Paul Benhaim, owner and creator of the first hemp farm. The farm in Byron Bay is open to the public on Sundays to get the message across that hemp can be a worthy addition to the diet.
Paul Benhaim, owner and creator of the first hemp farm. The farm in Byron Bay is open to the public on Sundays to get the message across that hemp can be a worthy addition to the diet. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Farmer has big hemp dreams

PAUL BENHAIM dreams of the day when consumers can go to the supermarket and buy hemp.

But don't be alarmed, he is not referring to cannabis - the mood-altering drug.

Mr Benhaim farms industrial hemp and hopes that soon it will be legal for the highly nutritious seed from the plant to be sold as a food.

His varieties contain only minute levels of the active ingredient that drug users seek - THC.

"The nutritional qualities are truly remarkable," he said.

It is legal to grow and sell hemp in Australia for its fibre, but not as a food.

A bill before the Federal Parliament is expected to make the sale of hemp for consumption legal, Mr Benhaim said.

He first became interested in hemp 15 years ago, when he was living in Britain where its consumption is legal.

He founded England's first food hemp business before moving to Australia 11 years ago.

Under a special license he now grows 2.2 ha of hemp on two farms in the Byron Shire and expects the annual yield to be more than 2t of seeds and more than 200t of fibre.

He hopes to be able to sell a range of hemp foods - ice creams, snack bars and protein powder - if it becomes legal to do so and has plans to market the food through major supermarket chains.

Hemp seeds can also be pressed into oil and de-husked to use in cooking. It is high in protein and contains the full spectrum of amino acids.

The farm also houses a museum which showcases a range of hemp-based products ranging from lampshades to hemp plastic bowls and other products.

Starting from this Sunday, the farm will be open to the general public every Sunday - though bookings are essential - to learn about hemp's numerous uses.

There are also plans to run workshops on building with hemp fibre and the nutritional benefits of hemp.

For more information about the farm or to book a place on one of the Sunday farm tours visit https://www.hempfarm.com.au or call 02 8003 3032.

Should hemp be legalised as a food? Vote in the poll and leave your comment below.


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