An Oregon mint farm’s line of candy, started as a side business a few years ago, is featured in celebrity Oprah Winfrey’s magazine this holiday season.
It’s too soon to know whether the spotlight in “O” magazine will result in increased sales of chocolate covered mint patties, but Seely Farms is enjoying the ride.
The magazine includes the mint patties among other treats, describing them as a “guilt free” indulgence.
The farm, owned by Mike and Candy (yes, that’s her real name) Seely, is the last mint farm in Columbia County, which used to be one of the state’s major mint production areas. The Seelys, both former electrical engineers, farm with their children. Mike Seely’s parents and grandparents were mint farmers near Battle Ground, Wash., and he left engineering because he felt drawn to the farm life.
Like other mint farmers, they sell oil that is used to flavor gum, candy, toothpaste, breath mints and other products. But the market nearly tanked when companies turned to less-expensive oil blends or synthetic flavorings, and the Seelys began looking for options about eight years ago.
They began diversification by selling mint tea and vials of oil at the Portland Farmers’ Market. Then, aided by Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, they set up shop in a Clatskanie restaurant and began making mint candy.
They first made 4,000 candy canes, which quickly sold out. Then came the patties, an intensely flavored peppermint fondant covered in dark Belgian chocolate, and Mint Melt-Aways, a smaller, simpler combination of chocolate and mint oil.
The farm’s candies are carried nationally by Whole Foods Markets and other specialty grocers. Mike Seely said the candy business is breaking even, but only uses about 2 percent of his annual oil production. The rest goes as commercial flavoring.