Kemin/Lambert Spearmint Team to Receive Chanute Prize for Team Innovation

Spearmint grown by Lambert Brothers Farms for Kemin Industries is processed at this facility south of North Judson.
Spearmint grown by Lambert Brothers Farms for Kemin Industries is processed at this facility south of North Judson.

A Starke County farm family that partnered five years ago with an Iowa-based specialty products manufacturer on an agriculture experiment is the recipient of a prestigious honor from the Northwest Indiana Society of Innovators and Ivy Tech. The Kemin/Lambert Spearmint Team will receive the Chanute Prize for Team Innovation during a ceremony this evening in Hammond. Ed Lambert of North Judson has refined the growing and harvesting process for the strain of spearmint Kemin uses to produce the innovative food preservation product.

Lambert and his brothers agreed five years ago to try growing the strain of spearmint necessary to make the natural additive after learning about the research during a spearmint growers convention. He admits he wasn’t sure what to think at first and says the past few years have involved a lot of trial and error.

“I  think it really is something to be proud of,” Lambert tells WKVI News.

Kemin Industries Director of Operations Robert Stomp says his team was a little taken aback when they received word of their nomination.

“It’s really an honor that we never really considered that was something we would be considered for. I have already stressed how great the collaboration has been and the work that Ed did and his brothers upstream developing the harvesting practices, and then working with the vendors on the post-harvest production equipment. It may look easy, but there were some tough days. To get recognized by a third-party like that was really an honor. It was a surprise.”

The strain of spearmint used by Kemin is grown in the same way as other varieties of mint, but the harvest is dramatically different from what typically occurs. It started June 10 and wrapped up last week. Lambert says the crop was cut daily and had to be kept moving constantly through the Kemin facility south of North Judson on State Road 39 at County Road 800 South. If the cut mint sits, it will start to wilt and is no longer usable for Kemin’s purposes.

Kemin Industries uses spearmint as a natural additive to help keep food fresher, safer and prolong shelf life. Lambert and Stomp will discuss the partnership and what it means for Starke County in greater detail on Sunday’s Kankakee Valley Viewpoints show. It will air at noon CDT on K99.3 WKVI.