They both drove bulbous, yellowy-orange VW buses, managed vegetarian/vegan restaurants earlier in their lives, attended the University of New Hampshire in the 90’s, and held tentative interests in entering the corporate world. Tentative only because they felt uneasy about giving up their Birkenstocks for cap-toed dress shoes. Upon meeting and discovering the serendipity of their unique mutual experiences and interests, Nat Pierce and Aaron Anker instantly knew that they needed to co-own an organic granola company called GrandyOats in Hiram, Maine. Okay, maybe they didn’t actually arrive at that oddly specific conclusion in their first encounter, but Nat and Aaron certainly didn’t write off their similar pasts and aspirations as a simple coincidence — they knew that something needed to come of this.

After years of VW bus driving and seemingly random corporate endeavors, Aaron and Nat took their inner “earthy-crunchy-granola” to the next level. They bought over and completely reinvigorated a small granola company called GrandyOats in Hiram, Maine. Today, Nat and Aaron call each other the “REAL GRANOLAS,” with granola so tasty and organic that we at Bates College, a rather discerning institution culinarily speaking, call GrandyOats our official suppliers. For Nat and Aaron, “Business is more about having fun than it is about making money.” Along with a fun-loving attitude, they believe that running a successful business should nourish not only their own lives, but also the lives of other people, the planet, and our communities.

GrandyOats truly practices what they preach, as they are the first food supplier in New England to completely abandon the use of fossil fuels. Now that’s the type of business I am proud to say my school supports. Bates holds a longstanding relationship with GrandyOats, as well as many other sustainable and local food suppliers such as Belanger & Son’s Farms and Greenwood Orchard. In fact, while most schools struggle to spend even 20% of their dining budget on locally sourced foods, we at Bates spend 28-32% (depending on the time of year) of our dining budget on food from producers and farms in Maine.

In addition to supporting great businesses with sustainable practices, eating locally sourced food means eating fresher, tastier food that has traveled shorter distances to reach your plate. This benefits not only your discriminating palette, but also the environment and our efforts towards improving sustainability at Bates. Commons is continuing to improve its labeling practices, but for now, some local foods in Commons are marked as such, so look out for those labels and feel free to ask Commons staff about local foods if you are unsure. Here is a list of local foods that you can find in Commons (or at the Den):

GrandyOats Granola and Ancient Grains Hot Cereal

Oakhurst Dairy – milk, half & half, and other dairy products

Lepage Bakery – bread baked here in Lewiston

Borealis breads – locally produced, company owned by a Bates alum

Ground beef – 100% from local sources, natural sources including Cold Spring Ranch (owned by a Bates alum), Bubier’s Meats, and Maine Family Farms

Greenwood Orchards — apples and cider

Belanger & Sons — assorted produce

Italian Bakery — Den desserts, some breads

Sam’s Italian  Restaurant — some breads

Mailhot Sausage — breakfast sausage

Summit Springs water — bottled water of choice, recognized by MOFGA

Original Pizza — pizza dough

Gifford’s — ice cream

Maine Root and Cap’n Eli’s — assorted bottled sodas sold at the Den