By Ted Smith
This spring I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon on a tractor helping Blake Hunter plant hemp seeds on Vancouver Island. His family has been growing hemp in Saskatchewan since 2006 when he started his company, Good Seed Hemp. Though my family has been farming in Canada for 7 generations on both my mom and dad’s side, this was the first time in my life I was able to help get hemp seeds in the ground.
Though it is not the first time hemp has been grown on the island, it is the first crop Blake has grown here. In a incredible twist of luck, the farmer he connected with lives just a short drive from where I live with Gayle Quin in Cobble Hill, though I am sworn to secrecy as to its exact location. With most of his sales on Vancouver Island, selling locally grown hemp seeds is bound to be easy for Blake, hopefully ensuring that hemp will be grown here for ever and ever.
Since the field had not been used to cultivate a crop before, Blake and some friends did a lot of work preparing the land for seeding. A few acres were planted 10 days after the crop I helped, making the total about 5. This is less than they have a permit for but more work will need to be done preparing soil before that can happen on this farm.
Planting was pretty simple. Blake walked ahead of the tractor, spreading the seeds with a small hand-held machine. The tractor had a rototiller behind, which gently raked the soil so the seeds sank about 2 inches into the ground.
When I asked about where it was being processed, he told me, “We will process the whole toasted seeds on island, and the oil and protein on Saltspring. Hearts in Abbotsford.”
As for the leaf, Health Canada makes it very clear to farmers that it is illegal to remove or process, threatening them with loss of license and even criminal charges. This is such a shame because there is so much medicine in these plants that simply gets plowed back into the ground. One day this will change, but for now the farmers certainly do not want to risk losing this precious license.
On the other hand, I will be hoping to process the stalks. We can separate the fiber from the hurds, or cork, by smashing them by hand. The hurds can be used for making hemp crete and the fiber could be used for paper that could be used for art.
Three years ago we were able to visit Blake’s family and spend time on the farm in northern Saskatchewan. His parents are super nice and they let us stay in their pretty little cabin by the lake. We made a video of our experience.
Hemp is very important to me for many reasons. I have been a vegetarian for almost 19 years and hemp seed provides many of the proteins and essential fatty acids that I need to stay strong and healthy. Many of my clothes are made with hemp. The soap we use usually are made with hemp oil, as is the shampoo I use. In fact, the main reason I became an activist was to help agricultural communities revitalize their economies by growing hemp and producing goods from it.
No doubt this will not be the last time I plant hemp on Vancouver Island. Stay tuned for the blog on the first time I help harvest hemp on the island. May have to make a video of that, eh.