Montoursville mill aims to expand product line

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette
Susquehanna Mills has teamed up with the Pennsylvania Hemp Co. to grow and produce new cooking oils including canola, sunflower, and hemp seed oil.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Susquehanna Mills has teamed up with the Pennsylvania Hemp Co. to grow and produce new cooking oils including canola, sunflower, and hemp seed oil.

Adam Thompson and Josh Leidhecker are building a business which includes hemp oil-based products.

Thanks to recently passed state legislation that allows farmers to harvest hemp, the two see their small enterprise only growing.

Penn’s Best Mills Co., Montoursville already has been operating under that name since the beginning of this year, turning out cooking oils, including two hemp blends, from their oil seed mill along Route 87.

“Right now, we just launched our product line at Wegmans,” said Thompson.

The hemp oil used for their products has been shipped in from Canada, where it legally can be grown.

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that allows the state to join many others in the U.S. in the legal harvesting of hemp.

Thompson said it means bringing a cash crop to the state and new opportunities for local farmers.

And, he’d like to keep the business local.

The business is not strictly focused on hemp-related products.

The business buys sunflower seed oil and Rapsol —  or canola —  seed oil from Paradise Vally Organic Farms, Limestoneville and Provident Farms, Liberty for some of their product line.

“We go ahead and mill that in our mill,” Thompson said.

In launching the business, Thompson and Leidhecker were able to merge their talents.

Leidhecker, owner of Susquehanna Mills Co. was initially approached by Thompson, about developing a product for sale.

Thompson had been running Pennsylvania Hemp Co. whose mission has been to develop a hemp industry in the state to provide farmers and industries an avenue to buy and sell domestically grown hemp.

“I had the marketing capability and Adam has the drive and organizing skills,” Leidhecker said. “It was a good partnership.”

Leidhecker admitted he was reluctant about the business at first, especially given much of the public’s view of hemp and its link to illegal marijuana and the drug culture.

Thompson agreed.

“Saying you want to do hemp was a big leap for us,” he said.

But both perceived great possibilities in such a venture.

Complicating their business venture was the fact that legislation to legalize the harvesting of hemp still had not occurred.

“We wanted to develop the product in anticipation of the legislation,” Leidecker said.

Thompson, a founding member of the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, has lobbied for hemp since legislation was introduced in 2015. The Pennsylvania College graduate with associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a bachelors’s degree in Business Management, lived for a time in Colorado where the hemp movement earlier gained a foothold.

He said the two spent a lot of time on labeling to attract customers to their product line. Their cooking oils sold in bottles can be found not only in Wegmans, but at a number of local stores, such as Fresh Life in Loyalsock Township.

Right now, Thompson has high hopes for the business, given the many uses and benefits of hemp.

Hemp oil contains ingredients that help with lowering cholesterol, reducing heart attack risk, aiding the metabolic processing of fats and preventing cancer, according to Medical News Today.

Eventually, they want to build a new and bigger mill that will better serve what they hope becomes a growing business.

The sky is simply the limit right now, they believe, for the hemp industry.

“We are at the very beginning of this,” Thompson said.