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Seely Mint signs contract with Whole Foods

Clatskanie mint farmer Mike Seely said the distribution agreement he struck earlier this month with Whole Foods Market, which touts itself as the world’s largest retail distributor of organic foods and produce, felt in equal parts like he had hit the lottery and was finally rewarded for a lot of hard work.

Starting in April, Seely Mint will distribute its organic Seely Peppermint Patties to Whole Foods Market, a contract with the Austin, Texas-based company valued at $10 million, Seely said.

“I think what’s really key about this is it will put us in the national spotlight,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to get to April 2 with distribution and ramping up and stuff like that. What this will really do is put us on the map with all of the other stores out there.”

Seely Mint is additionally scheduled to have an exhibit at ChocolateFest in Portland. ChocolateFest will be held from Jan. 24 to Jan. 26 at the Oregon Convention Center. It is open to the public and features artisanal chocolatiers and their products.

Seely grows organic mint on space leased from the Port of St. Helens at Port Westward. The operation also supports a confectionary for Seely’s organic chocolate mint patties, a flagship product. In addition to the mint patties, Seely Mint manufactures toothpaste, mint teas and essential mint oils, among other products. When interviewed in late 2013, Seely said he had 19 employees and annual revenues of $2 million. He said he expects his employee base to increase as the operation expands.

“I’m not done yet,” he said, laughing.

Seely has criticized county and port efforts to rezone 837 acres of farmland at Port Westward so that it could also be allowed for heavy industry. He said the presence of conflicting industry at Port Westward would force him to seek a new home for his operation, adding that he has already been in discussions with other landholders to safeguard against that possibility.

“That’s a huge concern for us. I mean, we’re looking,” he said.

Seely said he plans to appeal the Columbia County Board of Commissioners’ approval of the rezone plan last November to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals.

“I can’t risk the opportunity that we have to turn this into a billion-dollar company,” he said. “The unfortunate thing is that I’d like to do it here.”

Coming up

What: ChocolateFest — a benefit for the World Forestry Center

Local connection: Confectioner Mike Seely of Seely Mint in Clatskanie will have an exhibit at the festival, including offerings of his organic mint patties

Where: Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A

When: Jan. 24-26.

Tickets: (excluding Opening Night Premiere Party) $12 adults, $10 seniors (62+), $8 students (13-college with student ID), $7 children (5-12)

More info: chocolatefest.org

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