there and back again - a founder's story
My name is Claire and I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in southern Michigan. The only take out I knew was Peppi’s Pizza up the road and didn't think twice when schools were closed on Opening Day (hunting season for those who aren’t familiar). I had plenty of fun building hay forts with my siblings, throwing sticks in the creek and going on the mandatory family walk on Sundays.
I thought my upbringing on the farm was normal. My dad, Brad, grew up on the same farm with wild stories of climbing silos to catch the sunrise and driving tractors to school. He's the seventh generation of Smith’s farming corn, wheat and soy. I grew up walking around those fields picking rocks, riding the tractor with my grandfather and learning how to drive stick shift. Ironically, as soon as I hit those teen years, I vowed to move far away and didn’t want anything to do with the farm.
In 2015, crop prices were still declining and showing no signs of slowing down. My dad was dedicated to preserving the farm and our way of life for the next generation. But the farming landscape was changing and he had to adapt. In addition to our other crops, he started growing teff without knowing if it would work. At the time, I was living in Canada but decided to move back to the farm to start this new business with him. We didn’t know how the grain from Ethiopia was going to react to Michigan’s unpredictable climate. He took a leap in an industry known for moving slowly.
And it worked. Those first 33 acres of teff grew perfectly.
I started playing with teff in the kitchen. I tried it as a flour making bread, mixing it with other gluten free flours, trying it as a sourdough. Then I worked with the grain making energy bites and porridge. But the magic didn’t happen until I put it in granola. I mixed almonds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, cinnamon and buckwheat with other high quality and delicious ingredients and finally added teff to really make it different.
I worked on the recipe, shooting for nothing less than perfection. When my sister’s family ate a pound of it in two days, I knew I had it. The result was an incredibly complex and rich granola that didn’t have that overbearing sweetness. It was delicious and healthy. No refined sugar, no preservatives and not overly dry and stale. It has cinnamon, but that’s not the only flavor. There is no dominating flavor. It’s layers of flavor from nuts, grains, and seeds rounded out by maple syrup and cinnamon. It’s teff granola - Teffola.
“I like that. It’s different," my sister said. And that’s the feedback I consistently get. Try it yourself and see if you can taste the difference.