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A truly cool hemp operation

Posted on October 14, 2000

Toronto, Ontario — There are days when the clawing and trampling that goes on in Toronto in pursuit of anything that reeks of power get me down. When they do, as it did last week, I like to head away from the city in search of people who have found an alternative way of living. People who live gently on the land, enjoy themselves, and respect others.

This time, I headed for Killaloe, which nestles into the Canadian Shield between Bancroft and Pembroke. The drive itself was worth the trip: the winding road through massive granite hills, the fall colours, the vista of Golden Lake spread shimmering in a valley far below.

I was going to meet two people who have lived their dream together for more than 20 years. Robbie and Christina Anderman are back-to-landers.

Robbie, 52, was a draft dodger. In 1969, he and a friend (whose father had abandoned the United States for Winnipeg after being targeted by U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy during the days of the Communist witch hunt) bought Morning Glory Farm.

Today, the farm has 10 homes and 20 people living permanently in the Morning Glory community. “We live in separate houses but we do a lot of working together and eating together,” says Christina.

They share taxes, whatever income they generate and the vegetables and fruit the farm produces. “All summer long, people show up from across Canada and the States, and want to work, and to visit and to learn about setting up and running a community,” says Christina.

Christina, 41, grew up in Don Mills and Richmond Hill, and joined Robbie in 1980. They have three sons, the eldest of whom is 19. To earn a living, Robbie made dulcimers, harps and native American flutes, and produced CDs of his own flute playing. He also worked as a carpenter. Christina, who had trained in massage, opened a practice.

“We’ve been living the homesteading lifestyle, well below the poverty line, for years,” says Christina, and she says it by way of celebration. This is her way of declaring that she has stepped off the treadmill of the consumer society. Successfully. And happily.

Now they are on to something new, and this is what drew me to Killaloe. They are starting to manufacture hemp ice cream, made from the oil of organic vegan hemp seeds. They call it Christina’s Cool Hemp. To me, the chocolate version tastes just like chocolate ice cream. The vanilla, however, could use some improvement.

It’s being sold in Toronto at Vegetable Kingdom Organics on Adelaide St. W., the Big Carrot on the Danforth, Karma Food Co-op on Palmerston Ave., and Sephiroth Juice Bar and Health Store on Queen St. W. The price charged by the stores for a half-litre carton ranges from $6.48 to $7.99.

“I’ve always loved doing stuff with food,” says Christina, “and I’ve always wanted to make treats healthy.” Hemp, she says, is one of the most nutritious foods in the world, high in protein and essential fatty acids in ideal ratios. Their website is at www.coolhemp.com

Until now, they’ve been making their cool hemp in a Killaloe storefront. But in February, they’re planning to create their first “big batch” of 30,000 containers. They’ve already raised $53,000 of the total $110,000 that they’ll need, and they’ve arranged with an ice-cream company in Renfrew to do the manufacturing and packaging.

From making dulcimers and giving massages, to raising $110,000 and marketing 30,000 containers of a new product seems like an awfully big leap, I thought, as I sat in the storefront watching them prepare a small batch.

But then I realized that it takes very practical people to successfully negotiate more than 20 years within a community of back-to-landers. A lot of hard work, solid interpersonal skills, a strong set of values, and a respect for nature have given them a sturdy foundation on which to build. If Christina and Robbie make it, they might have something to teach the clawers and shakers – assuming they were prepared to listen.

Cameron Smith is an author and environmentalist living in Lansdowne, Ont.

Copyright © 2000, The Toronto Star. All rights reserved.