New ideas keep island promoters thriving

BLACK CREEK, B.C. — Entrepreneurial blood has always pumped through Lia and Brian McCormick’s veins.

They have grown wasabi on Vancouver Island and operated a restaurant. More recently, they produced salad greens and squash for local markets.

Now in their 40s, they are poised to capitalize on a large local food movement with the acquisition of a small farm at Black Creek.

“It seems to be increasing,” said Lia.

“We should be growing more food. Prices are high in the store. Maybe we could change that if we were growing more.”

The McCormicks started scooping sea salt out of the Strait of Georgia two years ago and boiling and drying it to create Clever Crow sea salt, herbs and spices.

“I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I like coming up with new ideas,” said Lia.

Brian is the harvester and Lia experiments with herb blends for the salt. Smoked and rosemary are among their most popular varieties.

“We love to eat and we love to cook,” said Lia, who works full time in the business while Brian is a chef at a retirement home.

The farm will allow them room to have an on-farm store, grow produce and raise chickens. One day they would like to add goats and pigs.

Brian said they produce 15 kilograms of sea salt a week, which they soon hope to double. Salt is sold from 1/2 kg to 45 grams and in travel-sized tins priced at $3 each.

“It’s easy to do on a small scale,” he said.

Added Lia: “The challenge is how can we make it bigger.”

They use pots to boil down 80 litres of water into 10 litres of salt brine, which is filtered and roasted in a pan at a low temperature. The salt crystals are then extracted and dried on trays.

Salt is a preservative and has a long shelf life, but saltwater is corrosive. It takes its toll on pumps and countertops, so upgrades to commercial grade stainless steel in the shop kitchen will be necessary to sell their product beyond the island in the future.

They don’t have local competition, and sea salt from southern Vancouver Island is finer with a different flavour and texture, said Brian.

“Ours is a longer process to get the salt we want,” said Lia.

They use social media sites such as Facebook to market their products and also sell at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market and their farm store.

Contact karen.morrison@producer.com

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