Tenth annual Ag Awareness Day looks at hemp

Once outlawed, Manitoba hemp is a sought-after food product and is returning to its manufacturing roots

People sitting at a conference table.

Manitoba is growing good things, in particular, hemp.

The fibrous plant — touted as having more than 25,000 uses in a 1913 edition of Popular Mechanics — was lauded last week, during the annual Agriculture Awareness Day at the Manitoba legislature.

The all-party event is in its 10th year and Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn took to the microphone to note that hemp is one of the key crops produced in the prov- ince when it comes to creat- ing value-added agricultural products.

“We want to showcase the valued added and sophistication of the industry,” he said, noting the industry in Manitoba has undergone remarkable changes over the past 20 years.

Mike Fata, who co-founded Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods in 1998, said the province’s climate is well suited to hemp production, which has been grown and used for fibre and food for more than 3,000 years.

Man speaking into microphone.
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods co-founder Mike Fata speaks during Agriculture Awareness Day photo: Shannon VanRaes

“We really see hemp as part of that thriving future in Manitoba,” said Fata.

Hemp was once so important to the development of industry and transportation that farmers who immigrated to Canada and received free land parcels were required by law to dedicate a certain amount of their acreage to the crop.

All that changed when fear of hemp’s cousin, marijuana, led to the prohibition of the plant in the 1930s.

But now that the hemp prohibition is over — although the crop is still regulated by Health Canada — Simon Potter of the Composites Innovation Centre hopes that the tall, fibre-, food- and oil- producing plant will become an important resource in manufacturing.

“These materials — renewable, environmentally friendly, inexpensive and in many ways superior to traditional synthetic materials — will provide a win-win for our local economy, with new value streams for our farming communities,” he told the crowd assembled for Agriculture Awareness Day.

From the Grainews website: Hemp production sees steady growth in Canada

The centre is working on developing new products for the aerospace and automotive industries, using research to find ways to move the resin-coated fibres of hemp, flax and other plants, towards replacing plastics.

“We are creating something brave and something new here, something that can frankly only be done here,” Potter said, citing the support from all levels of government, while also making a nod to Winnipeg — recently listed as one of the seven most intelligent communities in the world.

Blaine Pedersen, agriculture critic for the Progressive Conservatives, also spoke to the development of such new industries, adding he believes the role of government is to remove impediments to business.

“Agriculture has thrived in the past and will thrive in the future,” he said.

About the author


Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.



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