The sweet and salty taste of success

Adam Streicher and twin brother Allan demonstrate their teamwork while preparing some sweet and salty kettle corn.

TEHKUMMAH—The Streicher family moved to the farm in Tehkummah in April 2013. In their wildest imaginings, they had not pictured themselves as kettle corn producers or known how much they would enjoy it. Manitoulin Kettle Corn is not a new business, having previously been operated as a retirement project for the Streicher’s neighbours, Tom and Tilly Lough. The opportunity arose for the family to assume operations on a trial basis however, and they aren’t looking back.

It is a true family endeavour, as all members participate in the production and marketing of the lightly sweet and salty popcorn. “Adam has the knack though,” said Ruth Streicher. “We probably depend on him too much.”

It looks easy, but the temperature of the oil has to be just right, and the ingredients measured precisely. There are just four ingredients: corn (from southern Ontario, non-GMO), canola oil, sugar, and salt. Each week they go through a fifty pound bag of popcorn.

The boys demonstrate how it works. Propane is used to heat the oil. The corn kernels are mixed with sugar before being added to the hot oil. The popped corn lands in a tray that has small holes at one end. Salt is added to taste. Adam makes it pop and his brother sweeps the end product over the holes where the unpopped kernels fall through. Each batch produces about four large bags of kettle corn.

The equipment itself came from Nebraska, where the developer worked 10 years to perfect it. It is made of stainless steel and can be completely taken apart by hand for cleaning or maintenance.

Sales have been strong. Large and small bags can be purchased at Carl’s Trading Post in South Baymouth, Ward’s General Store in Tehkummah, Papa’s Meats, Providence Bay Marina, and Providence Bay Tent and Trailer Park. Manitoulin Kettle Corn is also available at the Gore Bay and Mindemoya Farmers’ Markets, where you can watch it being made.

There are regulars who stop weekly at the markets to buy a large bag or two and to chat. The family is friendly and welcoming. The boys offer free samples to passers-by. This often results in unexpected purchases: the samples are convincing.

This is a trial operation for the Streichers. There is a lease agreement so they can determine if the business works for them. So far the experience has been positive. The family enjoys market days and meeting people, said Mahlon Streicher, and hopes to keep doing it. “It is our plan to carry on,” he said.

They will also continue to work their farm. Mr. Streicher runs a cow-calf operation with 20 head of cattle currently. Manitoulin Kettle Corn is largely for the boys. It provides them with a unique learning opportunity and enables them to earn an income of their own. They are hard and steady workers but if the markets aren’t busy, you’ll find them catching up on their reading.

The Streichers are enjoying their new life on Manitoulin Island. “It’s good, we love it up here,” said Mr. Streicher. “There are a lot of nice, friendly people. It’s a nice area.”