Manheim Township granola company collaborates with IU13, promotes ASL-friendly workspace

February 21, 2024 Lancaster Online By Maddy Pontz

When the COVID-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, Greta Fairbanks found herself without work.

“I’ve been working as an [American Sign Language] interpreter for 24 years now, and during the lockdown I lost all of my work,” Fairbanks said. “Obviously, nothing was open and people couldn’t go to doctors appointments, so my services were not needed. At that time, they hadn’t really started doing a lot of things virtually yet, so I was essentially unemployed.”

“I kind of just felt useless.”

And so she channeled her feelings into baking for her family, including her wife — Angel Gray — and their four children. But after enjoying a number of “really decadent desserts,” Gray requested something healthier.

Well, how about granola?

“The whole family liked granola and we had been buying it at the store, but — if you remember during that time — you couldn’t find anything on the shelves half the time,” Fairbanks recalled. “So I just started playing with it, and I would no sooner get a tray [of granola] out of the oven … it would be gone.”

A family friend encouraged Fairbanks and Gray to start selling their granola, and a business was born.

Now, Fairbanks and Gray are co-owners of Happiness is …Granola, a Lancaster-based small-batch granola business that sells bags of flavored granola, granola bars, peanut butter granola cups and more. Their products are available locally at Lemon Street Market, S. Clyde Weaver, Lancaster Central Market and on their website for shipping or local pick-up. The business owners are also dedicated to supporting their community, from donating products to fostering an inclusive workspace.

All of their products are vegan, gluten-free and made with organic ingredients, according to Gray.

“One of the things that we wanted to do was make our granola accessible to everybody, so we use vegan, gluten free, all-organic ingredients,” Gray said. “We have several families and friends that require that, and we decided early on that we wanted to use those ingredients so that everybody could have our granola.”
They named their business to be a reminder of the small pleasures in life, especially during such unprecedented times.

“We went with that [name] because, during lockdown, there were no opportunities for those big events in life that typically bring us joy — from a birthday party, a wedding, even a get-together. At that point, it wasn’t happening,” Fairbanks said. “So we really wanted people to focus on the little things that can be so easily overlooked that can still bring you happiness.”

Fairbanks shares that starting Happiness is…Granola during the early months of the pandemic, “gave [her] a purpose.”

They got their start selling at Lemon Street Market in Lancaster, as well as through private orders. During summer 2020, they also began to sell their granola at two farmers markets in New Jersey.

“[The business] exploded,” Fairbanks said of their success.

Giving back

From the start, giving back to and getting involved with their community has been a core tenet of the business. They share a number of “Guiding Values” on their website.

“A big part of both of our lives is knowing that we are fortunate,” Fairbanks said. “We feel like it’s our duty and responsibility in this world to look out for others and to help others. That’s why we started the Get Love, Give Love [campaign]. Every February, we pick a local charity and we use the month… to fundraise for them.”

This year, Happiness is … Granola has partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster to donate granola bars to their after-school program. In previous years, they’ve donated products to Milagro House and YWCA Lancaster, according to Fairbanks.

“You’re nothing without giving back,” Fairbanks said. “I feel that there’s no integrity if you’re not doing your part. It can be very small. At the beginning, it was very small, and still — in the grand scheme of things — it’s not a huge thing that we’re doing, but it’s something. So why wouldn’t you?”

Happiness is…Granola has also partnered with the Job Training Services program at the Lancaster-Lebanon IU13.

“The goal of our job training services program is really to teach job skills, social awareness, work ethics, so that we’re empowering students to gain and maintain independence as they transition to adult life,” said Jen Bennett, manager of job training services at the Lancaster-Lebanon IU13.

The partnership between the IU13 and Happiness is …Granola is, “a unique partnership to create unique experiences for individuals in the deaf and h/h [hard of hearing] program,” according to Bennett.

“I am a sign language interpreter, and I have two deaf employees that work for me part time [as bakers],” Fairbanks said. “We realized that there was a great opportunity for a partnership [with the IU13].”

In this paid position, students work in the Happiness is … Granola bakery on a rotating basis. During this slow season, the students are in the bakery every other week, but that will ramp up to weekly shifts as the busy summer season approaches, according to Fairbanks.

Each student has the opportunity to work on a number of projects, including packaging, baking and more.

“It’s literally everything that we do, they do, pretty much,” Fairbanks said.

“I make sample cups for the market. I weigh the granola, seal the bags with heat, label the bags and put the bags in the box. I melt the chocolate and drizzle it over the granola bars,” Bailey said in an email. “I learned how to work hard and ask questions when I need help.”

“It is fun to work at Happiness is … Granola,” Turner said in an email. “I make sample cups, mix ingredients, blend almonds for the granola and put labels on the granola bars … I learned that working can be fun, but you can’t fool around and you need to stay focused.”

Supporting Students

Happiness is … Granola is one of approximately 500 community partners that work with the IU13, serving about 2,200 students last year, according to Bennett.

“We take students into Happiness is … Granola, or other locations, and work with students on learning work skills,” Bennett said. “We’re working on learning basic soft skills, like arriving to work on time, organization, dependability, positive attitude, along with time management, problem solving, all of those kinds of things … so that we can help them find jobs when they graduate.”

The specific placements and types of support are different for each participating student, Bennett shared, depending on what will best serve each individual and “what their needs are.”

So far, five students have worked with Happiness is … Granola, but more students will have the opportunity as their business increases heading into the summer, Fairbanks said.

“These kids come out to the bakery, and it’s wonderful because they have direct communication with their employer — which is me — and also with my two bakers, Kathy Zimmerman and Summer Seiger,” Fairbanks said. “To have these kids be able to come to work and not have to rely on an interpreter because they can directly communicate with their boss, and they can directly communicate with their co-workers, is just a fabulous thing.”

“It’s beautiful to watch, really. It has been such a win/win, and we have been loving every minute of it.”

Editor’s note: LNP|LancasterOnline staff photographer Andy Blackburn helped build the kitchen of Happiness Is…Granola.

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