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Manitoba investing in hemp in southern Alberta

Posted on September 8, 2014 by Vauxhall Advance

Hemp could be positioned as a breakthrough crop for southern Alberta.

That’s the hope of a Manitoba company looking for more of the plant’s seed to aid in the production of a line of health-food products.

Late last month, Manitoba Harvest officials visited southern Alberta to meet with growers and researchers, and encourage locals to jump on board.

According to Clarence Shwaluk, director of farm operations for Manitoba Harvest, the company is contracting about 6,000-9,000 acres of hemp in southern Alberta, and that’s poised to take off.

“We see southern Alberta as a growing market for us,” said Shwaluk. “Alberta gives us more diversification across the Prairies.”

That diversification will decrease the weather risks for hemp, according to Shwaluk, as having hemp crops spread out in a number of areas will mitigate the impact  regional storms have on hemp supply.

Manitoba Harvest expects to introduce a number of new products in the fall to build on its line of food products, which also includes hemp oils and hemp protein powder.

“We buy it on pounds,” said Shwaluk, who added enough hemp has been seeded this growing season to produce 25 million pounds. “It’s a significant increase.”

Southern Alberta could be part of an even bigger increase in 2015, considering the climate producers typically enjoy here.

“The real advantage is the irrigation,” said Shwaluk. “They can provide as much moisture as the crop needs and the good thing about southern Alberta is you don’t get excessive rainfall.”

He added hemp can be grown on dryland, but yields are typically better on irrigated fields.

Farmers in this area, accustomed to growing a wide range of crops on that irrigated land, shouldn’t have difficulty adjusting to growing hemp, according to Shwaluk.

“It’s close to planting canola,” he said of a comparable crop, though he added hemp requires growers to be diligent when it comes to storage issues.

In terms of prices for hemp, Shwaluk added the crop has yielded solid results recently.

“Compared to other crops that are grown out there, for the growers that have hemp in their rotation, they will find it’s one of their most-profitable crops.”

He mentioned hemp is not victim to up-and-down market conditions like other crops, as there is a fairly small market for hemp, and mostly all of the acres grown are on contract for the processing industry. That price certainty is another positive for potential hemp growers to considering, as Shwaluk added the possibility of a hemp-fibre processing plant setting up show in southern Alberta could provide another boost.

“We’re very optimistic about the future of industrial hemp.”

Does business merger damage Canadian identity?

Hell has officially frozen over. Tim Hortons, a cherished piece of Canadiana, has been swallowed by a Burger King, a U.S. fast food goliath. Burger King is Home of the Whopper and its flame broiled burgers are delicious but the double double is as Canadian as Rush and Bob and Doug Mackenzie (for a more today reference, Justin Trudeau).

We Hosers are proud to call Tim Hortons one of our own. When a person (born in the 1970s at least) flips through the pages of an encyclopedia (yes, it is a thing) and turns to Canada — a picture of a Tim Hortons coffee shop can be seen. Ha ha, made you look.

Canada has many natural resources and one of them is Tim Hortons — a Canadian institution and morning meeting place plus the coffee gets coffee drinkers ready for the day. There are other coffee shops with clout but none compare to the Canadian-ness of a double double, done up right. It’s the Canadian Way.

Canada exports many goods and services to the rest of the world. There’s no doubt Burger King is doing smart business.

Tim Hortons is a goldmine. Just drive by one on most corners in Canada and you’ll see double line-ups, as far as the eyes can see at any given time of day. It really is a no-brainer business-wise for the Home of the Whopper.

It makes perfect business sense but it saddens a little piece of the Canadian in all of us. What’s next? Will poutine become the official snack food of Americans?

Say it isn’t so. I’m sure many vacationing Canadians wouldn’t mind seeing more Tim Hortons throughout the United States and abroad. But still … what about the maple dip donut? It has no place out of Canadian hands, or does it? Only time will tell.

Looking into the future … a dystopian society with no Canadian pop culture, no Canadian uniqueness, no Canadian natural resources and no double double to sip and savour on a cold winter’s morn.

Is the Tim Hortons sale to a U.S. burger joint similar to The Simpson’s “Treehouse of Horror” episode when Homer sells his soul to the devil for a donut? Perhaps.

What if other out of country businesses want to come to Canada and stir up the pot?

What if Disney wants to buy Justin Bieber? OK, that one we can live with. What if a company in Sweden dips its hands in the Canadian maple syrup industry? Or a Colorado skiing company wants to wear official Canadian toques from our coveted toque stronghold? It’s like breaking the seal after a night of drinking. Once you break the seal — the seal is broken and the flow is unstoppable. Once Tim Hortons is gone … what will go next?

Our stereotypes aside, Canada is home to many great innovations, industry and resources. Canadians need to be in control of those interests. Canadian water, gas and oil, and coffee with two creams and two sugars need to be Canadian, at its core and around its edges.

Canadian interests can’t go off all willy nilly selling this and that and hoping for the best. Well, it can, it’s consumerism and business, as usual.

There are many Canadian politicians in the business of piping Canadian gas and oil to faraway lands, instead of keeping it maple leaf-like. There is some U.S. interest in our high-quality H2O. And the list goes on.

The Tragically Hip is Canadian, Nickelback is (dare I say) psuedo-Canadian, the loonie and twonie are Canadian, the two-four is Canadian and the provinces and territories from the west to the east and north are Canadian — let’s keep it that way.

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