Pioneer is Recognized for Leadership in Legalizing & Promoting Organic Hemp Farming
Winnipeg, Manitoba (October 11, 2006) – What has become an award-winning company named Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils began as a humble “seed of an idea” in the early 1990s. Martin Moravcik was importing handcrafted goods from indigenous people around the world for his stores in Winnipeg when he discovered that hemp items were in high demand. More than a decade later, Moravcik’s efforts to legalize hemp farming and his co-founders’ dedication to educate consumers about nutritious hemp foods has led the way for hemp to become one of the hottest trends in the natural products marketplace. Manitoba Harvest, the company Moravcik founded in 1998 with friends Mike Fata and Alex Chwaiewsky, has been presented with the 12th Annual 2006 Socially Responsible Business Award in recognition of its role pioneering and promoting sustainable organic hemp agriculture in North America.
The 2006 Socially Responsible Business Award was presented on Friday, October 6, during Natural Products Expo East, the largest trade show in the $50 billion industry. Nominees for the award were ranked in nine categories derived from the Social Venture Network’s Standards of Corporate Responsibility (Ethics, Accountability, Governance, Financial Returns, Employment Practices, Business Relationships, Products and Services, Community Involvement, and Environmental Protection). The award is voted on by an independent panel of judges and is presented to companies or individuals who have demonstrated excellence in integrating and promoting these values in the workplace.
Moravcik organized the Hemp Awareness Committee at the University of Manitoba in the early 1990’s. The group lobbied the provincial government for assistance with research and development of hemp agriculture and was able to convince Manitoba’s Agriculture Minister of hemp’s great potential. Led by Moravcik, the group submitted a business plan and the Province responded by providing $25,000 and the services of an agronomist. Moravcik’s group obtained some of the first hemp test plot permits from the Canadian government, and the success of their policy activity and research led to the legalization of hemp agriculture in Canada and the first harvest in 1998.
“From the beginning, we strived to make hemp a catalyst for social change, and that revolutionary mission has presented many challenges beyond simply running a healthy foods business,” notes Moravcik. “We know that hemp can change the world for the better, and it is gratifying see that our efforts advancing the cause are bearing fruit and have earned the respect of our peers in the natural products industry,” he adds.
Consumer demand for hemp foods was virtually nonexistent in 1998 when the company began pressing oil from nutritious hemp seeds and selling it to four local health food stores in Winnipeg. Now, Manitoba Harvest is the largest vertically integrated hemp food manufacturer in North America with annual sales in excess of $3.0 million and growing more than 50% per year. The company is making great strides spreading organic hemp agriculture in Canada – quadrupling the number of organic acres their farmers harvested in 2006, compared to 2005.
Educating consumers about the many health benefits and rich flavor of hemp foods has been the company’s top priority from day one. Manitoba Harvest has focused on direct interaction through events and in-store demonstrations that can reach 150,000 people annually. “More and more consumers are seeking hemp because of its incredible nutrition profile and then they discover the rich flavor,” says Mike Fata, President and co-founder of Manitoba Harvest. “Hemp seed oil is the richest and most balanced source of the Omega 6 & 3 essential fatty acids (EFA) and its EFA profile is closer to highly touted fish oil than any other vegetable oil,” adds Fata. It is also a rare source of the valuable EFAs called GLA and SDA. Hemp’s protein content of 35% is comparable to soy and is higher than that found in nuts, other seeds, meats, dairy products and fish or poultry.
Not only is hemp good for human health, it is also good for the planet. Hemp is naturally pest-resistant, and because hemp plants grow rapidly and close together, they crowd out weeds and don’t need herbicides. Hemp’s only fertilizer requirement is nitrogen, which can be provided by nitrogen fixing cover crops. It is also a soil-building plant that is excellent for crop rotation. Its strong roots anchor the soil to prevent erosion and the leaves return nitrogen to the soil. Hemp cultivation generates virtually no waste and its byproducts are commercially useful.
In Canada, hemp seeds are celebrated as seeds of change and prosperity. On the Manitoba Harvest factory floor in Winnipeg, Fata inspects a sample of the fresh product and sums things up, “Hemp seeds like these can change peoples’ health for the better, can change agriculture to be more sustainable and provide jobs in a prosperous new economy.”
Manitoba Harvest contracts hemp seed production on 6,000 acres by 25 farmers who are shareholders in the company. Their organic, non-GMO seed is processed into Hemp Bliss (a new non-dairy beverage), hemp seed oil, hemp seed nut, hemp seed nut butter, and hemp protein powder at the company’s Kosher and USDA organic certified processing plant. Since Manitoba Harvest is an integrated producer of hemp food products they control production from “seed to shelf,” and are therefore able to ensure freshness and quality. Manitoba Harvest products are offered by more than 3,000 natural food retailers in North America including Whole Foods markets and Wild Oats, as well as in Europe and Japan. For more information, please visit www.manitobaharvest.com.