For thousands of years, human beings have cultivated hemp. Its strong fibers were woven into rope and cloth, setting our ships out to sea; pulp was pressed down into paper, carrying our words on to future generations. America, and much of the western world, continued to thrive on hemp well into the 20th century.
Eventually, hemp was abandoned in favor of synthetic materials pioneered by companies that were heavily invested in the timber, oil, steel, and chemical industries. Since 1937, the cultivation of industrial hemp has been outlawed by our federal government. However, the 2015 Farm Bill now allows states to grow hemp for research purposes.
While the politics of hemp have been argued for generations, the plant remains the same. A source of food and shelter, it has been discovered that hemp sequesters significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Acting as a carbon store, absorbing atmospheric C02 during the entire growing cycle, 1 acre of hemp plants sequester 10 times the carbon that 1 acre of trees does. Industrial hemp plants can also be grown close together, with new growth crowding out any competition. When grown properly, industrial hemp has shown little need of insecticides or fungicides. Hemp is incredibly yielding and easy to grow, with only 8 known pests that can cause any critical problems, making hemp an excellent candidate for organic farming.
For many years, scientists have known hemp as a far more viable source of raw materials than other sources still being used to this day. In 1916, it was discovered that hemp can produce two to four times more raw fiber than trees. This is mainly due to hemp plants growing so quickly and maturing in an average of 100 days! The resilient and hardy hemp plant is 70% cellulose. This cellulose, as well as other materials derived from this plant, can be made into fabric, paper, plastic, fuel, as well as countless other applications.
One of hemp’s greatest gifts are the shelled seeds, or “hemp hearts.” Hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source. These seeds contain a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which is considered in the optimal range for absorption. These crunchy little seeds have a mild, nutty aroma, and can be found organically grown from our neighbors in Canada.
If we choose to use goods made from hemp and vote in favor of industrial hemp, we can turn the tide. We can choose foods and resources that are truly sustainable. The choice is ours. Let’s try to go green!