Hemp farming has become legal again in 31 states in the US, with more farmers expecting to grow it in the near future. Looking back at the history of hemp farming and its diverse sustainable uses today, it’s exciting to see how this crop might once again play valuable roles in our economy, our environment, and health. Photo from Dr. Bronners Instagram.
While industrial hemp is often thought of as a new crop, it was actually one of the first plants to be cultivated. For 10,000 years, people have been using hemp fiber for textiles, paper, rope, sails, cloth, and shoes. Today, we’re still learning about what hemp can do, especially in terms of sustainable, healthy, and eco-friendly building materials like insulation and 'hempcrete', a nontoxic and mold-resistant building material. And as farmers and hemp advocates like to make clear--what hemp is not, is a drug.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
Here in the US, hemp played a huge role in agriculture, especially in Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin. This long history was disrupted in 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act placed a tax on all cannabis sales including hemp, which discouraged farmers from growing it.
Researchers today believe that two anti-hemp corporations--the DuPont company, which produced nylon, and Hearst, one of the world’s largest magazine publishers--conspired to ruin hemp’s reputation. Despite this tax, hemp production peaked during WWII, encouraged by the USDA film called Hemp for Victory.
Soon after the war, a negative stance toward hemp regained traction, with synthetic materials like plastic and nylon being touted instead. Eventually, in 1970, hemp production was banned altogether with the Controlled Substances Act. It was only after decades of debate when the 2014 Farm Bill enabled university researchers to begin researching the crop.
Farmers today are discovering that hemp requires less water than wheat, reduces soil degradation, and thrives in dry climates. When used to make paper, hemp requires fewer chemicals for processing. In terms of food, hemp seeds (above) are more protein-rich than soy, and oil from hemp seeds is rich in essential fatty acids while low in saturated fats.
As we face global warming and a challenging economic climate for farmers, hemp might be a great new crop for growers everywhere, especially in regions that need jobs. Certified Naturally Grown is proud to certify sustainable hemp producers. Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on our first CNG hemp farm!