Small bites: HempX festival makes its debut

A GREEN BLACKLIST: Despite hemp's federal classification as a Schedule I controlled substance, states are allowed to enact laws surrounding the farming of industrial hemp, which does not contain enough THC to cause psychoactive effects. But not North Carolina. “We have strong indicators that our legislators are taking a hard look at legalization, but no timetable has been put forth yet,” says HempX festival director Blake Butler, pictured at a processing plant in Spring Hope.

Proponents of industrial hemp cultivation aren’t just hoping for North Carolina’s legalization of the agricultural activity; they’re also organizing to educate consumers on the economic potential and myriad uses of the nonpsychoactive variety of cannabis. Accordingly, Asheville’s inaugural HempX — a free, two-day, family-friendly event inspired by the controversial plant — aims to inform in addition to tilling the new business landscape.

“Asheville and Western N.C. are in unique positions to benefit considerably from the legalization of industrial hemp. Between thousands of acres of unused farmland and vacant textile mills in every county, this is a true, unrecognized economic opportunity for our region,” says Blake Butler, festival coordinator, adding that the plant is currently imported for commercial purposes since it can’t be grown. “HempX is all about understanding how to build a new economy.”

To that end, Butler’s event will include panel discussions featuring local thought leaders and experts from states where farming hemp is legal. They’ll cover the implications of the crop — which is currently lumped in with marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act despite containing only trace amounts of the psychoactive substance THC; however, states can establish their own statutes to regulate growing — on multiple industries, including clothing, consumer goods, fibers, agriculture and food. Live music performances, food trucks and a hemp-friendly business expo round out the programming.

“For food, the hemp seeds are used to create hemp seed oil,” Butler says, listing cooking oil, salad dressings, margarine and vitamins as derivative products. The seeds themselves can also be used in any number of dishes.

In fact, Plant chef Jason Sellers will demonstrate their versatility, kicking off the festival with A Taste of Hemp Seed — his lunch featuring hemp seeds, oil and flour in various small plates. Also on the menu is Smiling Hara Tempeh’s Hempeh, which uses hemp grown by fellow panelist (and the first farmer to legally grow hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill) Mike Lewis. At $20 per person, it’s the only ticketed portion of the festival, with proceeds benefiting Accelerating Appalachia.

“There are over 25,000 products that are produced from hemp and different parts of the plant are used for different purposes,” Butler says. “We believe this is the best idea and agricultural commodity to revitalize the family farm in North Carolina.”

HempX is at Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway, on Friday-Saturday, Sept. 18-19, at various times. Visit hempxasheville.com for more information.

Earth Fare’s 40th anniversary

Earth Fare President and CEO Frank Scorpiniti recently visited his organic and natural food store’s flagship location at Westgate Regional Shopping Center to usher the company over the hill and dub Sept. 9 “Earth Fare Day,” adding: “Our customers can shop with confidence that our food is free from artificial ingredients, from high fructose corn syrup and from added antibiotics. We read the labels so our customers don’t have to.” In honor of the Asheville-based chain’s 40th anniversary, shoppers can enjoy special deals through Tuesday, Sept. 22, plus the debut of the Heirloom Collection, a selection of products made by businesses that have partnered with Earth Fare since it began. Shoppers also have the chance to win free groceries for a year ($100 per week) online.

Earth Fare is at 68 Westgate Parkway and 1856 Hendersonville Road. Visit earthfare40.com for more information on weekly deals and giveaways.

Sugar Shack Donuts’ new Asheville location

Add Sugar Shack Donuts to your bucket list of local confectioners. The Richmond-bred company — which already vends its handmade, small-batch doughnuts and other sweets from several locations in its home state — is expanding and opening a location at 760 Biltmore Ave. by 2016. Sugar Shack was voted as one of the Top Ten Tastiest Donuts in America by USA Today readers and Best Small Business by Richmond Magazine, and management emphasizes locally sourcing many ingredients like milk, teas, herbs and produce.

Visit sugarshackdonuts.com for information and updates on Sugar Shack’s progress.

Hometown Breakfast Battle

It’s hard enough winning a foodie battle among competitors from one town, but The Market Place chef William Dissen is up against 134 culinary talents from cities across the nation in the Hometown Breakfast Battle — organized by Thomas’ brand to commemorate the company’s 135th year in business. For his part, Dissen is upgrading Thomas’ whole-grain English muffin to include avocado, sunny quail eggs, pickled red onions, radish and pea greens.

Breakfast enthusiasts can check out the wake-up creation and help Dissen advance to the next round by voting at thomasbreakfastbattle.com before 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27. Voting for subsequent rounds takes place throughout October.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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