Strawberry popcorn business forms to help others
By Nancy Hastings / Twitter: @nhastingsHDN
Posted Oct 20, 2014 at 3:00 PM
Hank Brackman demonstrates a device he made to shake particles from the corn. Nancy Hastings Photo
NORTH ADAMS -- A business concept, sparked by the idea of helping others facing difficulties with domestic violence, has purpose for a local couple.
As a former victim of domestic violence, Tami Brackman has a desire to reach out to others facing the issue by offering a seed of hope. Recently married, she and her new husband, Hank Brackman, are setting out to make their strawberry popcorn business a way to spread awareness about domestic violence.
“Our vision is to put the proceeds towards programs still needed to bring awareness,” Tami said. “Going through it myself, I’m aware of where gaps are.“
Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as well as National Popcorn Month, the couple felt the time was right to let more people in on their purpose. Currently, the popcorn is available at Jerome Country Market, Oak Haven Party Store, Gleis in Coldwater and it has been available at Broad Street Downtown Market.
“We want to keep it local,” Hank said. “It’s all about being locally grown in Michigan.“
Using no pesticides or insecticides, they pick, husk and package the popcorn by hand. The purple ribbon on their logo shows the purpose for their mission.
“It came about by happenstance because of what I had been through and because he has always wanted to be a farmer,” Tami said. “A jar of the popcorn in his grandmother’s basement led us to this idea of raising the popcorn.“
Hank, 50, said growing strawberry popcorn was something his grandmother started 35 years ago and has been a family treat since. When popped, the kernels are small, white and crunchy with no hard hulls. It’s name comes from the small, red ears which resemble strawberries.
After divorcing and starting over again from scratch, he and Tami, 45, were looking for a crop they could grow together.
“It just all fell into place as we were doing it,” Tami said. “We feel like it’s something we were led to do. I call these God winks. It helps to know God is in this with us.“
With a vision of providing transitional housing one day, Tami said women who face challenges that come with domestic violence can work with the business to support themselves and their children.
Of the most critical issues facing victims, she said, is the absence of alternative housing. She wants to work with local shelters in the area to give women an opportunity to come and work to help pay for what they need for themselves and their families.
“When I left my abuser, I thought creating a non-profit would be a great thing to help women learn to live again,” she said.
Tami said her husband’s ingenious mind has led to various ways to process and clean the popcorn, a time consuming process. After doing research online and gaining advice from someone in Illinois who has grown the corn for 50 years, Hank said the process has been a labor of love.
Last year he grew the corn on half an acre without a tractor. This year, he planted the corn on 2.8 acres with the aid of a tractor. After the corn is husked by hand, it is placed in a greenhouse on screens to cure and dry naturally for about two weeks. A moisture tester is used to determine a 13 percent moisture index before the corn is shelled in a 1950s style sheller.
“It’s an old International corn sheller I bought off a guy in Ohio,” Hank said. After sending the corn through a wire mesh placed over a bin to catch large particles, he then shakes the corn in a device he made himself by using a reciprocating saw that shakes a wooden bin he constructed. The kernels then go into the final cleaning stage using mixing bowls and a shop vac that sucks any fine particles out of the final product.
The kernels are then placed in a five gallon ice-cream bucket and are ready for packaging using a 1-pound funnel cup and clear plastic bags with a logo he designed with help from a local business.
His background as a carpenter comes in handy, Tami said, especially when he also created the cedar shelving units used in their displays. And, knowledge gained from her former greenhouse business jives with their passion for gardening and the outdoors, she added.
By taking time to spread awareness through their new venture, the couple wants to plant a seed of hope for others who have been affected by domestic violence.