WATERVILLE, Maine — In a tidy house on a quiet street a mile from Interstate 95, the comforting smell of toasted walnuts tantalizes through a screen door.

It’s Monday morning, and Karen Getz is starting a new batch of buckwheat, honey and blueberry crisps in her kitchen. A commercial convection oven hums in the corner. A container of wild Maine blueberries anchors the counter. Punk rock music blares from a Bose speaker.

The headquarters for The Maine Crisp Co., a line of specialty crackers on the market since November, are humble. But like the fruity, nutty morsels sold in health food stores and co-ops from Brewer to Gloucester, Massachusetts, the home business crackles with energy.

“I like how buckwheat adds a bit of an earthy flavor without overpowering the other ingredients,” said Getz, who uses buckwheat flour from The County studded with blueberries from Bar Harbor, sea salt from Marshfield, cranberries from Pittston and a dash of raw wildflower honey from Albion.

All key ingredients are local and in some cases picked up by Getz in person. For texture, organic pumpkin, flax and sesame seeds are added along with nuts. Organic brown sugar delivers a hint of sweet.

Did this combination take years of market research? A culinary art’s degree? Not a bit.

Getz, a former Vermont cheesemaker, intuitively harmonized with a new sense of place and planned accordingly.

She moved to Waterville a year ago with her husband, Steve, who works for Organic Valley. It was on a trip to The County visiting dairy farms when she had a buckwheat brainwave.

“The rolling sweeping fields of buckwheat” impressed the 49-year-old. Next, she was meeting with growers, including Joe Bouchard of Bouchard Family Farms. She was inspired to turn this plentiful, gluten-free cousin of rhubarb into a crispbread sprouted.

Getz enjoyed success in Vermont with her Dancing Cow Farmstead Cheese. It was anointed on tasting menus at high-ranked venues such as Per Se in Manhattan. Now that she firmly is rooted in the Pine Tree State and settled on a gluten-free crisp, a cross between a biscotti and a cracker, it’s full speed ahead.

Baked in tiny loaves and sliced by hand, these artisan crisps cannily occupy the healthy snack category that’s shaking up the food industry. In the months The Maine Crisp Co. has ramped up, her gluten-free cranberry and blueberry buckwheat crisps fly off the shelves.

“We sell out faster than we can keep them in stock,” said Sylvia Wyler, co-owner of Local Market in Brunswick, who has been carrying bags of Getz’s crisps since March. She suggests pairing them with a rich triple-creme cheese or cambozola. “It’s a bonus that they are made in Maine.”

It’s a bonus, yes, but not an afterthought. Meeting with producers enables Getz to associate with farmers and growers, which is as important to her as her product.

“I like the people connection,” she said. “It’s about building relationships.”

It doesn’t hurt that she’s building flavor profiles as well.

Such relationships are crucial to Joe Bouchard, co-owner of Bouchard Family Farms in Fort Kent. He has met Getz, knows her product and appreciates the way her buckwheat crisp production boosts his business.

“We know where to concentrate our efforts. As companies seem to use our product more and more, the demand will increase,” Bouchard said. “We will have to plant more to furnish that demand.”

The appetite for buckwheat — which is not a grain, but a fruit — has increased steadily. During the last 10 years, Bouchard has doubled the amount he has planted.

“Gluten free is the driver of the sales of buckwheat flour,” he said. “A lot of New England-based companies are looking for something more locally grown.”

The Maine Crisp Co. not only touts these ingredients, but delivers.

“There are a lot of gluten-free products, but some of them taste like cardboard,” Wyler said.

Judging by the empty slot next to two out-of-state competitors at Local Market, the Waterville wafers clearly don’t. Getz’s third crisp, made with buckwheat flour and organic heirloom corn, are in development.

“They will pair well with craft beers and cheddar,” Getz said.

The solopreneur is close to hiring her first employee, updating her packaging and has visions of moving from her home to a commercial space.

When asked whether she could one day get as big as Stonewall Kitchen, she doesn’t demure.

“Let’s see, how big are they?” she asked, calculating in her head. “Why not?”

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.