Clinton homesteader pursues paleo dream one bag at a time

A close friend once asked Maxwelton resident Marybeth Dickerson a question. If you could follow any career path, what would you choose?

Her answer was simple: to promote a paleo diet. So she built a commercial kitchen, started mass producing her children’s’ favorite grainless granola recipe, Primal Island paleo granola, and has never looked back.

And her recipes and treats aren’t just something a caveman would love, having earned recognition in Paleo Magazine and

“I changed my diet to paleo and it helped change my life, and I was really excited about it,” Dickerson said. “I’ve always been into nutrition and food, and I just want to share good paleo foods with people.”

Dickerson’s food is strictly paleo — a diet based on foods that are presumed to have been eaten by early humans in the paleolithic era. The paleo diet excludes dairy and grain products and other processed foods; it largely consists of meat, fruit and vegetables. She said the diet is a healthy route for a plethora of reasons: higher protein, lower fat and carbohydrate intake and it supposedly helps combat auto immune diseases, aches and joint pains.

Primal Island paleo granola is the end product of Dickerson’s passions. Even prior to going paleo in the fall of 2011, she had always made an effort to grow as much of her family’s food as possible. She was sourcing her own meat, dairy and produce from her Maxwelton Valley home.

“I was a pretty hardcore homesteader,” Dickerson said. “What raising food does is it gives you a confidence and capability that you can take on almost anything, and I took that approach into my business.”

Dickerson went into the business venture with zero business experience. She was a stay-at-home mom who was looking to branch out for extra income as her children got older. Around the time she went paleo, she was toying with recipes she would feed herself and her kids. After months of trial and error, she landed on a grainless granola recipe consisting primarily of coconut and almonds in place of grains. Her kids loved it, and a friend suggested she put her passions to good use.

“I started out teeny tiny as the only one baking granola and I even made my own labels,” Dickerson said. “Little by little I decided to walk into grocery stores and ask if people wanted to carry it in their store. Most said ‘yes.’”

Now her homemade granola is sold across Puget Sound.

“I have tried all of her flavors and it’s some of the best granola I’ve had,” Elizabeth Chalfant, department head at The Goose said. “What I hear from the store manager is her granola is one of our top selling items in the store.”

Primal Island carries three flavors of granola: toasted coconut, blueberry and cranberry. All flavors use coconut, almond, honey and a plethora of other nuts and seeds like pecans, hazelnuts and flax seeds. Dickerson said another flavor, dutch dark chocolate cocoa, is in the works and should arrive to store shelves soon.

The key to good granola, Dickerson says, is timing. Granola absorbs liquid easily, and can’t cool off for too long after baking or else it’ll absorb moisture from the air. To make it crisp, it needs to be packaged shortly after being pulled out of the oven.

Dickerson’s goal is to expand her company nationwide, not just for financial success, but to promote paleo eating to a wider audience. She wants to keep the local flair in her product with locally sourced ingredients and wants to continue to cater towards Whidbey businesses, but she aims to stock shelves nationwide with healthy options.

“I want to be able to get high quality products out there that are organic and paleo that people want to eat, regardless of whether they are gluten free or paleo,” Dickerson said. “I want the quality and taste to be good, no matter who you are and what your diet is. That’s big for me.”

Primal Island grainless granola can be found at numerous stores on the South End. The grainless bag of goodies can be found at Clinton Food Mart, The Goose, Pickles Deli, Star Store, Timbuktu, Payless Foods, Greenbank Store, Bayview Farmers Market and Mukilteo Coffee Roasters. To order a bag online, visit