What can you do with hemp? A better question is what can’t you do with it, says Dave Jordan from Hemp Farm NZ.
He and his wife Anne built New Zealand’s first dedicated hemp facility in Tauranga where they produce hemp seed oil.
After spending 11 years and almost all of their money building a hemp industry in New Zealand, it’s finally taking off.
Hemp Farm NZ now has 100 growers – up from 12 last year – and next season they expect to harvest 2,000 hectares of hemp.
Meanwhile, UHT hemp milk is being manufactured in Auckland and a hemp fibre processing facility will be installed in Christchurch next February.
Dave says it’s just the beginning.
Environmentalism is at the heart of the Jordan’s hemp drive.
Dave worked in adventure tourism for 30-odd years – where he discovered New Zealand’s 100% Pure campaign was “pulling the wool over the world’s eyes”.
“From being on mountains and down rivers I could see the difference from crystal-clear water at the top of the rivers to polluted waters by the time you got through the farmland. It’s not only farms that do it – it comes from off the roads, it comes from industry, it comes from everywhere – but that’s where you saw [degradation], in our rivers.”
Dave says they now get calls every day from farmers interested in growing hemp as a supplement or switching to it completely.
But things didn’t always look so rosy – ten years ago Dave and Anne doubted they’d see hemp take off in their lifetimes.
But things changed for good in 2014 when American president Barack Obama signed a Hemp Farm Bill, Dave says.
“I said to Anne ‘oh my god, here it comes, this is going to be the change of everything.”
Many NZ manufacturing industries – such as those that use net, twine and rope – are looking for a solution that hemp offers, he says.
“They’re going ‘we’ve got a problem and we’ve got to sort it out. It’s all environmental and it’s going to affect our business – either because of international treaties or government law or just because the consumer demands a better world for us all.”
Each industry seeking to switch to using hemp-based products will require a huge stockpile of hemp so the Jordan’s are focused now on building that, Dave says.
“Oil companies have huge reserves and tanks at every port around the country. For us, as an industry, if we want manufacturers to come on board and consumers to buy we have to show them we have plenty of stock. Stockpiling of hemp bales is going to be crucial going forward, so no doubt we’ll be looking for investment opportunities.”
“We are scaling up fast and furious to grow as much hemp as we possibly can for this country and the environment,” adds Anne.
She also raves about the flavour.
“[Hemp] tastes delicious, the seed tastes nutty. Some people say it’s similar to pine nut – I actually think it tastes nicer than that.”
“We already know [hemp milk] makes perfect flat whites and lattes, so people are going to get excited about it.
“You cannot get high from hemp but you can get healthy, and so can the environment.”