Documents: Special Interest: Garden Musings:

The Return of Hemp
by Judith Rogers
by Judith Rogers

I am a freelance garden writer with a weekly column ‘The Gardener’s Corner’ in the Innisfil Scope and quarterly articles in the regional magazine Footprints.

I began a blog to journal my home and garden life at Lavender Cottage. The art of afternoon tea has been a pleasure of mine for years and ‘Tea with Friends’ has become a weekly post with ladies I’ve met through blogging.

January 30, 2005

Greg Herriott and his partner Kelly Smith established Hempola Valley Farms in 1999 on 50 acres of farmland just outside of Barrie. After many years of being banned the revival of hemp cultivation has taken off like wildfire (there are 20 varieties approved to grow in Canada) as it can be used for so many different products; food, vitamins, shampoos, creams and even in shoes.

Hemp and marijuana, members of the same family of Cannabis sativa are similar plants to look at as they are both close to 10 feet tall with palmate leaves and flowers that bear fruit filled with seeds. From the approximate 400 cultivars only about 40 are able to be grown as hemp by Health Canada. The difference between the two is that there is upwards of 30% of THC (the psychotic molecule) in potent marijuana and only 0.3% of THC allowed in hemp to ensure it is safe; for food products only 10 parts per million are permitted.

In the 1600’s the Huron Indians living around Georgian Bay cultivated hemp for the fishing nets they made for trade. The farmers of Upper Canada in the early 1800’s were given free hemp seed from the King of England to grow it for rope, fishing nets and clothing. Unfortunately the hallucinogenic properties of marijuana became widely known and proclaiming it as the ‘Devil’s weed’ people began to shun it and any hemp products.

In 1938 the United States initiated the Marijuana Tax Act which levied very heavy taxes for anyone wishing to grow hemp; Canada too put this tax into effect. It is still illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. but there is hope that soon Canadian hemp products will be shipped across the border.

Hemp is a very easy crop to grow as it is hardy and has no insect or fungal problems which eliminates the need to spray it with anything. It has a good tap root and like corn does require a lot of nitrogen for growth but returns 72% of it back to the soil. Hempola Farms uses the seed heads for their products from which 30% of the weight of each seed comes from the oil it contains. The seeds are cold pressed to produce the oil which has many benefits: a high concentration (80%) of polyunsaturated fats; nature’s ideal 3:1 ratio of omega 6 and omega 3; when taken by diabetics it makes the insulin perform better; the level of natural vitamin E in the oil keeps it fresh and stable and it is a pleasant nutty-tasting non-allergenic oil. When ground into flour the hemp seed is gluten free with 22% dietary fibre. A coarse grind is used for baking mixes, horse food and a new pet line. Baking flour comes from the medium grind and costs roughly three dollars a pound. Ground into a fine powder a sport supplement of protein and fibre powder is produced. Hemp oil is great to use in baking but it is not recommended for frying at this time until further research is done. The products are packaged for freshness in dark coloured containers that protect them from heat, light and oxygen.

Soap, lip balm, salad dressing, skin cream, massage oil, wood finishing oil and a deet free insect repellant that is not only good for the skin but safe to use on pets are some of the products manufactured by Hempola Farms.

Located at 2133 Forbes Road, they are open year round for tours and the sale of their products. For further information visit their website at or call 1-800-240-9215.

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