Toronto, Ontario — Greg Herriott thinks hemp has had a bad rap.
Because some hemp varieties produce marijuana, people tend to believe all hemp is bad and illegal.
Actually, 12 non-marijuana varieties have been approved by the federal government for growing in Canada to produce oils, baking flour and fibres. Herriott, a young and energetic graphic designer, bought a 50-acre farm just north of Barrie to prove that this ancient Asian plant is useful and valuable for a wide variety of health food, body- care and textile uses.
He planted 20 acres of government-approved hemp at Hempola Valley Farms on May 29 this year. In September, he harvested the seeds. Now he is cold-pressing oil from them for salad dressings, cooking oils, soaps, lip balms and moisturizing creams. After the oil is extracted, the remaining seeds are ground into flour for hemp cookies, bread and many other products.
I sampled some, liked it, and took home a 250mL bottle of honey Dijon dressing. Its unique flavour, reminiscent of walnuts, produced enthusiastic approval when served on salad to friends at a dinner party.
Herriott says research has revealed that hemp oil is even better than flax oil as a source of essential fatty acids, which inhibit cholesterol buildup. He believes it will be “tomorrow’s dietary oil of choice.” His wife, Kelly, a physiotherapist, agrees.
Greg grew up in Woodbridge, studied landscape design and graphic design at Humber College and set up a graphic design business in Toronto.
An American friend got him interested in hemp as a health-food source. As a PR gimmick in the 1990s, Greg imported some hemp oil from Switzerland, designed a bottle and label, and handed out samples as Christmas gifts to graphic-design customers.
It proved very popular and, in 1996, he decided to go into the hemp business. After a research and development phase, he imported oil from Ohio and began producing a few products for sale in Toronto health-food stores.
Last year, he bought the old Forbes farm near Barrie, renamed it Hempola Valley, remodelled the sturdy old barn as a factory, showroom and office, and opened to the public.
Now he sees his mission as partly educational, teaching people about the useful and healthful qualities of hemp.
Offered for sale in the barn showroom are three kinds of salad dressings, baking flour, soaps, lip balms, moisturizing creams, massage oils, hemp oil capsules, hemp paper, very soft and durable hemp clothing, hemp hammocks, hats, rope, twine and cooking kits.
If you’d like to take a drive to visit Hempola Valley Farms, it’s open to the public every weekday from 9 am to 5 pm. For the first three weekends in December — December 1-3, 8-10 and 15-17 — the farm will be open from 9 am to 8 pm.
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