By Heather Killen
A Middleton-based entrepreneur is hoping to take his business idea beyond flax-finding.
Howard Selig, of Valley Flaxflour Ltd., is putting together a plan to work with local farmers to create a new line of gluten-free products to sell throughout the region. Over the coming months, Selig will be looking for local producers willing to grow non-genetically modified corn and soya.
His company now employs four people and mills flax seeds that he brings in from other areas to use in his flax flour products. He hopes that creating this new line of products will not only grow his business, but also support the local economy and make use of some of the farmland now being underutilized.
Many people have food sensitivities that require a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and is often used as a food additive. Selig’s flax products are already selling to this special market, but he wants to expand his product line using local producers.
“This is a niche market that will pay enough to be worthwhile to produce,” he said. “Annapolis is ideal with its fertile land. And it’s far enough away from the wheat fields in Kings County.”
A registered dietician, Selig started Valley Flaxflour Ltd out of his house in 1998. He knew many nursing homes and long-term care facilities were using flax seeds to help reduce the medications required to manage bowel care in elderly residents.
He knew patients would get more of the benefits of flax if it was milled, or used as flour in baking. His began milling the flax and created a line of retail products. As word spread about the health benefits of adding flax to horse’s diets, he created a new line of flax products especially for horses and his business continued to grow.
His newest idea began with a line of pre-packaged wheat-free pancake mix he created about a year ago. Selig said he was looking at his list of ingredients and began wondering why he was using rice flour when he could probably find a local grower to produce a suitable alternative.
To date he’s been unable to find a local flax producer able to provide the flax seeds at the consistently high quality he needs for his products, so he needs to bring the seeds in from western Canada.
But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t find a local producer for some of the other ingredients. Selig said he can replace the rice flour with an alternative that can be locally produced such as oats, or corn. Last fall Selig was among the entrepreneurs who participated in a FarmWorks Investment Co-operative Limited forum in Wolfville.
This group aims to promote and provide strategic and responsible investment in food production and distribution in Nova Scotia. The program, through Acadia, is now working with Selig to develop a market survey and plan to develop his idea.
If the plan moves into the next stage, funding could become available to help provide the infrastructure needed to take the idea into production. Selig added that he hopes to begin product development later this spring and implement the plan next year.
For more information on Valley Flaxflour, visit www.flaxflour.com; or find them on Facebook.