Alberta’s economy continues to be severely impacted by the recent steep and prolonged drop in oil prices, with the oil and gas sector having stabilized at a much lower level than a few years ago.
The Alberta Treasury Board reports that in 2016, this impact has spread beyond the energy sector. Retail activity, housing, construction, labor markets and manufacturing have all been showing significant signs of weakness. Adding to northern Alberta’s economic slowdown, forest fires in the Wood Buffalo region temporarily disrupted oil production and further reduced Alberta’s GDP in 2016.
Phenomenal boom to the hemp industry
When it comes to the hemp growing industry, the Canadian prairies are seeing a phenomenal boom. Industrial hemp acreage had seen an annual increase of 20 to 30 percent each year for the last six years (to 2015). In 2014, Canada hit a record 100,000 acres of hemp, a sharp spike from just 8,000 acres as recently as 2008. Alberta has gone from a tiny fraction of growers to a powerhouse. Alberta Agriculture statistics show that in 1998, the first year industrial hemp was made legal, the province grew only 94 acres, or 1.6 percent of Canada’s crop. By 2011, that number ballooned to nearly 16 000 acres—a full 40 percent of the nation’s output and the most productive single province.
A leader in hemp production
Today, Alberta is the leading hemp producer among the three Prairie provinces with over 30,000 acres grown for the organic seed, oil and meal markets this year. Following a series of producer meetings in northern Alberta during 2015 and 2016, there has been, given the above statistics, no shortage of interest to grow hemp as an alternative crop in this region to tap into the north region’s natural advantage for growing long-stemmed hemp for fibre.
Created with input from experienced hemp farmers and industry experts, the Hemp Farming course is designed for conventional and organic farmers that are thinking about farming hemp for the first time or farmers that are thinking about growing a small test plot of hemp. Farmers that currently grow industrial hemp will also benefit from this course by gaining a deeper understanding of how to harvest hemp for different business end uses.