culture intact.
So [Health Warrior co-founder] Nick, [Health Warrior CFO] Austin, and I went down to see the initial harvest in action and meet more of our Tarahumara partners.
The short story is that it was a moving trip. Literally, we never stopped moving! 40+ hours of travel over four days, including a descent into the canyons that was only 8 miles but took nearly two hours due to the steep and "rugged" (doesn't do it justice) road to the bottom of the canyon.
The Tarahumara tradition for farming is that the farmers receive a place to stay and meals for their families in addition to monetary compensation. Mornings began well before dawn with the smell of the fires from the Tarahumara women cooking breakfast outside (they were burning beautiful brazil tree wood -- it smelled divine). They men began harvesting chia and bringing it in from the fields to a covered area to protect from rain before sunrise (Nick helped). The kids immediately run into the farm/river to play (and continue throughout the day). The primary food is corn tortillas (with chia of course) and frijoles. These aren't ordinary corn tortillas. They grind fresh corn outside, mix it with maseca (corn flour), and then knead the dough and cook them on an iron plate over an open fire. They are the best tortillas on earth. (notably researchers from Stanford recently identified these as a top source of pre-biotics). The frijoles likewise are cooked in a metal bucket over a second fire. The work goes on all day -- it is truly dirt farming.
Tarahumara preparing a traditional meal in their village.
The chia is harvested with knives, not combines. The weeds are pulled by hand, not killed with pesticides. The seeds are extracted by rubbing the stalk against a stone, not by any machine. And the Tarahumara delight in the work. The financing we provided for the past five months has allowed these Tarahumara families to live with more joy and security than they have been able to experience in many years.
Chia stalks are processed by hand to extract their seeds.
In many ways the Tarahumara are very poor. The stories of little kids killed by scorpions due to lack of fast medical care are wrenching. The reality of hunger during the droughts is harrowing. They live one degree removed from that starvation. Hunger is real. Water is scarce and sacred. Seeds are in short supply for all their foods. The cost of purchasing food from a store is not significantly less than in Richmond [Richmond, Virginia, home to Health Warrior HQ]. There are no jobs.
But in many ways they are so rich. The culture revolves around relationships. Instead of walls, they have friends. Instead of lights at night, they have stars. The banter was great (not that I understood much of it, but everyone was having a blast while working). Over three days I didn't hear a single child ask for anything or a single adult reprimand a child (for those of us parents, this was stunning). The delight in work and exercise appeared as real as we have always thought it to be – it’s a profoundly awesome outlook on life, connected to the natural world in a very special way. As Mickey [an American who has lived with the Tarahumara for years] said when asked about their incredible running ability: “it has nothing to do with what we consider ‘training’ -- their lifestyle is their training.”
They are always moving, be that movement walking up and down mountain trails, in fields of chia, or at all night dances. Happiness is profoundly not tied to money for the Tarahumara and winning running races is only the by product of their true joy.
- Shane Emmett, Health Warrior CEO
In addition to the Mexican Chocolate Chia Bar, we have created a number of unique Premium Rewards for backers who contribute to this project!
See details on available reward levels on the right column of this page, and details on the rewards themselves below.
Backers at the $5 level will receive two individual Mexican Chocolate Chia Bars.
Backers at the $20 level will receive a box of 15 Mexican Chocolate Chia Bars. Backers at $60 and above receive two boxes!
All backers at the $60 level and above will receive a 12 oz. bag of Health Warrior Chia Seeds.
Backers at the $60 level and above will receive a Health Warrior logo running shirt. Modeled here by Health Warrior Tom!
Our Premium Rewards are available beginning at the $125 level. Backers at those levels receive all the rewards listed above (bars, seeds, shirt) and the following:
$125 - 1 Premium Reward (Limited to 150 backers)
$175 - 2 Premium Rewards (Limited to 100 backers)
$225 - All 3 Premium Rewards (Limited to 50 backers)