Hemp? Cool!
By Barb Wilson

smalltubs.gifThe word hemp for many people, conjures up visions of skinny cigarettes and altered states. But that word association is being shattered by entrepreneurs whose customers are reaping the benefits of legal, non-psychotropic Cannabis, or industrial hemp as it is known. Our story begins nine years ago in the high country between Killaloe and Wilno, where an earth- friendly product idea germinated in the brain of Christina Anderman.
Reading a magazine article that outlined the elegant nature of hemp and offered a hemp cookbook, Christina claims she was “totally flabbergasted. I had no clue that hemp existed and that it had so much potential to help the environment and people too.” She and her husband, Robbie Anderman, founding member of the longstanding alternative community, Morninglory, were immediately excited about bringing the good news to people by feeding them first cookies, then the more ambitious Cool Hemp frozen dessert. Cool Hemp, a non- dairy ice cream made from dehulled hemp seed was a natural for Christina, a dynamic visionary, born nurturer and ecological walk-your-talk believer.
Christina is almost evangelical about hemp and its benefits, enthusiastically explaining its virtues as a substitute for wood in paper production, as a textile fibre that, unlike cotton, requires no herbicides or pesticides, as a clean fuel oil and as a viable crop for struggling farmers. But most of all she is interested in the nutritional value of the seed that is fast becoming the next best nutritional food.
What was it about hemp seed that inspired the Andermans to devote the next decade to hemp? The nutritive value of hemp seed oil is well documented. What makes it so healthy is that it delivers the best essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) in the right ratio for human needs: 1 to 3. Essential fatty acids are essential for cardiovascular, immune and hormonal health and brain alertness. It is a complete, easily digested protein with powerful anti-oxidant properties. A study at the University of Kuopio, Finland, found that hemp oil causes a dramatic increase in Blood Level GLA (GammaLinoleic Acid). In addition hempseed can deliver more of this desirable protein than any other crop per acre.

ice.jpg Clearly this was a whole-earth solution that the ethical-minded Andermans could embrace whole-heartedly. The challenge became how to introduce hemp food to many people who still confuse this legal hemp with THC-laden marijuana hemp. At first the only seed Christina could lay her hands on for her project was sterilized birdseed from China because every type of Cannabis had been declared illegal to grow in Canada since 1937, victims of the prevailing drug scare. Even though the industrial hemp that had sustained farmers for generations contained virtually none of the mind-altering THC associated with marijuana, this baby was thrown out with the bathwater. The total environmental and health cost of that impulsive piece of legislation can only be guessed, but for the farmers who had made a living from this valuable crop it was devastating. It wasn’t until 1998 that the Canadian government reinstated hemp as a legal crop. However, there were limitations: the would-be hemp farmer had to deal with copious red tape in order to apply for registration as a legitimate hemp farmer and had to grow at least ten acres and be inspected regularly.
But in 1996, Christina had to make do with her imported Chinese hemp seeds until the superior, fresh, unsterilized local hemp became available. She spent a year in her lab kitchen at Morninglory experimenting like an alchemist and turned this infamous natural product into food that would prove to be nutritional gold. A year later the Andermans marketed their hempseed cookies to the first of many stores, the Arbour Environmental Store on Bank Street in Ottawa. Because of the popularity of “Christina’s Hemp Treats”, the Andermans recently turned over production of the energy cookies to Little Stream Bakery in Perth leaving Christina free to go back to her beloved kitchen and focus on her next dream - ice cream from hemp seeds.
Christina had always loved ice cream so it was natural for her to recognize that the creamy texture of pulverized hempseed might be perfect for a nutritious non-dairy alternative. Christina is a person who dreams big and, with Robbie’s help, makes these dreams come true with hard work and confidence that obstacles can be overcome. And the hurdles certainly presented themselves in abundance. They laugh and tell of the time when a worker had let the hempseed cream cook too long on the stove and it exploded all over the kitchen. Everyone loved the fluffiness of what was left in the pot, even though the batch was spoiled for commercial use. One in particular, the logistics of getting the frozen products to market without a meltdown, tested Robbie’s driving skills.
Christina continues to experiment to improve the already tasty product that she started in an old hand-cranked ice cream maker. But making a tasty frozen dessert in your kitchen is a long way from marketing and distributing quantities large enough to make a living. True to character, Christina took off her apron and she and Robbie got down to business! For a viable operation they needed help, and many encouraging offers of help came in from every quarter, justifying their faith in a providential universe. “We are pioneers in a lot of ways,” Christina says smiling. “Learning to do things that have never been done before has attracted so much good will. People gave us machinery, skills, storage - lots of help!”

Financial backing came from the newly emerging hemp farmers eager to create markets for their own premium organic grain and from environmentally minded investors from every walk of life. They also received a grant from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Council who recognized the importance of such products for the success of hemp farming. Soon the demand for their product, available at health food stores and food shows, outgrew their ability to produce it themselves so they turned to Tracey’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, a factory in Renfrew that was philosophically aligned with the Andermans’ business plan. They use old-fashioned methods to produce 1000 gallons at a time of this certified organic, non-dairy, kosher, fair trade dessert. All these certifications are expensive and time consuming, but the Andermans are uncompromising about sticking to their values. They have faith that the consuming public will pay a little more for an ethical product such as Cool Hemp. Moreover, they assert that The Cool Hemp Company is a path to fulfilling the values of cooperation, health, and respect for the Earth. Their belief in the benefits of hemp inspired Robbie to produce a CD called The Hemp SeeDee, an anthology of musical accolades written and performed by professional musicians, spliced with an oral history of hemp farming in the 1930s.

It is hard not to cheer on people who can make cooperation in business work and, as niche players, successfully hold their own among the competitive giants of the food industry. They are well aware that much is at stake and, as trail blazers, they are encouraged by fans on the sidelines asking, “Can we help?” They believe in their mission and maintain that the world needs people to be doing this.

This past September at the Canadian Health Food Association trade show, the maple and chocolate flavours of Cool Hemp were awarded the Alive magazine ‘award of excellence’ in the ‘certified organic whole food’ category. Check out their “ cool” website for information and links about hemp, the nutritional breakdown of Cool Hemp and a list of places where you can buy it.

Note: The writer really likes the nutty flavour of Cool Hemp, especially after the ritual of furiously stirring it for maximum creaminess.


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