My friend Jerzy Przytyk is the founder of “Hempco” and also Quebec’s largest and most ambitious hemp farmer. In 1998 he grew a handsome stand of culinary-grade hemp seed on his organic farm in Stamstead County, about two hours east of Montreal.
Przytyk is much more than a mere sower of hempseed; he is a qualified and fully licenced hemp seed breeder. He has worked closely with the Polish National Fibre Institute for many years, doing hands-on hemp breeding and characteristic reviews on scores of varieties of industrial hemp. He is also the president of the Canadian Industrial Hemp Council, and he brings considerable experience, as well as ample charm and passion, to his new duties as champion of Canada’s infant hemp industry.
“Think locally, sell globally” is but one theme of his newest enterprise ? ChanvrEstrie ? an industrial hemp headquarters that aims to bring Quebec hemp producers together with anyone, anywhere, looking to buy Quebec-grown hemp materials and products.
After saluting the health of Modern Industrial Hemp with tumblers of sweet, fresh pressed organic carrot juice Jerzy had grown on his farm, we made our way across the highway to examine his field of hybrid Scandinavian hemp, and witness how well hemp grows in the sensuous summer sun of la Belle Province.
We are greeted by a field of glorious hemp, fully charged with plump, dark seeds just prior to harvest. Jerzy is obviously very pleased with the fruit of his toil, and is not at all shy about praising the FIN-314 variety he will cut down later in the day, when the fields have shed their morning dew.
Tell me how hemp seeds are graded for agricultural use.
There are degrees of pedigree seeds in Canada. The highest status is Breeder Seed, the second is Foundation Seed. We have a crop certificate issued to to us by the Canadian Seed Grower’s Association giving our FIN-314 “foundation status.”
Next year, 1999, we will have enough certified hemp seed to sow somewhere around 1500 hectares. By 2000, we will have enough seed to possibly grow 50,000 hectares. And it will all be for grain.
That’s only a few months away.
Already we have a confirmed order for over 1,000 tonnes of organically grown hemp seed from a client in the USA. We also have an order for 400 tonnes of our hemp grain for organic birdseed mix.
If we continue to price hemp grain at present levels, which is too high, we will never be able to penetrate the mass market. With our oleo hemp variety, even if the price of seed drops by half, the farmers will still make more money than with traditional monoceaous hemp.
Old-style hemp yields between 700 and 1000 kilograms of hempseed per hectare. With the variety we are using, the FIN-314, you can expect to harvest almost 2000 kilos of seed per hectare. Double the yield.
How long does this super oil variety take to mature in Quebec?
On July 20, 1998, 21 days from seeding, the males were in full pollination and the females were setting flowers. By 35 days, the males were in die-out and the females were already forming seeds. In 35 days!
In that period, the males, about twice as tall as the females, stopped growing and the females took over and filled the space.We expect to harvest it in 75-90 days from planting.
How do you feel about your seed crop, just before you harvest it? How was 1998 for your hemp?
Fantastic! I didn’t have to invest in special machinery, or worry about problems at harvest. This is a plant equivalent to flax, and we have good flax oil technology. We are basically using the same equipment as is being used for flax oil.
In Canada we are ready to process hemp for food, but not for fibre. The oilseeds market has a very good infrastructure already. We don’t have to build it new like the others have to do with fibre hemp. There are oil presses all over the country. Our market is an easy “Come on in.”
And what are you doing about that?
I am trying to bring a good variety of oleo hemp to the farmer. In farm economics, any crop that brings in $120 to $250 a hectare is a good crop. Corn pays $80 to $100 a hectare. Soya ? going down fast ? was $900 a tonne and now brings the farmer $500 and falling.
One hectare of FIN-314 will produce up to 2000 kilos, worth about $1200. Even at half the yield this variety offers good return to farmers.
What’s the difference between your variety and regular oleo hemp strains?
The other big, old-style plants present a lot of problems at harvesting. Machines plug up with 6 foot, 8 foot, 10 foot plants. Seeds fall all over, shake down on you. But with our variety of hemp, the farmer gets up to 2 tonnes of seed per hectare without harvesting problems.
Then we can be competitive with flax oil.
Which is only slightly richer in lineolic acids that hemp seed oil. But flax oil tastes awful, and is not palatable to most of humanity. Hemp, which people seem to enjoy the taste of, is very different.
FIN-314 is very high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). There is an incredible market developing for GLA. The nutraceutical industry is interested in it, it is part of the new trend of using food as medicine. There is no other plant that can produce more viable GLA than this variety of oleo hemp we are growing in Quebec and Saskatchewan; not borage, not flax, not evening primrose.
Is the THC factor last year’s news?
I was the one in Ottawa who was concerned that drought or climactic conditions would show creeping THC levels, disaster for the hemp farmer.
But now, knowing what I know, even with disasters the plant will never get to 0.3% THC, the legal limit, because the tests we have done here and in Saskatchewan show levels of only 0.14 to 0.1% THC.
I feel sorry for those kids who stole hemp and managed to get away and smoke it.
People don’t understand that industrial hemp plants are high in cannibidiol (CBD), which has an anti-euphoric effect.
So why are idiots ripping off hemp?
They might be trying to make some sort of oil, a concentrate, but all they are doing is concentrating the CBD and making it twice as bad. How much sea water do you have to drink to quench your thirst?
Jerzy Przytyk: tel (819) 838 5832; email [email protected]
Sasha Przytyk tel (306) 525 6519; website [email protected]