The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on Wednesday visited a Lancaster facility where a York-based granola maker is expanding its business and providing jobs for blind and vision-impaired workers.
"It's an American success story. It's the way America was built and the way we want it to continue to be built," said Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary.
Sarah Lanphier, owner and CEO of Nuts About Granola, said she grew into a neighboring county because she grew out of YorKitchen - the city's shared commercial kitchen.
She started the company with her mother, Gayle Lanphier, in 2008 and it grew steadily using the shared kitchen at 37 W. Clarke Ave.
At one time, the granola company produced between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds of granola a month, Lanphier said. Using the kitchen helped production grow to 1,000 pounds during an 8-hour work day, she said.
The company's myriad flavors of granola has led to contracts, grocery store deals, an appearance on the Rachael Ray show and more.
One of its latest contracts exports Nuts About Granola's product to Colombia, which facilitated the need for more production space, Lanphier said.
By partnering with the Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired, Nuts About Granola can use the association's food manufacturing facility in the John C. Clemens Building at 171 Butter Road in Lancaster County to help fulfill its international order.
The association provides the granola company with labor, manufacturing and assembly, said Dennis Steiner, president and CEO of SABVI.
In addition, to Nuts About Granola, SABVI also hosts Shiloh Farms, which uses the facility to make its gluten-free products.
More importantly, it creates opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired, he said.
"It's an opportunity for employment for someone who is blind to work, earn a good wage and be productive members of society," he said.
The goal is to employ 15 to 20 blind or vision-impaired workers for Nuts About Granola during the next two to three years, Steiner said.
How much those workers will earn was not immediately clear and may vary.
"It's a starting point. We know Nuts About Granola is committed to growth," he said.
Lanphier said she is interested in having some of her company's line become certified organic products, and Nuts About Granola is strongly interested in exporting to Canada.
As the company grows, she also plans to add two full-time positions to handle marketing and operations, she said.
"As long as we have accounts to justify it, we're willing to make investments," Lanphier said.
The larger Lancaster facility can help her do that, she said.
YorKitchen is 1,500 square feet, and the John C. Clemens facility is 19,000 square feet. The latter was formerly used by Hatfield to distribute Wild Bill's Beef Jerky, a spokeswoman said.
"It's a very secured facility," Lanphier said. "It will give us more control over our production environment," which she said is crucial in exporting products to other countries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was instrumental in helping Nuts About Granola get ready to export its product, she said.
"They helped us get to national trade shows and tap into a market we never would've been able to. It's helped us grow more organically and conservatively," Lanphier said.
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