In many ways, hemp is the poster plant for the environmental movement.

Growing it is easy on the land and it substitutes for commodities that come
with problems =97 such as cotton, which receives heavier doses of pesticides
than any other crop in North America, and pulpwood, needed for making paper
and cardboard, which can destroy habitat.

As a food, hemp seeds are nutritious, supplying more protein per hectare
than any other crop except soybeans. And they have a high concentration of
essential fatty acids that are in balance, good news in the struggle against
a number of ailments.

In addition, hemp can be turned into pellets and used as fuel; its fibre can
be made into rope; and this is what took me to a Renfrew dairy last week,
its seeds can be turned into an ice cream alternative.

At first, the idea of creating such an alternative from a species of plant
that makes good rope sounds, to put it mildly, improbable. At first, I
thought it was simply loopy. But think about it: Corn is a tough, leafy
plant, too, and we get corn syrup from it.

But the proof is in the tasting. What came off the production line in
Renfrew was Cool Hemp. It's being sold in about 200 health-food stores
across Canada and is about to go mainstream. Among the maple, chocolate and
natural flavours being produced when I was there, I chose maple to sample
because the flavour comes from real maple syrup.

I liked it. Underlying the maple taste, it had a slightly nutty flavour.

Cool Hemp is the inspiration of Christina and Robbie Anderman, who live near
Killaloe, on the Canadian Shield between Bancroft and Pembroke. They're part
of a community of eight households living on Morning Glory Farm, sharing
expenses, sharing the food produced on the farm and sharing meals four or
five times a week.

I got to the dairy in the middle of a three-day production run where 12
people, in oversized hairnets and lab coats, were working in choreographed
precision to produce 9,000 half-litre tubs of Cool Hemp.

"It's been an amazing learning experience," Christina says. "Now, we're
starting to learn about the mainstream market, which is way different from
the traditional health-food market."

One thing they'll be doing is lowering store prices by up to $2, so that
each half-litre will sell for $4.99 to $5.50. They've been able to cover
most of their expenses during their two years in business. But they've
earned no profit.

"We've been able to get by because we live in the country and we grow our
own food," Christina says. With a bigger volume of sales, they're hoping to
see a profit, even at lower prices.

And then there's the fun part. Robbie has produced a CD of songs about hemp
with original lyrics and mostly original music. The songs are in a variety
of styles: bluesy rock, folk, calypso, rock, bluegrass, jazz and something
called soundscape.

The musicians, who differ on each track, come from across southern Ontario.
Interspersed among the songs are reminiscences from a Killaloe old-timer
recalling the days before growing hemp was banned. His memories are
captivating.

People can download the songs from the Cool Hemp Web site at
http://www.coolhemp. There's no charge but a donation is requested. Or they
can order the CD for $20 by calling 1-800-385-FOLK, or by writing to the
address listed on the Web site.

"Hemp is a movement," Robbie says. "But it didn't have music."

Now, it does.

Cameron Smith is a writer and environmentalist living near Gananoque, Ont.


Pubdate: Saturday, May 24, 2003
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Contact: lettertoed@thestar.com
Website: http://www.thestar.com/
Author: Cameron Smith