More than 100 different designs, handcrafted using corn
A seed was planted in Tammi Zentic’s mind one day as she walked past the vast cornfields near her Fremont home.
“I wonder if I could make jewelry out of corn?” she pondered.
Tammi’s creative mind once led her to a short stint as an interior designer followed by a 25-year teaching career. She recently learned computer programming and now teaches that subject to middle schoolers. Surely, she could figure out a way to make jewelry out of corn.
While researching the idea further, she stumbled upon the legend of the five kernels. Through overwhelming challenges of hunger, sickness and great danger, the settlers who founded the country practiced thankfulness by setting aside five kernels of corn, Tammi said. The kernels represented the beauty of nature and creation, freedom, family, friendships and God’s love and protection.
She realized she could provide hope and encouragement through jewelry.
“I think it’s just nice to be reminded that we are all going through something,” Tammi said. “If we just keep persevering, we will get through it.”
Tammi created a patent-pending process that binds corn together to make unique one-of-a-kind jewelry. In two short years, her jewelry is already being sold in more than 45 boutiques, tourist shops and retailers ranging from TC & More in Scottsbluff to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.
“As you wear and enjoy your five-kernel creation, our hope is that your grit, optimism, faith and love will carry you through your difficulties and trials,” the jewelry tags explain.
Tammi has created more than 100 different designs and hand crafts each necklace, earring, bracelet, key chain or other jewelry that she now creates in her business, Z. Harvest Gems. She can make jewelry out of yellow No. 2 corn, but she mainly uses ornamental corn to create designs with pinks, greens, blues, whites, browns and reds. She sometimes adds turquoise gems or black jet stones for even more color.
The Hastings Museum asked her to create a special set of jewelry using corn, beans and squash known as the three sisters plants. Those crops are always planted together, which sends a message that we are stronger together.
From May to October, Tammi enjoys selling her jewelry at farmer’s markets, where she can explain her unique jewelry and the meaning behind it to each customer.
Tammi continues to teach full time and enjoys the creative outlet of making jewelry each evening after her days of teaching 120 seventh and eighth-graders.
Tammi’s goals for the business include expanding the jewelry line, hiring some employees and seeing where it goes. Currently, Tammi does most of the work for Z.Harvest Gems with help from her mom, Becky Kerr, and her son and business partner, Zane, who has a degree in business.
For more information or to order Z.Harvest Gems jewelry, visit https://members.grownebraska.org/list/member/z-harvest-gems-9469
GROW Nebraska® Foundation is a statewide non-profit training and marketing organization. Serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses, the organization provides marketing opportunities, education, and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska’s educational programs receive federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors.