Monday, October 27th marks the Amtrak Grand Rapids Vernon J. Ehlers station grand opening.
The station, which serves the Pere Marquette service to Chicago, will integrate bus and rail transportation, offer more passenger amenities, and streamline train operations. U.S. Senator Carl Levin, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell,and officials from MDOT, Amtrak, and The Rapid were all there to celebrate this morning. You can watch more coverage here and here.
Food Focus: Lady Jane Gourmet Seed Company
Up in Hadley, nestled in Lapeer county, the humble hemp seed is taking root. Not in fertile soil, but in Laura Noble’s business: Lady Jane Gourmet Seed Company.
Noble discovered hemp during her battle with melanoma cancer. She was on a quest to find a hemp fabric she liked, in order to make sun protective clothing. Cotton doesn’t protect against UV rays, she explains to Metro Times. It was on this quest she found herself at a hemp bazaar, and introduced to hemp food. “When I saw the nutritional value of hemp seeds, I was astounded,” she tells us. “I was shocked that we weren’t utilizing the food more for the nutrition. It’s one of the most nutritionally dense foods around!”
Hemp, she explains, is high in protein, has all 18 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids, along with omega fatty acids — a complete amino acid profile. It’s high in the iron, magnesium, and trace minerals that we’re missing in our diets, she adds. It has folate, zinc, copper, fiber, and potassium. The nutrition is so healthy, she says, “you can survive off it.”
And so she has a line of hemp seed products, including toasted hemp seeds with sea salt, and power bar mixes that include sesame, sunflower, and chia seeds that you can blend at home. There’re two gluten-free flapjack mixes (both “outstanding for protein.”)
She’s also getting into textiles again, with hemp wine bags.
Noble imports her hemp from Canada, and processes and packages it here in Michigan. Due to hemp’s sister, marijuana, the U.S. government is fickle when it comes to domestic hemp cultivation, so she and others in the hemp industry are unable to procure their raw hemphere.
Noble laments that much of her day is spent on educating consumers unfamiliar with hemp, who often think they could get high if they eat the hemp seed (impossible) or that they could smoke the fabric (bad idea, and again, you won’t get high).
When we ask Noble if she’s involved with the Hemp Industries Association, one of the leading nonprofits working to educate and change U.S. policies surrounding the plant, she says, “Hemp should be a for-profit industry. There’re tens of thousands of products [that can be made from it]. It’s a shame we’re not using it on our farm fields.”
Indeed, hemp could be a boom crop for Michigan, and other parts of the United States, but the federal government’s inability to distinguish between the cannabis and hemp plants means there are many laws, rules, agencies, and regulations restricting its cultivation — so many that it seems easier to grow medical marijuana in Michigan than it is to cultivate hemp.
Until those issues get sorted out (visit the Hemp Industries Association at HIA.org to learn more) we here in the U.S. will just have to keep enjoying our imported, Canadian hemp. And getting our nutrition from it, too — via Lady Jane Gourmet Seed Company.
The MSU Product Center is pleased to announce the seventh annual Making It In Michigan Conference and Premier Specialty Food Show to be held Wednesday, November 12th from 7:30AM – 4:00PM at the Lansing Center.
“This is poised to be our biggest event yet in terms of the number of Michigan vendors participating in the Marketplace Trade Show and the caliber of industry experts that will be leading the educational sessions,” states Matthew Birbeck, MSU Product Center’s High Impact Venture Action Team Project Manager. “We will be showcasing some innovative processes and strategies specifically targeted for food and agricultural entrepreneurs supporting this year’s theme of ‘Fresh Thinking For Success’,” says Birbeck.
Garden Fresh Gourmet Founder Jack Aronson and Co-CEO John J. Latella will share the company story of developing an iconic brand and building brand engagement with customers and will field questions from the audience. Attendees will be able to provide questions to be addressed by the panel through the MSU Product Center social media channels prior to the conference.
The one-day event features morning educational sessions that will bring together leading Michigan experts to help guide attendees in refining and growing their businesses in the following areas:
• Making Your Product Shelf-stable
– The Essential Process Authority Review for Shelf-stable Food Products
– Product Formulation Challenges for Commercial Refrigerated and Shelf-stable Foods
• Growing Your Specialty Food Business
– Working with Retailers – Getting Product On The Shelf and How Retailer Size Affects Your Opportunity
– Growing Sales and Meeting Customer Expectations
– Making The Most Out of Limited Marketing Resources with Effective Social Media and Public Relations Strategies
• Finding the Right Poly Packaging Product For Your Own Product
• Protecting Your Business
– The Latest Status in Food Safety Modernization Act Compliance
– Determining the Right Business Structure – is an LLC Right For You?
The $79 per person conference registration fee includes breakfast, lunch, and educational sessions, digital copies of all presentations and reference materials and admission to the Marketplace trade show.
The Marketplace trade show in the afternoon will feature over 160 new and existing businesses that will be showcasing their Michigan-made food and agricultural products to the general public and Michigan-based food buyers. The trade show is free to the general public.
Conference participants will also have time to network with the winners of this year’s MSU Product Center awards and learn from their success stories. Awards will be presented for the Best Barrier Buster, Start-up to Watch and Entrepreneur of the Year. MSU Product Center innovation counselors and staff members, Product Center clients, business consultants, regulatory officials and food and farming groups will also be available to provide in-depth information and counseling.