EAST BERLIN – Down a long dirt driveway in East Berlin are Robert Iuliucci and Betsy Hartt – owners of Bear Cove Resources.
The family-owned and –operated business has now been running for 25 years.
“When I was in California, I became interested in organic gardening,” explained Iuliucci.
This interest prompted Iuliucci to take a night course at the University of California taught by Bargyla Rateaver. The website earthlink.net describes her as “a writer, educator and world authority on the subject of the organic method of growing plants.”
“She was very big on taking things out of the ocean and putting it on land,” said Iuliucci.
In the early 1970s, Iuliucci made his way from California to East Berlin. The call of the ocean, in an affordable spot, made relocating across the continent attractive.
At that time, along with other people, Iuliucci was collecting seaweed. By 1993, he was one of a couple of people still doing it.
The business got started with a pitch to demonstrate its possible to collect seaweed without harming the environment, fully compost it and sell it for garden use.
Twenty-five years later, Iuliucci and Hartt are still collecting, composting and bagging seaweed for gardens and plants. That’s Storm-cast, which the Bear Cove Resources website describes as “a fertilizer and soil amendment produced through the controlled breakdown of stranded seaweeds and companion organisms mixed with shell and sand from wave action (called wrack).”
Hartt says people seem to be returning to more “sensible gardening.”
“The movement back to more organic is more what will break down naturally and will encourage that vibrant soil,” she said.
Iuliucci says for long-term sustainability, it’s important to have vibrant soil. And safe soil - when Hartt speaks with people at various markets or events, she often asks people whether they would let their grandchildren play in their soil.
One of Hartt’s jobs with respect to getting Storm-cast off the ground was to develop the marketing.
“We designed the bag ourselves,” she said.
One of Hartt’s other jobs to help launch Storm-cast was to research seaweeds around the world to get ideas and understand the history. She says she became a “compost queen.” In other words, she learned a lot about seaweed and composting – even attending a symposium.
Storm-cast was launched on the Commons in Halifax in July 1994.
‘You come home fairly happy’
“For us, because we’re a company and because we can take a lot (of seaweed), we also are allowed to take our vehicle on the beach,” said Hartt.
They are allowed to do this within a season. This year, that season began Nov. 1 and ended recently.
“We’re given a fairly generous amount that we can take,” added Hartt.
In addition to their permits, Hartt and Iuliucci have to submit reports about what they’ve done. The report includes information about what days they collected and where they went to collect.
Getting Storm-cast ready for the shelves is just one part of the job. Hartt and Iuliucci also get to meet lots of people.
“That general joy you get when you’re chatting with people who want to learn about it or have started using it,” said Hartt about what keeps her going.
Through selling their product, Iuliucci and Hartt get to hear people’s stories. She says hearing those tales is a warm feeling.
“You come home fairly happy that there’s been this very pleasant human connection,” said Hartt.
East Berlin isn’t the only place to find the handcrafted seaweed fertilizer. Hartt and Iuliucci go to various farmers’ markets, and occasionally, they go to shows. This year, they’ll attend the Saltscapes East Coast Expo, scheduled to take place from April 20-22.
Occasionally, they also do presentations at community garden clubs, and they participate in Seedy Saturday events. The markets Hartt and Iuliucci visit include Liverpool, Lunenburg, Chester and Tantallon.
“We have a table display we do, and we sell the products from the table,” said Hartt.
People can find Storm-cast in Queens County at Oscar’s Flowers, Gifts and Such; The Port Grocer, the Riverbank General Store & Café and the White Point gift shop.
Visit http://www.bearcove.ca/ to learn more about Bear Cove Resources and Storm-cast. They are also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/stormcastcompostedseaweed/.