Stahlbush Island Farms was named Celebrate Corvallis’ 2013 Business of the Year on Friday night! Celebrate Corvallis is an annual event from the Corvallis Chamber of Commerce that honors outstanding accomplishments from businesses, citizens, and organizations. Stahlbush Island Farms was commended for the recent Sustainable Plant of the Year award by Food Engineering Magazine. Stahlbush was also recognized for its yearly donation of over 1 million servings of healthy food to local food banks. The award was accepted by Carl Chambers, the oldest son of co-owners Bill and Karla Chambers. Carl manages Stahlbush’s largest organic farm in Medford, Oregon.
Frozen is Fresher! Fresh produce travels an average of fifteen days before it reaches the consumer. More often than not, fresh produce is harvested before it’s ripe, which guarantees that it will be edible by the time it reaches consumers. In 1985, Bill and Karla Chambers, the founders of Stahlbush Island Farms, watched as truck after truck of green blueberries, strawberries, pumpkin, and corn lined the highways.
“Produce gets most of its solids, or rather nutrients, antioxidants, and other healthy benefits, during its maturation on the vine,” says Karla Chambers.
Following extensive research, the couple made a decision and after over two decades that decision still shapes and defines the company. The newlyweds designed and built a food processor on the farm. As both the farmer and the processor, Stahlbush Island Farms was able to lock in a just-picked, fresh taste in the fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes that came off the farm.
“Mother Nature couldn’t be happy with the food system as it stands today. Most of the benefits of healthy eating are not transferred to the majority of fresh produce that people are eating,” says Chambers.
Stahlbush uses a special freezing process called Individually Quick Frozen or IQF, which flash freezes produce within hours of harvest. Chambers says that one of the biggest factors in discerning whether produce has more solids than water is in the color.
“Big, bold colors translate into fresh, pure taste and fully vine-ripened produce.”
In addition to offering the freshest frozen fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, Stahlbush is an environmentally friendly farm and food processor. In 2009 Stahlbush Island Farms turned agricultural waste into energy with the first Biogas Plant of its kind in North America.
“It’s a closed loop cycle. We’re producing electricity, using the engine exhaust to make steam and blanch our vegetables. We take the hot water out of the jacket for our food processing plant and keep the digester warm. We use the hot air that radiates off the engine to dry seeds with. And we’re getting a rich, wet, and dry fertilizer as a byproduct,” says Bill Chambers.
The biogas plant generates enough electricity to power the farm or about 1,100 homes. One year later, Stahlbush released the first 100 percent biodegradable freezer bag. Bill Chambers says that the company didn’t patent the packaging in order to make it easier for other companies to follow suit.
“With sustainability, you’re never there. We’re constantly thinking about how we can improve,” says Bill Chambers.
The Chambers family still lives and works on the farm. They have raised four healthy children, which are currently learning to be the next generation of Stahlbush farmers.
A small group of FFA (Future Farmers of America) members came out to the farm today to learn about Stahlbush Island Farms. As high school seniors, one of the main questions that they had was what to expect in the way of jobs in the farming industry. Here at Stahlbush, we love educating the next generation of farmers. It’s no secret that America’s farmers are an aging population. In order to secure our food supply in the future, programs like the FFA are vital to make farming the fun, young profession.
Have you ever wondered how Stahlbush Island Farms got its start? This two-minute video, narrated by one of the owners Karla S. Chambers, was created by Whole Foods as part of an ongoing series called the Whole Story. It’s amazing! It captures the essence of who we are in the most flawless way imaginable. Make sure to find our products at your local Whole Foods. Enjoy!
Read the blog post from Whole Foods about Stahlbush here.