Giving hemp a good name

Jane Harnett shows the seeds from which see produces her food oils. INLM3311-103gc

Jane Harnett shows the seeds from which see produces her food oils. INLM3311-103gc

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FAR from incurring the wrath of the law, a large-scale operation involving hemp is helping to boost the fortunes of a local company.

Harnett’s Oils in Waringstown was the first and remains one of the selected few to have a licence for hemp processing in Ireland.

Jane Harnett with a selection of the oils she produces. INLM3311-102gc

Jane Harnett with a selection of the oils she produces. INLM3311-102gc

The hemp plant is better known to the man in the street as cannabis, however, the end product coming from the Waring Estate is drug free.

The Managing Director of Harnett’s Oils is 28-year-old Jane Harnett.

Jane, a former pupil of Lurgan College Prep and Victoria College, Belfast, has a BSc (Hons) in Rural Resource Management and an MSc in Rural Environmental and Land Management from Harper Adams University College in Shropshire.

Despite her qualifications Jane was faced with little prospects upon graduating and ended up going it alone with her own business.

Jane at the press which extracts the oil from seed. INLM3311-104gc

Jane at the press which extracts the oil from seed. INLM3311-104gc

Jane produces food oils under the brand Harnett’s Oils while her father Michael manages the farm at Waring Estate and produces lubricating oils under Bioil Ltd.

She said: “With growing linseed and rapeseed we’d decided to add value by producing functional foods that are healthy, good for you and taste good. Hemp is another one of those functional oils.

“I started working with hemp in 2007 at Loughry. The business moved back to Waringstown in 2009.

“I got help from CAFRE (College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) at Loughry and worked with the Department of Agriculture through their diversification course producing a business plan. By having a business plan in place and becoming a finalist in 2009 for food innovation in the JFC Awards. I was able to focus further through the SEED programme provided at Craigavon Council expanding the range to include flavoured oils and dressings to the Hemp Oil and Rapeseed Oil.”

Jane’s business is part of SEED (South Eastern Economic Development) Food and Fisheries programme and is promoted via www.findgoodlocalfood.com

“We’ve been heavily involved with a number of festivals and shows promoting only local food producers,” she said.

“We’ve also got products for sale in local delis and butchers and a regular stall at St George’s Market and Victoria Square. The range includes the pure oils as well as salad dressings and flavoured oils like Chilli and Garlic Oil, Orange and Rosemary Oil and Lemon and Thyme Oil.

Local outlets include Trader D’s Butchers in Waringstown and Chapman’s Farm Fresh on Portadown Road.

Jane said: “I’m getting to a stage now where I’m starting to employ some part time staff.

“With hemp, just like with rapeseed and linseed, the aim is to grow a crop on farm and add value to that crop. We got the press in 2001 and started with rapeseed oil.”

Crops are grown in three year rotation and when the seeds are harvested they are cold-pressed, filtered and bottled.

Hemp is a 120 day crop, harvested in September/October. The two products are hemp oil and ‘cake’. The cake is used for animal feed and can also be ground down to a flour while the oil is bottled and known as a superfood.

The oilseeds are full of Omega 3, 6 and 9, being a healthy alternative to everyday vegetable oils.

Rapeseed oil is an ideal culinary oil as it has a high smoke point allowing it to be shallow and deep fried, roasted, baked and for dressings. It has half the saturates of Olive Oil and helps reduce cholesterol. Hemp oil is ideal for cold dressing or for drizzling over food.

In terms of output, one kilogram of oilseed rape can make about 400 millilitres of oil.