October 2, 2009 – Michael Krahn’s life changed when he discovered the hemp plant in an Amsterdam, Holland shop in 1997.Picture 29

Krahn learned that hemp, one of the world’s first cultivated fibre plants, can be used to meet just about every requirement of society. Armed with the knowledge about its versatility as a health food, clothing fabric and construction material, he settled in Gimli, Manitoba Canada and opened a hemp business in his home in 2001.

Over the years, many Gimli area residents have concluded that Krahn might be on to something. His business — Fish Lips — spread gradually from his home to three increasingly prominent downtown Gimli locations before he undertook his latest and largest expansion in September. It was the opening of Fish Lips Hemp Shop and Cafe on the northwest corner of Centre St. and Second Ave.

“I’ve wanted to add a cafe right from the beginning,” says Krahn who has designed the cafe’s menu to complement his environmentally friendly hemp products.

He believes the many uses of hemp have led to the steady growth of his enterprise.

“Hemp can feed, house, fuel and clothe you,” he said. “It can be an alternative to anything made from wood, oil and plastic. And it can also be the basis for a healthy diet.”

Krahn said the plant’s shelled seeds — called Hemp Heartz — can lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as reducing arthritic swelling. He also said hemp seeds and oil increase energy, improve digestion and ward off such diseases as diabetes.

“They have the lowest content of bad fats and the greatest content of good fats,” he said.

He disputes the perception that hemp is a drug that will make users high. While both hemp and marijuana belong to the Cannabis family, he says there is a big difference between his multi-use plant and marijuana which is limited to smoking.

“People will not get high from hemp,” said Krahn who advertises his premises as “ a respectable joint” to denote that everything he does is legal. “It’s like corn, potatoes and barley. They are ingredients in alcohol, but you don’t get drunk every time you eat them.”

Krahn carries more than 40 different hemp-based products in the shop adjoining his cafe. The clothing line includes shirts, pants, jeans, hoodies, jackets, socks, shoes, bags and twine. Hemp food items range from flour to milk and cereal while personal care items on the shelves are a shampoo, a conditioner, hand and body lotion, bath and massage oil, and a moisturizing cream.

The hemp entrepreneur said his sales support not only Fish Lips, but also a growing number of Manitoba hemp farmers. Two of the biggest producers of an increasingly large crop are Hemp Food Producers of Dauphin and Winnipeg and Prairie Emeralds of Arborg and Ste. Agathe.

Krahn — who spent his early years in Jasper, Alta., and later attended Gimli High School — has set hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for his shop and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the cafe. That provides an opportunity for customers to sample a hemp protein shake and organic edibles before they buy products to take home.

“We buy mostly local food products and baking,” Krahn said. “Our suppliers include Green Beans fair trade coffee of Petersfied and Integrity Foods of Riverton.”

Although he has already had four expansions, Krahn does not plan to stand pat. In future, he plans to market industrial hemp products such as environment-friendly, bio-degradable insulation, gyproc and cement.

“The products we use today affect the planet that we leave for our children,” he said. “By purchasing products made from hemp, people are directly supporting the transition to a healthier community and lake.”

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