"Hemp Way Foods signifies, in my opinion, the hemp way of life," says Boyd. "Not just eating hemp food, but wearing hemp clothing, using hemp in your daily life."
In the early 2010s, Boyd was a cannabis activist with a NORML chapter in Denver. Simultaneously, she ran an insurance agency under the aegis of an established national company. The two pursuits ultimately conflicted, leading to the end of her job. So what to do next? Boyd loved to cook, considering it an integral part of her Mississippi family's heritage. She'd even bring lasagnas and cookies to local firefighters -- which resulted in them purchasing insurance from her agency.
Around that same time, Boyd was afflicted with a severe stomach ailment. She says, "I was having some health issues, so I really dove into the nutritional aspect of hemp." Boyd learned how its seeds are "loaded with the amino acids -- the omegas -- and their whole gamut of nutrition." Through experimentation, she devised a hemp burger that would meet her dietary needs. But, Boyd says, "I'm Southern, and I love people to eat my cooking, so I just started giving it to friends, and everyone's like, 'Wow, this is really good!'"
Today, Boyd's non-soy, non-GMO, vegan-friendly products -- a hemp burger, hemp crumbles, and Italian hemp breakfast sausage -- are available at a handful of retails locations, including Alfalfa's stores in Boulder and Louisville. And there are about eight restaurants, that serve her products; while that's less since the onset of COVID-19, Boyd says, "A couple of restaurants in , I'm doing as well as I've ever done." At the commercial kitchen she utilizes in Kittredge, Boyd recently installed a refurbished Patty-O-Matic burger molding machine. "That's going to increase my production capacity by huge amounts," she says. "It's going to probably cut my labor by 50 percent."
When it comes to manufacturing her burger, Boyd's takes a hands-on approach: "I pretty much do it all myself. I [prepare the ingredients], and then I have my employee press it. No one touches the recipe but me."
Organic hemp hearts -- the inner part of the plant's seeds -- aren't the only ingredients in the burger. In fact, hemp trails lentils and organic brown rice on the ingredients list. So why emphasize the hemp that's within the burger?
Boyd says, "People are very intrigued with hemp now, and so it does make [my product] stand out amongst all the other veggie burgers out there in the market." Still, she acknowledges, some folks still cling to negative associations with hemp, given that the high-THC version of the cannabis plant is used as a recreational drug. Boyd's weighed both the pros and cons of her company's name -- and has even secured the rights to an alternate DBA, Plant Way Foods. But she's decided to stick with Hemp Way Foods. "I'm very proud that hemp is in my food," she says.
Her burger's gotten positive feedback at events like the NoCo Hemp Expo in Northern Colorado and the Hemp and Hops Festival on the Western Slope. "I've had people tell me it's a little bit like falafel," she says, before adding, "It definitely does not mimic meat."
Boyd provides a series of recipes that her products can be seamlessly incorporated into, like hemp pesto aioli and hemp hummus. Additionally, her delivery menu includes a hemp pot pie and hemp stuffed shells, hemp taco salad, and hemp shepherd's pie. She's even added her hemp preparation into a chocolate mousse.
Still an activist, Boyd has lectured on hemp nutrition at close to 20 conferences -- spanning geographically from Colorado to Oregon. She tells people, "When you introduce high fiber, amino acids, omegas [3 and 6 acids] -- that's how you start healing your body with proper eating. Because we are what we eat. There's no additives [in my food]; everything's in there is for beneficial purposes."
Boyd happily adds, "People literally tell me, 'Wow, Carla! My stomach smiles after I eat your food!'"
Challenges: Boyd says it's "finding the right funding and business group" to partner with.
Opportunities: "I think COVID showed us our national food supply system is not working," says Boyd. Instead, she advocates a regional food supply model -- for the country, as well as in terms of moving her products forward. Perhaps a "franchise model" -- which could be adopted in states like Kentucky and Texas -- instead of a huge central hub churning out, say, "a million burgers a day."
Needs: "It's a fine line between money and more accounts," Boyd says. "I would say probably getting bigger and larger accounts, growing our account base within restaurants."