Diane Peck started crafting her hand-made granola in a small restaurant kitchen in Carrollton, GA, and now, thanks to many happy customers, she whips up seven varieties in a beautiful new commercial kitchen located on a farm in rural Northwest Georgia. Unique combinations of organic rolled oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit are lightly sweetened with either locally produced raw honey or maple syrup from a small family farm in upstate New York—there's even a savory variety for those who don't have much of a sweet tooth!
Our interview with Diane is below:
1) How did Sweet Georgia Grains come to be? Why granola?
I earned a BFA from Ohio State with ceramic arts as my focus and had worked for 25 years as a studio potter when the recession definitively changed everything for me. For the first time in my career I was not able to make a living as a potter. My income decline began in 2005 and was gradual, but by 2008 I knew I needed another plan for generating money. Having been a perennial regular at my local Carrollton farmers' market made it a short jump to seeing myself as a market vendor, but what to sell? I chose granola as my product. It was something I had enjoyed making for family and friends for many years; in May of 2009, I began making granola to sell. I started out in the kitchen of a friend's restaurant. We had the kitchen inspected by the Department of Ag and once the licensing was in place I was able to use the kitchen for making granola on Mondays, the one day each week the restaurant was closed. In exchange for kitchen time I traded granola which became a popular item on the restaurant's breakfast menu. Eventually feedback about the granola from customers became my Research and Development Department. Their instant feedback was invaluable when fine-tuning new granola recipes.
In retrospect, making and selling granola was a good recession era choice. Delicious, small-batch, handmade food became the new affordable luxury in America. There are many parallels between being a studio potter selling my work at art shows and making handmade granola and selling at farmers markets. In 2011, I was able to build my own commercial kitchen at our farm. It looks like an art studio and is attached by a breezeway to my pottery, but for now my focus is studio granola.
2) What inspires you when you're creating new flavor combinations?
Nearly everything I grow, eat, or see inspires new flavor combinations. Being even a small part of the local food movement in Atlanta is truly a gigantic creative inspiration.
3) What makes Sweet Georgia Grains better than any granola you might find in a grocery store?
Carefully crafting granola every week by hand with a meticulous attention to excellent ingredients is what primarily sets my granola apart from manufactured, grocery store granola. My commercial convection oven and baking technique also sets it apart. I bake my granola at a very low temperature for over an hour. This not only helps to protect the nutrients in the ingredients, but also works to caramelize the finished product thus making it yummy.
4) Do you have a favorite blend? What's your favorite way to enjoy it?
"Which one do you like?" is the most asked question I hear from customers at farmers markets. It's a good question, but having developed all the recipes myself it is hard for me to pick a favorite. I will say the two I am now eating almost daily are the Sweet and Savory Rosemary and the Heirloom Oatmeal Cookie. I eat the Heirloom with plain whole milk yogurt for breakfast, and I eat the Savory right out of the bag as a snack and an afternoon pick-me-up. That may change tomorrow.