ARCADIA — Contrary to what his name might suggest, Dale Weed is no fan of marijuana.
“We are morally opposed to marijuana products,” said Weed, owner of Pure Functional Foods and the featured speaker at a breakfast Friday morning at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne that kicked off a half-day tour of Wayne County farms and related businesses.
However, Weed is a big fan of the plant’s cousin, hemp.
Hemp lacks THC, the ingredient that gives marijuana users a high, but it has the potential to become a major crop because of its many benefits, ranging from high-protein powders to medicine. Cannabidiol oil, or CBD, has been identified as beneficial in areas such as pain management and epilepsy, Weed said.
Savannah-based Pure Functional Foods, which received the first hemp-processing license in New York state, is turning hemp seeds into protein powders that he said are nothing less than a super food — a healthy protein source with all the essential amino acids the body needs. It’s in addition to a host of other dry mixes his company makes in the rural Wayne County town.
Hemp is hardly a new crop. George Washington was among those who grew the plant.
Despite that history, hemp eventually fell out of favor for a number of reasons, and it eventually got lumped in with its cannabis cousin, marijuana.
Times have changed, and hemp is making a comeback across the nation and in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature have taken steps to develop the industry. Cornell University, including the folks at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, are working to develop varieties that will grow well in New York’s climate, Weed noted.
However, Weed added that Canada is 18 years ahead of New York and many other states that are trying to tap into growing demand.
Weed, former owner of the pancake-flour-maker New Hope Mills in Auburn — a son now operates it — said Pure Functional Foods sees a big future in hemp products.
“Our goal is to provide the nutrition you need in the food you love,” he said, noting that many of Pure Functional Food dry-mix ingredients end up in products under other companies’ names.
However, some of the company’s own hemp-based line, under their Moon Rabbit Foods label, will be showing up on the shelves of Whole Foods, a national grocer specializing in organic products.
Wegmans, Weed predicted, is sure to follow.
For farmers to be successful in hemp growing, Weed relayed, there must be demand for products made from the plant. He said that is expanding rapidly.
The CBD oil holds great promise, also, Weed added.
It’s estimated the market value for CBD oil will grow to $2 billion by 2020; Weed said he thinks that number is conservative. The Food and Drug Administration has approved CBD oil for the treatment of some rare forms of epilepsy.
Weed said there are thousands of products that can be produced from hemp, many of them replacing ones that are proving to be harmful to the environment — like plastics, Weed noted.
“There’s a lot of innovation happening with this new crop,” he said.