Mike Fata, co-founder and vice chair of Manitoba Harvest, is a pioneer of hemp foods and is credited for helping legalize industrial hemp in Canada and grow adoption in the U.S.
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and federal legalization of hemp could change the U.S. food industry as we know it. Coverage and conversation leading up to the Farm Bill signature has largely praised the economic potential of hemp. And for good reason — hemp is THE next superfood to watch with U.S. sales slated to grow 400% in the next five years.
As a pioneer in this space, I would caution this fledgling industry to look beyond immediate gains to long-term potential. Hemp has immense power beyond profit, but sustained growth of the industry can only be achieved with an eye towards education and quality.
My passion for hemp is rooted in my own transformation. I was topping 300 pounds when I realized I was tired of feeling sick and tired. I overhauled my diet, focusing on protein, good fats, and fiber — which is what ultimately led me to hemp foods.
In 1998, I set out on my mission to improve people’s lives through the power of hemp with Manitoba Harvest co-founders Alex Chwaiewsky and Martin Moravcik. In the two decades since, I have been living my dream of sharing hemp foods with the world. It’s a dream that has come with unique challenges — most notably, leading similar legislation to legalize industrial hemp in Canada.
The 2018 Farm Bill is important step in removing the marijuana confusion from hemp to allow for increased education around the super seed’s powerful nutrition. Lack of education or misperceptions around hemp is a challenge we’ve not only faced among consumers, but retail partners. The Farm Bill affirms the decision of existing retail partners to believe in the power of hemp and we look forward to the new relationships it will foster.
In our tenure, we have developed a strong network of producers across Canada who share our vision and are able to meet our quality expectations. An emphasis on quality helped inform our “seed to shelf approach,” controlling everything from what hemp seed gets planted, to how products are manufactured, packaged, and distributed. The passage of the U.S. Farm Bill will allow us to strengthen relationships with U.S. farmers and accelerate our ability to bring their crops to our consumers.
High quality seeds are the result of focus on the fundamentals:
- Supply chain infrastructure that maintains highly rigorous quality standards, like Manitoba Harvest GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) and BRC AA+ (British Retail Consortium) ratings.
- Agronomic practices to promote successful yields and soil health, especially important for organically grown hemp.
- Healthy and delicious hemp food product innovation.
Leaders within the hemp industry assume responsibility to approach growth within these guardrails in mind to maintain the integrity of the seed. For us, quality from seed to shelf will continue to remain at the forefront. A threat to quality is a threat to unlocking the potential of hemp.