HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Hemp Is The Word
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Oct 2004
Source: Metro, The (CN MB)
Author: Jim Timlick
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


Mike Fata's Little Idea Has Grown Into A Million-Dollar Operation.

When Mike Fata announced that he was getting into the hemp business
six years ago, the typical reaction was that of polite snickering.

"I would say we are making a business of this and people would say
don't get disappointed if it doesn't go anywhere," he recalled, chuckling.

No one is snickering any more.

Fata's company, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods and Oils, has grown from
sales of $50,000 in its first year to an estimated $1.5 million in

It received some further legitimacy last week when Fata, 28, who grew
up in North Kildonan, received the Business Development Bank of
Canada's Young Entrepreneur Award for Manitoba.

"It's definitely an honour," he said from the company's Notre Dame
Avenue warehouse.

"The more we are out there the more people will say it's a real thing.
Sometimes seeing the product on the shelf is not enough of an

Manitoba Harvest merchandise has found its way on to grocery and
health food store shelves across North America.

The company is producing between 350 and 400 shipments of their
product each month, with more than half of it destined for the U.S.

That includes everything from hemp seed oil and shelled seeds to hemp
butter and protein powder.

Fata said as gratifying as the company's growth has been, he doesn't
necessarily feel vindicated by it.

"I had a dream that this would happen so it's not shocking to me," he

"I think a lot of it has to do with our dedication to producing a
quality product. We've literally tried to build our customers one at a
time. Word of mouth has been our best advertising."

Fata said another reason for the company's growth is he and his
partners' efforts to educate the public about the benefits of hemp

Hemp seed oil has one of the highest concentrations of polyunsaturated
fats and contains so-called good or essential fats like Omega 3 and 6.

And contrary to popular opinion, industrial hemp products contain no
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Fata learned the hard way about the health benefits of hemp seed.

He went on a no-fat diet after ballooning to nearly 300 pounds when he
was 18. Although he dropped 140 pounds, he nearly died as a result of
restricting his fat intake.

That's when he met partners Alex Chwaiewsky and Martin Moravcik, who
were lobbying the Canadian government to legalize industrial hemp
production and the seed for Manitoba Harvest was planted.

Still, Fata and his partners encountered a healthy dose of skepticism
when they launched their enterprise. It wasn't until 1998 that Health
Canada legalized hemp for commercial industrial growth.

As a result, local farmers were far from eager to grow the crop in
their fields.

"To go and convince farmers to grow a brand new product with risk was
a challenge," he said.

"We made do and it's gotten easier as we've gone along."

Indeed it has.

Manitoba Harvest will bring in nearly 25,000 bushels of hemp this year
from 20 producers across the province, all of whom are shareholders in
the company.

Fata envisions the company continuing to grow.

He said the natural products industry is worth $43 billion a year and
that other seed-based products like soy and flax are experiencing
tremendous gains.

"I think we're just scratching the surface," he said.
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