Granola is grand business for some Oklahomans. I’ve visited recently with folks who do a grand job creating honey-sweetened crunchy goodness that won’t put a strain on maintaining a healthy diet.
Kelly and Rachel Ridgway have been making their Big Sky Granola for 18 years, along with some beautiful breads, brownies and crumb cake. Rachel, who grew up in Oklahoma City, makes the brownies and crumb cake, while Kelly works on the production end of things.
What is now Big Sky Bread Co. started as a franchise that ended back in 2001, and the Ridgways have kept it going with all the original recipes.
Kelly grew up in Osborne, Kan., with parents who were seasoned entrepreneurs. Kelly was two years out of college when his dad encouraged him to go into business for himself. Kelly’s father read about an investment opportunity available with a then-new franchise called Big Sky Bakery, and he encouraged Kelly to check it out. Kelly secured a loan from his hometown bank and signed on, but it took a year and a half before he was able to find just the right spot. That was Oklahoma City.
It was sink or swim with only one week of training and plenty of trial and error along the way, but Big Sky has thrived here.
Even though he had no prior baking experience, Kelly took to the production process of making bread. I saw him deftly handling a 60- to 70-pound mound of dough for its most popular Honey Wheat Bread.
If you stop by this Oklahoma City bakery during the morning, you may get to see the cooks deep into the dough or enjoy some of the beautiful granola being bagged soon after it comes out of the oven. The aroma of whole grains and made-from-scratch, preservative-free baked goods is overwhelming any time of day.
Big Sky Granola clumps together into glistening planks of pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds with an abundance of almonds, all glued together with honey, brown sugar, oats and vanilla. It’s perfect for snacking or crumbling into your morning yogurt.
Another great made-in-Oklahoma granola is from Backyard Bounty. It represents a gathering of local ingredients to make Briarberry Farm’s Nutty Granola. Eric Lyons’ full-time job is as a aircraft mechanic at Tinker Air Force Base, but his passion is baking. He grew up as the son of a bakery owner in Albany, N.Y. He and his wife, Liz, created Backyard Bounty, hoping to establish an urban farm.
Their harvest was plenty to feed their family but did not produce the bounty they hoped for, so Eric turned to the craft he grew up with. Armed with tried and true recipes from his dad’s bakery in Albany, they began baking in the commercial kitchen inside the Urban Agrarian market. They made granola from the start in 2009, using local Andrews raw unfiltered honey and Oklahoma pecans.
Their dream is to open their own bakery business someday, and they are saving income from Backyard Bounty to make that happen. In addition to weekends spent baking and making granola, the couple manages three young children, Eric’s job at Tinker and Liz’s classes to become a dental assistant. They’ve even added New York-style bagels to their bread offerings. Stop by Urban Agrarian Market on Saturdays, and you will no doubt be entranced by the aromas Eric is stirring up in the kitchen.
Wagon Creek’s All-Natural
Meanwhile, in northwest Oklahoma near Helena, Ron and Barbara Crain of Wagon Creek Creamery are making their All-Natural Granola with fresh rolled oats, walnuts, almonds, evaporated cane juice, raw honey, extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt.
This granola originally was made by Jim and Jolene Evans and their family, who have now left the Oklahoma prairie and traveled to Zambia, Africa, where Jim is teaching agriculture. I first discovered this granola at the Enid farmers market several years ago. Jolene developed the seven-ingredient granola using evaporated cane juice to keep the sugar to a minimum. Jolene also created the recipe for their popular granola bars.
The Crains bought the Foundations Farm granola business from the Evans family to keep a good product going and as a great complement to their Wagon Creek Creamery yogurts. Like the Evanses did from the start, the Crains continue to roll the oat groats out by hand for the granola. They make the granola once a week, so it is nice and fresh. In 2002, Ron and Barbara returned from Japan where they were teaching English to help run the family dairy business back in Oklahoma.
The best thing about these great local granolas is their freshness. It is the quality to which all of these producers are committed in the process of bringing their product to you.
Where to get
•Big Sky Bread Co. of Oklahoma: This locally owned former franchise is at 6606 N Western Ave. in Oklahoma City. Granola is made daily. Business hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. You’ll also find its granola sold at local Akin’s markets, Native Roots and the Earth in Norman. Call 879-0330 or go to bigskybread.com.
•Briarberry Farm nutty granola: Available at Urban Agrarian Market, 1235 SW 2 St., the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and Health Food Center, 7301 S Pennsylvania Ave. The Backyard Bounty Bakery granola is made and packaged weekly in the kitchen at Urban Agrarian. Briarberry Granola comes in four varieties: nutty, nutty cranberry, honey and muesli. Check out the Facebook page: www.facebook/briarberrygranola.
•Foundations Farm granola: Made by Wagon Creek Creamery, this is sold through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Jumbo Foods in Enid, the Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City farmers market, the Tulsa and Norman farmers markets and the Traveling Farm to Fork Bus that visits Stillwater, Enid and several locations in Oklahoma City weekly. Online: WagonCreekCreamery.com.