Construction of a large, 3,200 square-foot greenhouse is now underway at Northern Lights Organics Farm just outside of Fort St. James. Arthur Halleran photo

Construction of a large, 3,200 square-foot greenhouse is now underway at Northern Lights Organics Farm just outside of Fort St. James. Arthur Halleran photo

Organic, high-CBD hemp production coming to Fort St. James

Northern B.C. farm is building greenhouses to house hemp seed production

A Fort St. James business is hoping to bring organic hemp production to B.C.’s north.

Arthur Halleran, who is the founder and president of Northern Lights Organics, says greenhouses for hemp seed production are currently being built on his 600-acre farm, which is located around nine kilometres outside the town.

Halleran’s company was acquired by Weekend Unlimited, a larger umbrella outfit, after he heard the company was seeking an organic-certified farm to produce hemp and, eventually, medical marijuana.

Halleran and his partner Shirley started Northern Lights Organic Farm in 2012, when Halleran moved back to his hometown of Fort St. James. Initially, they were producing syrups, jams and jellies from a variety of berries, as well as birch syrup.

“We did that, but nature doesn’t read your business plan. Some years we’d have good berries and others, we’d have not-so-good berries,” says Halleran.

He let his organic certification lapse last winter, but then a friend approached him about Weekend Unlimited.

“He was involved in the cannabis business and he said he knows a group that was looking for an organic parcel. That’s how it started.”

In an October press release regarding the acquisition, Weekend Unlimited chief executive officer and president Cody Corrubia said organic cannabis commands a 24 per cent premium, and is preferred by customers. “There are only three licenced producers currently that are organic, which puts this acquisition [of Northern Lights Organics] in a prime position to lead the industry in the hemp, CBD offerings,” Corrubia was quoted saying.

Halleran has had his property inspected to again achieve organic certification, and is waiting on the paperwork. He plans to grow an organic, high Cannabidoil (CBD) hemp product to begin with, and also transition to include organically grown medical marijuana.

CBD is often used for pain relief, and it’s found in hemp. It’s also found in marijuana, explains Halleran, but with hemp, you don’t have the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive element.

“There’s a big market [for CBD]; a lot of people use it,” says Halleran.

He grew a test crop last year under a third-party research licence, which proved the hemp will grow. Now it’s all about finding the right high-CBD variety that will grow best in the north.

“I have a small nursery greenhouse and we’re going to be planting the seeds in there, and then transplanting them to the large greenhouses we are building right now. We are building two 3,200 square-foot greenhouses and that’ll have the hemp varieties growing, and we are growing those for seeds.”

The seeds will then be planted over a larger area outside, to maximize the amount of product they can harvest. The greenhouses will be the seed factories, explains Halleran.

But there are still hoops to jump through to achieve the goal.

“There are a bunch of regulations. We have to get three growths of the variety we are testing, it has to be analyzed, those analyses have to be sent to Health Canada, so they test to make sure the genetics are stable. Once that happens, you can then register the seeds with Health Canada and then you can grow them in large quantities.”

Once the hemp is grown, it will be sold to another company that can extract the CBD, although Halleran plans to eventually have an extraction facility as part of his operation.

And he also has plans to grow organic medical marijuana. He says he’s submitted an application to Health Canada for the licence, which he hopes to receive by early spring or summer 2019. He’s planning the construction of more greenhouses for the medical marijuana plants, where he’ll be able to grow year-round.

Northern Lights Organics expects to receive its cultivation license prior to the end of 2019, although there is no guarantee that the license will be obtained.

Halleran, a geologist with a PhD in water chemistry, wanted to return to his roots in Fort St. James, and hopes to see the area prosper. He wants this venture to boost the area’s economy and employ locals as much as possible.

“I grew up here and went to high school here and my family is here … I’m a northern person.

“The whole idea for me here, this is a really good opportunity to provide 30 to 40 jobs here locally. I’m hiring and spending the money in Fort St. James first, and if I can’t find it here I go to Vanderhoof, and if I can’t find it there, I go to Prince George. But so far I’ve found that we have a lot of people here in Fort St. James.”

Once things get going, Halleran says he would like to train local people up, rather than bringing in expert workers from out of town.

“It’s to try to keep the money local and the jobs local. Once people get the training and the experience, they’ll be able to find a job anywhere in Canada,” says Halleran of the high-tech CBD extraction methods.

He also plans to organize a labour pool of people from Fort St. James as well as from the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation, which could provide part-time opportunities to those who want them.

“So say I need 10 people, and the labour pool is 20 … so some people might want to work three days a week … with that concept, it’s trying to utilize local labour,” says Halleran.

Along with the desire to boost the local economy, growing organic and being carbon neutral are important to Northern Lights Organics.

“Everything will be B.C. grown and local. Eventually, any greenhouses we will build for the hemp and also for the medical marijuana will be passive solar greenhouses, and they require less energy. My concept is to have a small biomass plant here that will generate electricity and heat from the waste products, and we have a lot of dead pine, and so on. So I’m trying to be carbon neutral to keep with the conversation that I’m organic,” says Halleran.

Halleran says the developments at the farm are a bit surreal, but also a welcome sign of progress.

“It started out as a small, family-run organic wild craft operation, started by Shirley and myself. My father, who is now 88, would be out picking berries for my jams and syrups, as was my sister Sandra. My mother, who also in now going to be 89, would make lunch and bring it out.

“It was a good time, and nice to see it evolve.”

READ MORE: Little variety in THC levels with different cannabis strains, says new study



newsroom@caledoniacourier.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read