Friday, October 24, 2014

Colorado collective draws on demand for hemp paper, printing (interview)


Entrepreneurs seek out the middle ground between paper and "green" consumerism.

Hemp paper and printing are the latest venture for longtime northern Colorado music and events promoter Morris Beegle and his Colorado Hemp Company business collective.
Hemp printing company
Loveland-based Tree Free Hemp prints this poster titled “The Many Uses of Hemp” on hemp paper. The poster was designed by Canada’sDandy Graphics and is distributed by the Rocky Mountain Hemp Association. It can be purchased for $8 (plus shipping) through RMHA.
Colorado Hemp Company is behind the NoCo Hemp Expo, an annual event that showcases hemp’s use in clothing, foods and beverages, as well as intellectuals, entrepreneurs and activists who favor the vast applications of hemp, marijuana’s non-mind-altering botanical cousin. The logistical demands for that event alone, not to mention the myriad concerts and festivals Beegle has promoted over two decades in the music business, dictate a demand for paper and printing, and that demand is mirrored worldwide.
Contrary to the dour outlook for paper characterized by the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company on television’s “The Office,” the paper industry has experienced rocky but consistent growth over the last five years, according to The Financial Times. Industry analysts attribute that growth to the fact that so many different types of products fall under the “paper” umbrella, including greeting cards, invitations, packaging, toys and housewares.
But at the same time that people are finding fresh uses for paper, so too are consumers concerned about environmental issues, with experts reporting that more than 70 percent of American consumers now think “green,” and vote with their wallets when it comes to environmental issues. What’s more, traditional paper production remains a “green” pariah: “The (tree) pulp and paper manufacturing industry is among the world’s largest users of energy and emitters of greenhouse gases, and a significant source of water pollution and landfill waste,” according to the WWF.
Beegle and the Colorado Hemp Company believe this is where hemp businesses need to push in. The result is, a site that sells hemp posters, postcards, bookmarks, invitations, promotional materials and the company’s latest product launch, hemp CD sleeves.
Here, Beegle talks about the financial viability of the hemp paper and printing business:
Colorado collective draws on demand for hemp paper, printing (interview)
Morris Beegle, who runs the Colorado Hemp Company business collective, poses at his Loveland home with a variety of hemp products. (Jenny Sparks, Loveland Reporter-Herald file)
The Cannabist: Tell us about your hemp paper website.
Beegle: is the hemp-paper printing site that falls under the Colorado Hemp Company. The site is strictly focused on offering hemp paper and packaging. Our paper is a mix of post-consumer recycled materials and hemp pulp. It’s acid- and chemical-free archival paper, and it’s sustainable, which will help minimize the deforestation that’s going on across the world.
The Cannabist: What sort of market exists for hemp paper?
Beegle: There are other tree-free papers out there. It’s mainly used for specialty printing like greeting cards, and it typically has a higher price point (than traditional paper because) it is an eco-friendly product. So the main consumers are the “green” crowd. But I think that going forward, we’re going to see more and more people leaning toward environmentally-friendly options. …
A lot of our energy is geared toward the music and poster business. Let’s say you go to Red Rocks and you see Pearl Jam or The White Stripes or Phish or whoever it may be, and they’ve got a limited-edition show poster that’s 200 or 250 copies. If that poster is printed on archival, acid-free hemp paper, it’s got more value. It’s something that people will want to hold on to, like their vinyl albums or their comic books.
The Cannabist: What else is on the horizon for the Colorado Hemp Company?
Beegle: We’re working with the author Doug Fine on a variety of things. He’s been on tour (in support of his book “Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution”), and was also in Europe recently for a big hemp conference. He’s a real ambassador for hemp. … He’s got a follow-up to “Hemp Bound” that covers his 2014 hemp tour and all the harvests in Colorado and Kentucky that he’s been to. And we’re going to print that on hemp paper come the first quarter of next year. …
We’re also working with High Hops Brewery in Windsor on a Colorado hemp beer using (Sterling farmer) Ryan Loflin’s crop from last year.
And we’re looking forward to next year’s NoCo Hemp Expo on April 4, 2015. We’re taking our event to The Ranch at the Budweiser Events Center (in Loveland). We’re going to have 40-50 vendors along with speakers, food and hemp beer.”

Hemp and Switchgrass Featured in Local Exhibit


Hemp and Pots--Grass and Trees Exhibit

An exhibit at the Drury on C-Street Gallery showcases the work of local paper sculpture artist Shirah Miriam "Mimi" Aumann who uses her work to send a message.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on the 44-piece multi-media environmental art exhibit, “Hemp and Pots—Grass and Trees.”

The pieces in the gallery on Commercial Street are made mostly of hemp and switchgrass.  They feature paper used in various approaches to showcase the fibers.  Some are lit, some aren’t, but they all have a message.
Aumann is an advocate for industrial hemp, and it shows particularly in two pieces:  “Hemp Can Save the Planet” and “Let Me Count the Ways.”  Aumann says the latter piece shows some of the many ways industrial hemp can be used.
"I took soy paste ink and mixed it with hemp oil and made some calligraphy inks so I could write on these circles of hemp.  And these darker circles, I've crushed hemp seed and put in the paper and so these are just many, many, many things that we can be making out of hemp," she said.
After decades of federal prohibition of industrial hemp, some states are bringing it back, including Kentucky, which recently planted a successful crop.
Aumann gets the hemp for her artwork mostly from Romania and Hungary.  She says it’s the strongest fiber in the world and the oldest that’s ever been found.  But there’s another reason she likes it.
"It's also the most difficult to work with, and I'm kind of like the guy that builds a ship in the bottle--I'm challenged to make the paper from it because it resists me so much," she said.
She was introduced to hand papermaking with plant fibers through the Jerusalem Fibre Artists Guild.  Aumann makes her paper in a way, she says, that’s been done since 105 AD.
"And that is that it's pulled on a screen--pulled through a vat of water and fiber--and forms on the screen, and in some countries it's dried on the screen or it can be removed from the screen and dried in other ways," she said.
She recycles and re-purposes whenever possible.  She received the Green Initiative Award in 2012 form the City of Branson for reclaiming the trunks of banana trees that College of the Ozarks uses for landscaping.  Each year, they bring the tubers into their greenhouse but discard the trunks.  A piece in her exhibit, called Banana Boat Afloat uses those fibers.
Aumann doesn’t work with trees—only plant fibers.  She gets the switchgrass used in her art from a biomass producers association in Halfway that has a ten-acre experimental switchgrass plot.  And she’s an advocate for the environment.
"And I use my art to make the message--even the titles in my art.  I have some that are very playful and provocative and then I have some that are deadly serious," she said.
An installation of a grove of three paper trees in her exhibit represents the deforestation of the Earth for paper.
The exhibit, “Hemp and Pots—Grass and Trees,” runs through October 29th at Drury on C Street, 233 E. Commercial.  Gallery hours are 1 to 5 pm Thursday and Friday and 10 to 2 the second and fourth Saturday of every month.
The film, “Bringing it Home,” which talks about industrial hemp’s past, present and future, will be shown tomorrow night (10/24) at 6 at the Gallery.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Murray State Harvests Its First Hemp Crop While Farmers Wait For Regulations to Change


Some area farmers are ready to plant industrial hemp after learning more at a bioenergy event at Murray State University today.
As the university harvested its first industrial hemp product, some farmers like David Vowell in Graves County are more than ready to plant the crop themselves.
“We are ready as soon as the legislation that allows it to be grown,” he said. “You can tell it’s something we need to have.”
Currently the hemp can only be grown for research purposes, until federal regulations change.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Adam Watson explains the crop’s revenue potential.
“When looking at grain it’s competitive with other grain crops or better. Fiber would be similar,” Watson said. “The highest yield per acre economically would be CBD oil production. It would be similar or competitive to tobacco, but again it does depend on markets and that can change.”
CBD stands for cannabidiol and the oil can be used as medicine. Some other uses for industrial hemp include fuel, clothing, plastics and paper. Murray State’s hemp will be used as horse bedding and as fuel to heat it’s equine center.
Murray State School of Agriculture Dean Tony Brannon said the school plans to continue research during the next year. The report for this year’s project will go to the state by July 2015.
“It’s gone really well. We’ve learned a lot of things to do and a lot of things not to do and that’s the same way with any research, particularly on a crop that hasn’t been grown since the 1930s,” Brannon said. “The methods used back in the 1930s have certainly changed to 2014.”
He said the crop did best in no-till soil and 30 inch rows.

Made in Glasgow: Cannabis sunglasses from Caledonian University graduate duo receive hefty public backing

THE sunglasses, part of the Hempeyewear brand, are a joint business venture of Sam Whitten and Bradley Smith.

The hemp glasses received significant public backing

CALEDONIAN University graduates went green when they designed a pair of sunglasses made from cannabis.
The sunglasses, part of the Hempeyewear brand, are a joint business venture of Sam Whitten and Bradley Smith.
Brand designer Smith said: “Part of the inspiration was that hemp is such a versatile material that was used commonly for centuries, yet few people are aware of its properties.
“Using industrial hemp to make sunglasses as opposed to say, plastic, has environmental benefits, as it uses the offcuts of a plant that is already chopped down. We just really like the way the material looks and feels, and it has a nice smell to it.”
The pair were able to produce the glasses after securing £37,367 through an online crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.
Smith says the reaction to the product has been very enthusiastic.
He said: “At first people are bemused, then they understand it, then they want a pair. Before the crowdfunding campaign there was already a massive amount of attention from design blogs and the likes, and Sam showcased early prototypes at the New Designers show in London this summer to a great reception.”
Smith believes it’s beneficial being part of brand Glasgow.
He said: “It’ll mostly contribute to the thriving design industry, being an idea that was born here, and designed here. Glasgow has a manufacturing and industrial background and I think it is important that it retains some part of that.”
Sunglasses can be purchased at .

Rules for Utah colleges to study hemp are too strict, group says

By Annie Knox

Research » State might require background checks, security protocol for crop’s cultivation.

Utah State University researchers are considering growing and studying hemp on campus. And state leaders are trying to set parameters for that research — including requiring criminal background checks for employees and allowing police into college labs and grow fields at any time.
Technically, Utah universities could apply for a permit to research hemp next month. But with state agriculture leaders still tweaking the rules, that timeline could change. "We don’t expect to have industrial hemp fields around the universities anytime soon," said Scott Ericson, Utah’s deputy agriculture commissioner.
Legislative members of the Administrative Rules Committee discussed the draft rules — and a critique from the libertarian-leaning Libertas Institute — at a meeting Wednesday. The debate is a new one for Utah: The state is green when it comes to regulating research on agricultural pot grown for its fiber. Ericson and his colleagues are hammering out the fine print related to a 2014 Utah law permitting universities to grow hemp and medical marijuana if they meet certain requirements.
State lawmakers earlier this year decided to allow the parents of children with epilepsy to use cannabis oil to control their seizures. At the same time, legislators signed off on allowing Utah colleges and universities to study marijuana and hemp. But implementation of the research component has been tricky.
The proposed rules would take effect in mid-November at the earliest — and are still up for public comment. The libertarian group says lawmakers should reject the "excessive" requirements proposed for colleges and universities. "We have identified a few provisions that exceed authority granted under the law," Libertas Institute President Connor Boyack wrote in an Oct. 7 letter to lawmakers.
Under the proposed rule, Utah colleges seeking "industrial hemp" research certificates would have to detail the kinds of hemp they plan to grow, provide criminal histories and background checks for all applicants and prepare a security plan — none of which, the libertarian group says, are required by Utah’s law.
The draft rules, Libertas argues, are too limiting and go beyond the authority lawmakers gave the Utah Department of Agriculture to oversee the hemp program. Utah’s proposed rules would allow police officers access to universities’ growing areas "at any time." Officers should have a warrant to access growing areas, the group says.

Hemp grown in Kentucky to be tried as horse bedding


Some of the harvest from industrial hemp crops grown in Kentucky as part of a pilot program will be tried out for stable bedding.
Seeds were released to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in time for late-May and early-June planting.
The trial involved the planting of 13 different varieties to assess their performance and the quality of the fiber produced.
It is understood most of the fields have just been harvested in the trial, which has used the skills of tertiary institutions across Kentucky.
Researchers intend to assess the crop for a variety of uses, including as stable bedding for horses. Some of the crop will be tested for use in textiles and biofuels
Hemp is considered well-suited to the Kentucky climate and assessments  suggest the crops have fared well, with some reportedly 10 feet tall at the time of harvest.
Kentucky passed a law in 2013 which was sought by Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and US Republican Senator Rand Paul to allow the trials.
The problem has been that federal law has treated hemp like its far more potent cousin, marijuana.
However, the Farm Bill passed by Congress this year opened the way for state agriculture departments and universities to conduct pilot programs with industrial hemp.
Hemp has uses in everything from cosmetics to clothing, concrete, highway sound barriers and insulation for homes.
The University of Kentucky’s crop was planted at its Spindletop Research Farm.
Kentucky was a leading hemp producing state before the crop was outlawed in the US due to its similarity to marijuana.
Comer said: “The University of Kentucky’s pilot program will help us recover much of the knowledge about industrial hemp production that has been lost since hemp was last grown in Kentucky.”
He said he hoped the pilot program would ultimately bring industrial hemp back to Kentucky and, with it, new jobs and new farm income.



Wholly Hemp - makers of all natural, handcrafted skincare products - now accepting Bitcoin.

Any time a business throws their hat into the ring and chooses to accept Bitcoin: it is cause to celebrate. Wholly Hemp is one of the first online merchants to embrace Bitcoin on the Bitcoin subreddit. The more merchants who accept Bitcoin as a payment method, to closer it moves to mainstream viability and, in this author’s opinion, the more stable – and sustainable – it will become. 
When the company that Robert Lestak worked for filed for bankruptcy in 2010, he and over 100 other employees were let go. Faced with unemployment but brimming with idealism, the then 18-year old was faced with a choice – either look for another job or take matters into his own hands. Deciding on the latter course of action, he began crafting handmade soaps. A self-described “soapmaker by trade but a tinkerer at heart” Robert also developed a website to sell his wares and thus Wholly Hemp was born.
Located in Camarillo, California, Wholly Hemp combines hemp seed oil and other all-natural ingredients to offer a range of hand-crafted skincare products that are safe, environmentally friendly, and never tested on animals. Soaps, moisturizers, lip balm, hair care products, and more are made on-premises and in small batches to make sure that customers receive the freshest, highest quality product possible.

Expansion and Bitcoin Adoption

Word of Wholly Hemp’s products began to spread and business grew. It grew so much that this month they were able to move into a larger facility. It was also announced that Wholly Hemp would be accepting Bitcoin as a payment option. Rather than rely on a third-party plugin, Robert decided to create his own, and the result was “a lightweight, totally custom, blockchain-based and totally decentralized  . . .  and fully automated Bitcoin payment terminal that is convenient to use for the customer and easy to operate for the administrator.”
When asked what prompted his decision to begin accepting Bitcoin, Robert had this to say:
The decision to begin accepting Bitcoin didn’t have anything to do with political or economic motives (although now ~12% of my gross sales are with Bitcoin, so it certainly has economic merit) but rather a more basic (and honestly kind of boring) reason: I had finally gotten around to playing with the Bitcoin code and seeing firsthand what was possible.
The response from the Bitcoin community has been enthusiastic, to say the least. The ease of use and the ability to be able to buy real world products are what Bitcoin users have been clamoring to see. One redditor described his experience with Wholly Hemp as follows:
“Easy as hell to buy also. It’s 4 am and I’m in bed…took less than a minute, and I didn’t have to go looking for my credit card. Buying things with BTC is fun…”

Wholly Hemp Gives Back

With his business growing, Mr. Lestak was determined not to rest on his laurels. In an effort to help others, Wholly Hemp donates twenty-five percent of all profits to provide micro-loans to women in developing countries. The loans enable these women to create self-sustaining businesses and lift themselves – and their families – out of poverty.
Unlike similar projects, Wholly Hemp circumvents local governments to get the loans directly into the hands of the women most in need. If all natural products are your bag, head on over to Wholly Hemp and treat yourself to one of their hand-made items (the Tenacious Tea Tree and Smooth Lavender soaps sound particularly inviting). You’ll be doing something good for yourself, for the Bitcoin community, and for someone else!

How family living in one of our most historic homes has struck (a different kind of) oil

Food lovers are snapping up the delicious dressings Jane Harnett is producing in Waringstown

By Stephanie Bell

Modern twist: from left, Jane Harnett (left), with dad 
Michael, mum Ann and brother William, is farming 
land that has been in her family since 1600

It was while trying to heat their grand old historic mansion house that Jane Harnett's dad decided to buy the oil press which came to be the central cog in launching a unique family business.

Harnett's Oils, based in Waringstown and run by Jane (31), with the help of her family, is Ireland's only producer of hemp oil and recently celebrated the sale of its one millionth bottle.
Their 250-acre family farm is also the only one on the island of Ireland able to grow and market its own range of oilseeds which it has been producing commercially since 2007.
Jane's customers come from across Ireland and as far away as America, France and Spain, thanks to the company's online shop.
Her products have just been crowned Best Pure Rapeseed Oil in Ireland at the National Irish Food Awards and she also recently enjoyed the distinction of being chosen as part of a select range of local artisan food companies invited to showcase their products at the House of Commons.
She grows, cold-presses, filters, bottles and markets the oilseeds at home on the farm with the help of her brother William (30), and her parents Ann and Michael.
Oilseeds are cold-pressed to produce virgin oil and then filtered, producing extra-virgin oil, which is either bottled direct or flavoured to produce a range of dressings.
Jane started the business in 2007, after studying for a BSc in Rural Resource Management and a Masters in Rural Environmental and Land Management.
Although she has worked on other farm projects over the years, it is the oil production that has given her the most satisfaction.
"It's been a long, slow process and a lot of trial and error working to perfect the oil but we are thrilled to have recently picked up Gold at the All-Ireland Food Awards, which was a blind tasting, and it's also pretty amazing to have just sold our one millionth bottle."
The farm has been in the family since 1656 and theirs is one of the most famous in Co Down, having been established by Jane's 11th great-grandfather William Waring, who founded the village of Waringstown.
Waring House, where they live, is a distinctive landmark mansion house in the middle of the village and it is here where Jane has carried on the rich tradition of her ancestors by further developing the family farm and bringing it into the 21st Century.
Jane's ancestors have lived in the house – which even features on the badge of the local cricket club – since it was completed in 1667 by William Waring.
A three-storey gentleman's house, it is the oldest unfortified mansion house in Ireland.
Jane's dad is the nephew of Margaret Parr, Holt Waring's young widow who became the well-known Mrs Waring. She received a CBE and also served as an MP and a Justice of the Peace until her death in 1968.
It is common knowledge in the village that on his way to the Battle of the Boyne General Marshal Schomberg (1615–1690) and a detachment of troops stayed in the house and their horses were watered at the nearby Planters Tavern.
While it is just home to Jane, she does value its rich history.
"My brother and I were very privileged to grow up on this old estate," she says. "The house does look very big from the front but there isn't much depth to it.
"It doesn't have the fancy ceilings of grand old historic mansions because it's too old. We have eight rooms downstairs and 10 bedrooms. It keeps mum very busy and, like any old house, it always seems to need repairing or fixing. That's one of the reasons why I went down the oil route.
"Dad bought the oil press to try and produce a biodegradable lubricant. He wanted to run engines off crops and was also working on a combined heat and power plant to try and generate biofuel and electricity to power and heat the house and farm business which is why he bought the press.
"He wanted to use our crops to heat our house and because he had the press I was able to use it for the oils. No one else had one. It was the first in Ireland."
It was her dad Michael's approach to working the family land that inspired Jane to look into growing rapeseed and hemp when she graduated from university.
Her dad was always trying to grow something different and she wanted to follow in his footsteps.
"I had read about hemp in the newspapers and in 2000 we planted our first crop and it grew really well.
"We got the Department of Agriculture's research branch to look at it for us and they found we had a better oil content compared to anywhere else in the rest of the UK. We have better daylight here, which the crops need, and very good ground.
"We had this exciting new crop but we didn't know what to do with it so we went to Loughrey Agricultural College and asked them.
"We got a grant in 2006 which allowed us to start our business.
"There was a lot to learn from what seed was best, the right moisture, and in those early days during filtering a lot of the oil ended up on the ceiling.
"We just were trying to figure it out and do it right and now we can stand over that resilience with our great quality products."
According to dad Michael, a combination of climate, location, pure air, great soil and, of course, expertise all work together to make Northern Ireland the 'Champagne' area for oilseeds in Europe.
Hemp growing takes place on farms in the Mournes while the oilseed rape field is on the Waring Estate and is alive with wildlife. Jane first took her rapeseed and hemp oils to St George's Market in Belfast in January 2008 where she has been a regular every Saturday since.
She also supplies restaurants in the Republic and sells her products in local farm shops and online. Coming from such a long history of family farming meant that Jane couldn't sit back and rest on her laurels. She has worked hard to create and ensure that the Harnett's brand has visibility through her website and promoting it at food shows and craft fairs across the island of Ireland.
"We are best known for our rapeseed and hemp oils and this is what our restaurant clients, as well as the general public, regularly buy from us," she says.
"We have also diversified our core product range to include vinaigrettes and flavour-infused oils, and we have seen a spike in sales, particularly in St George's Market."
In all of these endeavours Jane says she very much values the support from her brother and her parents.
"I feel it is our strong family network that has made producing and marketing the oil so successful," she says.
"We started small and obtained customers through trade shows, word of mouth and local promotion; however, as consumers are now becoming more educated about the health benefits of pure oil, and in particular hemp and rapeseed, we have been able to tap into this emerging market.
"Also, due to the size of our press, we are attracting attention from major supermarkets that need large volumes produced."
She has grown her range to include four main flavoured oils and three vinaigrettes, as well as dressings. Depending on what is growing wild at the time she spends hours on the family land picking blackberries and other seasonal fruits for her dressings.
"Infusing the oils with different flavours helps make it easier for people to use it in their cooking, I do it all myself.
"The oil is produced in an agricultural shed on the farm and then I have a room upstairs where I bottle it and work on the flavours.
"The crops are harvested in August and rapeseed can be dried and stored until we need it as the oil stays in the seed."
She adds: "We have garlic and chilli oil, lemon and thyme and rosemary and orange and for the vinaigrettes I have been making blackberry flavour because there were so many of them this year and today I am going to look for sloes.
"It depends what's about and what's in season. There are lots of redcurrants and blackcurrants on the farm this year and I've been picking those as well."
The future is bright for this young farmer as she develops her plans to increase market share for the oils, as well as diversifying into new lines of production.
Rapeseed oil is great for cooking, but it can also be used in yogurts and even in your beauty regime.
Local soap makers have also been using Jane's oils as they make great moisturisers due to their many omegas and vitamins.
Dad Michael is naturally proud that she is working hard to maintain the tradition started centuries ago by William Waring.
"It's interesting when you look into the history," he says.
"We've had the land here from 1600 and back then when they started to grow flax for linen they faced the same problems and ways of developing industry that are still relevant today.
"We've been growing linseed since that date and reading the history it is exactly reflected in our oil trade now – you learn to develop the quality of your product, then it takes people to get used to it and then it goes with a bang and technology improves and it's the same circle all over again."
  • For details on Harnett's Oils and the range of products, visit

Natural goodness that makes oils the healthy option

  • Rapeseed oil is fast becoming the healthy option for cooking in local kitchens with sales up by 11.5% last year and 60% at Tesco, the country's biggest supermarket
  • The advantage of rapeseed oil is that it has just 6% saturated fat content, less than half that of most olive oils
  • It also has higher levels of important fatty acids – Omega 3, 6 and 9 – than any other vegetable oil. The Omega 3 content is good for blood circulation and young brains, while Omega 6 promotes healthy skin, nails and hair
  • The oil has a much higher burning point than other types, which means it retains its health benefits when used for roasting and frying
  • The taste benefits are also being recognised for the first time with chefs like Jamie Oliver supporting rapeseed oil
  • Hemp seed oil has been dubbed "nature's most perfectly balanced oil", due to the fact it contains the perfectly balanced 3:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 essential fatty acids, determined to be the optimum requirement for long-term healthy human nutrition
  • The oil contained in the hemp seed is 75-80% polyunsaturated fatty acids (the good fats) and only 9-11% of the lesser desired saturated fatty acids
  • Hemp seed oil is reputed to be the most unsaturated oil derived from the plant kingdom
  • The essential fatty acids (EFAs) contained in the oil are required in our diet more than any other vitamin, yet our bodies do not naturally produce them
  • Hemp seed oil also provides an adequate supply of antioxidants (Vitamin E), carotene (precursor to Vitamin A), phytosterols, phospholipids and a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, sulphur, potassium, phosphorus, along with modest amounts of iron and zinc
  • Hemp seed also has a flavourful nutty taste which is perfect for cooking

Hemp Is on its Way to Your Car Battery and Many Things You Haven't Yet Imagined

New technologies are only beginning to unlock the possibilities of hemp.

By Doug Fine

The first digital-age domestic hemp crop is being harvested as I write. The subtle decrease in seismic activity currently puzzling Virginia geologists can be traced to Thomas Jefferson ceasing to spin in his grave for the first time in 77 years. 
For a century USDA biologists conducted taxpayer-funded hemp cultivar research for farmers, after all. They did this in a Virginia meadow that is today the Pentagon. And why wouldn’t they, in support of a key crop supplying the Navy with rope and earning millions for farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky (when millions meant something)? 
Then there was this weird quirk (Google “cannabis prohibition” if the cause of the quirk is news to you), and it took a tucked-in provision in the 2014 federal Farm Bill to allow hemp research to restart.
As I learned while researching my latest book,Hemp Bound, this longest utilized of agricultural products (today defined as “cannabis with less than point three percent of psychoactive THC”) is offering up a genuine opportunity to provide food and energy independence for the U.S. and beyond while stimulating a multi-billion-dollar agriculture-based economy. It might even lead to fewer resource wars. Just that. 
This is what happens when you cultivate a plant for 12 millennia. It develops a broad range of helpful properties. Want some in-the field proof?
Last week, on a suspiciously hot late September morning, I was standing in the middle of a two-acre hemp plot in Sterling, Colorado, absentmindedly nibbling ripe, Omega-balanced seeds right off the flower, while conducting an interview. I was surrounded by hemp plants taller than I. Every now and then a piercing train whistle from Warren Buffet’s BNSF nearby freight line interrupted the bee chatter.
Bill Billings, John Deere ball cap-wearing president of the Colorado Hemp Project that had commissioned this field from 67-year-old local farmer Jim Brammer, was answering my question about how the fiber side of this harvest (from a Chinese cultivar) was going to be used. 
“Supercapacitors,” he said. He said it off-handedly. What struck me was the absence of braggadocio. It was like he was suggesting the crop was going to be used for livestock bedding (a profitable, if longstanding fiber app for hemp in Europe and, starting in 2015, the Thoroughbred market in Kentucky). 
Supercapacitors are next-generation battery storage components – the kind of technology that’s going to allow a solar-powered ranch like mine to charge a week’s worth of energy from an hour of sunlight. Seems the ridged shape of hemp, when reduced to nano-sized carbon atom sheets (called graphene), causes it to outperform previously leading modes of experimental (and, by the way, environmentally unfriendly) energy storage at, according to a paper delivered at the 2014 meeting of the American Chemical Society, 1/1000th of the cost. Just that.
Billings and the deciders at the Boulder-area tech company with which the Colorado Hemp Project is partnering for the Sterling harvest asked me to keep the specifics out of this piece because the deal’s still being finalized. But the buyer is an established player in the nano arena and its CEO told me via email, “We’re interested in hemp because we believe hemp will change the way energy is created, charged, and stored.”
Brammer, the overalls-clad farmer who sowed this Sterling crop, told me that hemp drank half the water the previous season’s GMO corn crop did. He also applied no pesticides or fertilizers to the hemp, and the dang crop in places was 10 feet tall. “I didn’t put nothing but water on this field this year,” he said.
And the plants were so flower dense! Canadian farms harvest an average of 800 pounds of hemp seed per acre, leading to $250 per acre profits right from the field. That’s five times soy profits. Those 800 pounds per acre, by the way, fetch north of $20 per pound retail. That’s why in this Tri-cropping model I hype vertical control of the industry by production communities: we’re talking $336,000 in revenue for a 20-acre hemp farm in Vermont. And that’s just for the seed.
Beyond the raw seed itself, value-added products like hemp protein juices and the Slovenian hemp/clay/mint toothpaste my family is plowing through at the moment just increase the earning potential for today’s struggling farming communities. 
The Canadian industry is growing 24 percent per year. It’s poised to pass a billion dollars in revenue itself this year, its 16th in the modern era. Crew told me Canadian hemp oil (and seed cake) processors can’t keep up with demand. This is good for American farmers. 
It’s also good for the planet: while all this money is being made, putting small farmers back to work, hemp is cleaning monoculture-damaged soil via its famous phytoremediation qualities. And as Brammer confirmed, no harmful pesticides are being added. “None needed,” says the Canadian Agriculture Department page dedicated to the plant.
Hemp is already changing the playbook for the embarrassingly low one percent of Americans who farm today (down from 30 percent when cannabis prohibition began in 1937). Sustainability mixing with profitability – this is why it matters that Brammer was seeing what a non-GMO crop can do. Sterling, Colorado is in Logan County, a part of the state so conservative that 42 percent of county voters chose to secede from the rest of the state last year. I’d seen this kind of rural local pride in Kentucky and Belgium in recent weeks as well: hemp is off the table as a culture war issue. 
In the Bluegrass State, it’s a Kentucky Heritage issue for the former world hemp industry leader. Those heady days are still in the cultural memory. Don’t try to trash talk the cannabis plant in Lexington, in other words, where I attended a hemp industry meeting on the 28th floor of the Lexington Financial Center Building last week. There pinstripe suits were the norm, a Republican state senator (Paul Hornback) was in attendance, and hemp bullishness was de rigueur.  
The Colorado Hemp Project seeds, by the way, were scrumptious, and imported versions of it are already in your supermarket, at that $20 a pound. Hang tight. Local hemp is on its way. I can introduce you to the farmers. For now. Soon you won’t need my help.
I knew as I munched that I’d be looking back in a few years in awe at how fast the U.S. hemp industry has grown even from these impressive beginnings. Colorado, Vermont and Kentucky, the three most active hemp states of the 19 with hemp cultivation laws this inaugural post-Farm Bill season, have, combined, fewer than 2,000 acres planted this year (both of Hemp Bound’s 2013 hemp farming heroes, Michael Bowman and Ryan Loflin, were at it again in ’14 as well). Colorado is the only state that permitted commercial cultivation this year, ahead, let us hope briefly, of federal law. “For research purposes” is still the law of the land. 
Research plots though they may be cultivating, farmers in Kentucky have also been allowed to sell their harvest. In fact, every molecule of seed and fiber from every hemp field I visited this debut season had a buyer. That’s both saying a lot and not. It’s not much acreage, but it’s a dang good way to look back on an industry in 20 years: every single farmer always has had a buyer for everything she grew. 
Furthermore, I think we’ll see an impressive 15-fold increase in hemp acreage in 2015, to 30,000 cultivated acres. 
More even than Canadian processor Crew’s plea in Hemp Bound for American hemp cultivators to meet the double-digit increase in demand for the seed harvest, I love seeing the “hemp farmers wanted” page on Vermont oil processor American Seed and Oil’s web site. This industry is hiring! 
And it is comprised of classic American go-getters. My email inbox just pinged with a cc:d note from 40-year-old Kentucky farmer and non-profit executive Mike Lewis, an Army vet whose Growing Warriors project is providing some of the hemp fiber that will go into the paper for a coming project of mine. He can get the fiber to the pulp mill “in a couple of weeks,” he said to Morris Beegle, the fellow pioneering domestic hemp printing care of his Colorado Hemp Company. Think of the carbon-savings when not only is the entire publishing industry tree-free, but the hemp pulp doesn’t need to be shipped to or from overseas.
“But, hey,” you might be asking, “Is the infrastructure in place to develop a new industry, albeit derived from a very ancient ag product that was successful from Neolithic times through 1937?” 
All I had to do to answer that question in the Sterling hemp field was turn around. Remember those startlingly loud BNSF train whistles? Their sources were half mile-long lines of freight cars chugging by every 20 minutes, in easy walking distance from where I stood stuffing my face with protein and magnesium.
I predict that within the next two decades, today’s domestic diesel-powered transportation grid (including trucking) will be at least partly powered by U.S.-grown hemp oil. This, I hope, will be part of a transition to a hemp graphene-based electric transportation system charged by the sun and wind, supplemented by hemp biomass power at a distributed, regional, community-owned grid system. This is safer for America than one centralized master grid.
Furthermore, the fracking rigging with which the cars were loaded down this September day (a fracking industry employee at the Sterling field with me kept pointing out “directional drill pipes” and “flex drill collars” in some of the open BNSF cars, and I could see multiple active fracking rigs scarring the landscape on the drive from Denver) will give way to trainloads of hemp seed and fiber by the millions of tons. It’s win-win. Trains and trucks powered by plentiful, domestic, carbon-friendly hemp, delivering lucrative hemp to markets worldwide. Even the hemp-harvesting tractor bodies will be made from hemp fiber. If this sounds crazy to you, next time you’re in a Mercedes, kick the door panel. It won’t dent or budge: it’s made partly of hemp fiber today. 
But how do we get there? What does a hemp-intensive economy look like on the ground? To answer that, we head 1,100 miles east from the Sterling food/battery field. I learned when I set-out to kick petroleum in 2006 for an earlier book that such a big slice of the project we humans have in front of us (if we want to survive) involves developing regional economies -- food economies, energy economies, industrial economies. Think of this as the dawn of the post-Globalization era. 
Because of what all my research concludes is this locavore imperative, it shouldn’t have surprised me that another indelible memory from the Hemp Harvest Tour went down on the farm of a Kentucky veteran who began fighting for food security when his brother came home wounded from Afghanistan and had to apply for Food Stamps. This became what you might call the Hemp Heritage branch of the tour.
On a more properly autumnal afternoon, I wound south from Lexington through hills and hollows to the Rockcastle County farm that the bearded Lewis has turned into hemp headquarters for the Growing Warriors food security project of which he is executive director. There at New Constellation Farm I found myself in the barn holding hand-broke hemp bast for the first time. Lewis and I had just processed the fiber in question.
We did it care of a wooden hemp break. These are simple levered devices about the size of a horse that have been used for a few millennia to remove the plant’s valuable bast (long) fiber after the outer bark softens in the field through a process called retting. After the bark is peeled and the bast fiber removed, the shorter hurd fiber is caught in a bin underneath the machine, for use in applications like hempcrete (a building mixture comprised of hemp hurd and an organic binder like lime that insulates better than fiberglass and is all the rage in Europe) and the above-referenced livestock bedding. 
The break we were using was a shiny new device built by Lewis’ farm manager Kevin Lansi based on a traditional and ubiquitous design like the 70-year-old one Kentucky hemp pioneer Craig Lee and my pard Mose Putney had just discovered in the barn of a 5,000-acre antebellum hemp plantation that’s today the Walnut Hall Thoroughbred Ranch. Lee and Putney had kindly invited me and my Kentucky host Josh Hendrix (founder of the Kentucky branch of the Hemp Industries Association) along on their sleuthing.
A mechanized but expensive machine called a decorticator allows farmers and processors to skip the risky and time-consuming field retting stage. Without one of those doo-hickies, the harvest relies on muscles, rather than electrons. But I was surprised to find that retting hemp fiber isn’t that hard. I kind of expected that it would take a hundred sharecroppers a month to process a pound of fiber. In fact, a play-by-play goes like this:
Lift hemp break lever. Lay handful of retted hemp stalks on the platform below. Clomp clomp clomp with the lever. Easily pull off bark, exposing treasure of the world’s strongest natural fiber therein. Add to pile.
I recall that the moment the first tangly cord of that Kentucky fiber hit my hand in the Growing Warriors barn my palm enacted a sort of cinematic double take. That’s because it was soft as silk and stronger than steel. Believe me, I tried to rip it, karate chop it and stomp it. 
What shocked me was not that hemp’s durability rep was deserved (I’d held the production line bast fiber that goes into those Mercedes door panels), but that Kentucky farmers were nailing it right out of the gate. “I do a lot of reading,” Lewis admitted. Still, I thought this field-retted, hand-processed hemp had to be inferior to what the experienced big guys were doing in Europe.
Nope. This bundled skein of fiber was good enough for that most ancient and demanding of hemp applications: textiles. Listen up, struggling South Carolina clothing mill communities: later that day, a local seamstress named Stephanie Brown picked up a armful of said fiber from Lewis. “This’ll be on my loom tomorrow,” Brown told me proudly. 
And so an industry returns. Sure, we’re likely to soon be talking about machine-processed hemp by the thousands of tons. That’s terrific. What Lewis, Brown and crew showed me was a start, from (modern) year one. As Newton teaches us, launching is the hardest part. Once you do, everything is scalable. 
For Lewis, as important as hemp is, even more important is developing a rural locavore industry of any kind. “Kentucky is lucky because our topography long ago created a network of small farms, rather than huge plantations,” he told me as we strolled New Constellation’s four hundred eighty six acres (two dedicated to hemp this year, twenty-five next year). “Hemp is perfectly suited here for a broad range of regional industries made up of networks of independent farmer/entrepreneurs.” 
Vertical control of your industry: work for it in your own community. Then you don’t have to worry so much about Wall Street’s vicissitudes. 
Start with rural community-owned hemp processing that breeds vibrant regional economies. Add local energy through biomass gasification, hemp-based batteries to store it, drought-resistant plants, soil phytoremediation and seed oil superfood to the mix, and forget fantasy. There is no eventual actual hemp role in our future too grandiose to astound me at this point.  
In other words, get ready for an entire hemp market sector that will be included in the top-of-the-hour business wraps. The reality of hemp on the ground as its first federally authorized crop in the 21st century is harvested has exceeded even my most sanguine expectations. 
Phew. It wasn’t a mistake to have (human and goat) kids in the 21st century. After I milk the goats this morning, I’m off on a hike up the eponymous Funky Butte with both species, and I’m feeling more confident about my replicants’ future than I have since last year’s second “Millennial” flood this decade wiped out the Funky Butte Ranch driveway again. 
Part of the reason for my confidence is I know that from the top of the Butte I can map out the five acres I plan on devoting to hemp the moment full commercial legalization arrives. Call your Senators: S-359 takes us beyond “research” cultivation and gets us all planting: The Industrial Hemp Farming Act. God Bless America and God Bless Those Hemp Farmers.
Postscript: Everlasting thanks to Josh Hendrix and Jason Lauve, without whom the harvest tour wouldn’t have happened. I’ll never forget it. Other than when some leftovers exploded in Josh’s Ford around a tough Bluegrass State curve near his grandfather’s ranch, there wasn’t an un-blissful moment on the whole tour. Josh, 29, is founder of the Kentucky branch of the Hemp Industries Association and Jason’s hemp CV is too long to list: suffice it to say the forty-four-year-old was a principal player in hemp’s legalization in Colorado, and as I write is on his way to a hemp decorticator facility in North Carolina. He is also one of the key players that made the 2014 Sterling crop a reality.
Doug Fine is the author of Farewell, My Subaru, Too High to Fail, and most recently, Hemp Bound. Books and films: Twitter: @organiccowboy.