BROWNFIELD, Maine — Grandy Oats Granola, 100 percent organic granola made since 2001 from a large historic barn in Brownfield, Maine, has outgrown its current location and will be moving to an unused schoolhouse in Hiram, Maine.
Grandy Oats Co-President Aaron Anker said the company was committed to retaining all of its 18 employees, so a location in rural Western Maine, within or near Brownfield, was a must. After a yearlong search, the company, which annually produces 1 million pounds of organic handmade granola, trail mix and roasted nuts, located an 8.5-acre property and schoolhouse off Route 5 on the Saco River in Hiram.
“As an organic granola, we have long been proud of our values as a sustainable, non-GMO company,” said Anker, “But as the years pass, we have become equally enthusiastic about employing a group of amazing people in a economically depressed rural corner of Maine.” Anker explains that the company could easily have chosen to move closer to a large population center and transportation route, but because he and his partner put a very high value on rural families and towns, they chose to stay in Western Maine.
Grandy Oats bought the unused 10,600 square-foot schoolhouse for $175,000 and plans to add another 2,000 square-foot warehouse and loading dock. The expansion plan calls for a new gluten-free production area to accommodate the growing market for gluten-free products. “This building has history and character. It was a shame seeing it go unused. Rather than building something new we wanted to reinvest in the work of a previous generation,” said Anker.
The new facility will be a unique blend of the past and the future. As part of the company’s commitment to sustainability, Grandy Oats Granola has also retained Revision Energy to recommend a solar installation for the plant. Anker says he has applied for a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant and has committed to hiring five new employees this year. “We had some financing assistance from Bangor Savings Bank, but we have never received any state or federal assistance with our growth,” said Anker. “We expect to hear about the block grant any day now.”
Terry Day, assistant to the selectman of the Town Of Hiram, says the townspeople are ecstatic that the old elementary school, which closed 5 or so years ago due to school consolidation, is going to be used again. “The town has lost two major businesses recently. Hammonds Mill burned down and never reopened and another business moved to Standish,” she said. “It’s wonderful that an environmentally friendly business is coming here, plus they are going to be hiring local people which is also good for Hiram.”
Grandy Oats was founded in 1979 in Farmington, Maine. In 1996 Nat Peirce took over the company and moved it to Bridgton. In 2000, Anker joined the team and in the summer of 2002, the company moved to a large historic barn in Brownfield. Since 1997, Grandy Oats has grown from 1 employee with sales of $115,000 to 18 employees with sales of $3.3 million. The company expects to employ 23 with sales of $4 million by the end of 2014.
The company sells granola to hundreds of co-ops, independent health food and grocery stores around the country, as well as servicing over 180 Whole Foods Markets, 150 Hannaford’s and a several other grocery store chains. The company has recently expanded its growth into colleges and universities, such as UMaine, UNH, Bates, Colby, Boston College, Tufts, and the UMASS system. In addition to selling its staple granola and trail mixes, the company has expanded into gluten-free products as well as ancient grain hot cereals.
Grandy Oats received the 2013 “Producer of the Year” Award by the Maine Grocers Association and the Maine Food Producers Alliance. The company also received a top rating from the Cornucopia Institute, which conducted an extensive research project called the Organic Cereal Scorecard. Cornucopia notes that brands in its top tier are “trustworthy and committed to organics, produced by true heroes in the organic industry, were produced without genetically engineered organisms, toxic pesticides, petrochemical solvents, and other inputs that are strictly prohibited in organics.”
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