The Australian and New Zealand food ministers have recently approved hemp seeds as a food source. Farmers in Eastern Victoria are hot on their heels, forming a hemp growing co-operative which aims to generate more income and improve soil quality naturally.
Darren Christie, chief executive of The Australian Hemp Manufacturing Company is pleased with the news that hemp seed has been approved for human consumption and believes that it will have many benefits for the farmers he is recruiting into the co-op.
“It’s another commodity for farmers. The milkers, they can use it as a rotation crop which will be great for them in the future,” Mr Christie said. “No pesticides, better PH levels in their soil, a bit more humus in the ground; that’s why I believe down this way it’ll be perfect for farmers to get on board.”
Hemp already has a history in Gippsland, which has a good soil quality and plenty of rainfall. Around 20 years ago a few hemp crops were successfully grown. However, over time the commercial scope for hemp has widened and now includes clothing, building materials and (in around six months as local food regulations are updated) as a food product.
Mr Christie notes that social media has played a big part in changing public attitudes towards hemp.
“People are starting to understand the differences between the hemp and medical marijuana.”
He intends to set up more hemp growing co-ops and expand a factory in Morwell that produces hemp-based building materials. The Gippsland Hemp Co-operative has currently signed seven farmers and is on the lookout for other who are interested in growing hemp.