With just one hundred dollars, a borrowed table, and a tray full of Super Cookies, Nicole Draper and Stanley Ryder weren’t sure what to expect at their first farmers’ market venture. The pair—now with a table of their own—are the founders of Whole Balance, a company that produces minimally processed foods and products made from nutrient-rich grain mixes.
The inspiration for their ancient grain revolution came when Draper fell ill with a serious kidney infection and found Western medicine an unhelpful solution. The couple started searching for natural treatments and soon discovered that the answers they were looking for really came from within. Literally.
They started eating gluten-free and anti-inflammatory foods, and found that their bodies rebounded when purged of wheat, synthetic chemicals, and preservatives. As soon as the Pop-Tarts and ramen they had been eating were replaced with raw, living foods, the couple found Draper’s health steadily improved.
Ancient grains, like amaranth quinoa, millet, and buckwheat, are the primary ingredients in most of Whole Balance’s products. Each grain contains a number of proteins and amino acids, which, when combined and synthesized in the body, form protein structures that can help stabilize the mind, increase immunity, and help the body heal itself, says Ryder.
One of the couple’s signature items, the Super Cookie, is the perfect specimen of ancient grain fusion. When Ryder’s mother created a gluten-free treat for her co-worker’s going-away party, she bequeathed to Ryder a recipe for peanut butter-based chocolate cookies. He tried out the recipe, made a few adjustments, and the cookie dubbed “Super” was born. “I loved them and Nicole loved them and we gave some to some friends and they were like ‘Wow! That is a damn good cookie.’”
The recipe has evolved a bit since then. “First we soak raw Spanish peanuts, then roast them, and grind them into flour,” says Draper. “Then we grind millet and flax into flour, which helps stabilize blood-sugar levels. Last we add a pinch of organic cane sugar, baking soda, and water.”
Other products include a versatile Ancient Grain Multi-Mix, on-the-go packets of Nutrabuild Cereal, GMO-free specialty popcorn, and coming soon, all natural toothpaste.
Draper says that their goal is to not only bring delicious recipes to a wide variety of markets all over town but to also educate their customers about the benefits of healthful living. “We are dedicated to promoting health and wellness by connecting with the people we meet every day, educating and learning about healthy living,” she says.
Eventually, the couple hopes to bring their ancient grain mixture to local schools, restaurants, and resorts. They are also in contact with the Community Food Bank in hopes of donating their blend to Caridad Community Kitchen. “Everyone deserves a healthy option,” said Draper. “Even people who can’t afford it.”
Jennifer Hijazi is a culture enthusiast and Tucson native who moonlights as a UA graduate student in journalism and Middle Eastern studies.