“Fifteen years ago, no one around here knew what camelina oil was. We’re hoping we’re ahead of the curve,” said Kathleen Smith of Lamberton.
Smith, along with her husband Justin and parents, grows and manufactures Omega Maiden camelina oil, now available in almost 20 Minnesota stores.
Kathleen, a Lamberton native, met Justin at a Colorado College. In 2008, they spent a year in the West African country of Niger, serving in the Peace Corps.
When their service was up, they moved to Lamberton “because I appreciated coming from a tight-knit ag community,” said Kathleen.
“My family has an organic farm, and has been part of the local foods movement,” Kathleen said.
“My dad, Phil Batalden, has been farming his whole life, and always looking at alternative or specialty crops. We wanted to see if we could do more with what we already had.”
Research showed there are several farms in northern Minnesota that grow camelina, a part of the mustard family. Camelina grows well without the use of intensive tiling practices, irrigation, or fertilizers and pesticides.
Although relatively unknown in the United States, it has been part of European diets for thousands of years.
Camelina oil, which is more stable than standard flax seed oil, contains up to 43 percent Omega-3 fatty acids. Just one tablespoon has over 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin E antioxidants.
“Camelina oil has the nutrition of flax seed, and the versatility of olive oil,” said Kathleen. Camelina oil can be added to any dish that uses oil, butter, or shortening.
Currently the Smiths have their third crop of camelina plants in the ground, on 40 acres of the Batalden farm.
“It’s seeded with a drill, like you would use for a small grain,” said Justin.
As for yield, the Smiths estimate they get about 1,000 pounds of seed per acre, which translates to about 38 gallons of oil per acre.
“My father does all the growing; Justin and I do the value-added part,” said Kathleen. “The pressing of the seed is done in eastern South Dakota, at a certified organic pressing facility.”
Every part of the seed can be used. The oil is bottled in a licensed kitchen in Walnut Grove, while the meal — the portion that remains after extracting the oil — can be used as a protein suppliement for cows, chickens, and other animals.
“We’re hoping to start bagging and selling the seed itself as a food additive,” said Kathleen. “You can add it to salads, yogurt, and many other foods.”
In addition to selling the Omega Maiden oil, the Smiths also create Smiling Tree Toys, handcrafted wooden toys made by Justin. The toys are finished with a blend of camelina oil and beeswax, both grown on the family farm.
Page 2 of 2 - The Smiths have been marketing Omega Maiden oil for about a year and a half.
“Consumer education and awareness is our challenge now,” Kathleen said.
Omega Maiden cameliina oil is available for sale on the Smith’s website www.OmegaMaidenOils.com and at local retailers (see website for locations).