Working the local value chain in Poland

Daniel Bajas, Natacha Leban and Karol Bajas of Good Foods have built a hemp business model close to the source.Daniel Bajas, Natacha Leban and Karol Bajas of Good Foods have built a hemp business model close to the source.

From a one-hectare (circa 2.5 acres) pilot hemp growing project started in 2012, business partners Daniel Bajas and Natacha Leban have developed a flourishing localized hemp value chain producing high-quality products, hand-made the old fashion way.

“We process everything with the simplest, least invasive methods possible,” said Bajas, whose company, Good Foods, turns out a wide range of food products from a processing facility created in 2014. Good Foods’ branded product lineup includes cold pressed hemp oil, chocolates with hemp seeds and bee pollen; honeys with hemp-flower extract and shelled seeds, and fruit-flavored teas. The company also offers basic bulk foods such as whole and hulled seeds, and hemp flour.

See the GoodFoods 2017 Harvest Report

While Good Foods grows and harvests hemp on its own small farm, expansion depends on convincing local farmers to grow hemp. That seems to be working, as the company this year will help local farmers plant 50 ha (124 acres), up from just 20 (50 acres) in 2016, all of which will be processed by Good Foods.

Hemp missionaries

“Our goal is also to create a model local hemp supply chain for the neighborhood bakery, dairy, and so on,” Natacha Leban said. “We’d like to set a working example for locally made products, to put nutritious hemp foodstuffs on tables all across Poland in things like bread, hemp milk, cheese or butter,” she added.

Along with running their own hemp business, Bajas and Leban see hemp as a mission. “We continuously promote the cultivation and processing of the crop,” said Bajas, who early on launched Włókniści PL, an organization whose aim is to restore Poland’s hemp agriculture legacy. Under it, Bajas holds workshops to which he invites farmers to try to convince them of hemp’s income potential. Włókniści is also co-organizer of Poland’s most prestigious industry event, Hemp Days, which this year will mark its fifth run.

“We also participate in projects aimed at developing inexpensive methods for obtaining cannabinoids (CBD) for human and animal consumption,” Bajas said, while concurrently working to adapt traditional farm equipment for hemp harvesting, and seeking solutions for processing machines and systems for hemp-based construction materials, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Rush to fill a gap

While Poland’s health food market is still in its infancy, Leban said awareness of hemp as a source of nutrition is growing among that segment of the market seeking healthier lifestyles. “But there’s still a lack of proven products in Polish grocery stores,” she said. That leaves a gap Good Foods is rushing to fill. “Our customer base and our distribution are continuing to expand nicely,” she said. Good Foods also operates an online shop where sales are gradually increasing, according to Leban.

“Hemp has such great potential for the Polish economy, especially that its cultivation does not require any chemicals, and manufactured products can be 100% biodegradable and environmentally friendly,” Bajas said.