Hemp! Here — All About It!
June 27, 2014
Dear Wisconsin Farmers,
Let me tell you about hemp. Industrial hemp (marijuana’s non-psychotropic sibling), is used as raw material in buildings, houses, insulation, roofing, car door panels, fiber for clothing and rope, paper and as a food crop for the nutritious seeds in the form of hemp oil, hemp butter, hemp milk, energy bars, protein mixes and countless other culinary uses. This dual-use crop has economic benefits for farmers and is projected to be an $80 billion a year industry, greater than corn and soy combined. Canadian farmers are growing it, making $250 an acre and selling it to the U.S.
The best thing about hemp is that growing it doesn’t require any herbicides, as it grows like a weed it can tolerate close planting and can even choke out thistle. It grows on degraded soils and farmers are able to reap a profit on marginal land. Hemp actually improves the soil with its root structure. Its long taproot is important on the farm for soil stabilization and industrial hemp has phytoremediation potential, meaning that it the plants can help repair polluted soil.
There are some other experimental hemp projects out there. In Canada and North Carolina they are making houses out of hemp bricks (“hempcrete”) which are breathable and have an insulating value of R-20!
They are making tractors out of hemp also in Canada; the housing but also door panels, and biodiesel out of the hemp seed oil to run the tractors. What does all of the hemp in the tractor housing do? Industrial hemp makes the tractors lighter so they take less fuel to run and the housing is stronger than traditional materials. Imagine if we could do that with cars here in the U.S.? Our cars would be lighter, more fuel efficient, stronger, and quieter (because hemp in car door panels is insulating). Guess what? In 1941, Henry Ford developed a hemp plastic car http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryO2JLzFPTY .
Imagine if hemp fiber could be a solution to the difficulties cotton growers face. The cotton crop is a heavily irrigated crop often grown in climates with little rain and requires tons of pesticides thanks to the bull weevil. Cotton is a very expensive crop to grow and the costs on our natural resources are greater. Cotton needs approximately 1400 gallons of water for every pound of cotton produced. Industrial hemp needs half the amount of water yet produces 200% – 250% more fiber in the same amount of acreage compared to cotton.
So, why aren’t Wisconsin farmers growing hemp? Why aren’t our factories producing insulation for our houses out of this renewable resource? It’s illegal to grow it in Wisconsin. Hemp cannot get you “high” but it is illegal to grow it because it looks like a plant that can. With that kind of logic, powdered sugar should be illegal because it looks like cocaine – except powdered sugar isn’t healthy and hemp seeds are nutritional. Hemp seeds are high in protein and contain all nine of the essential amino acids, vitamin E, and a balanced ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats.
Wisconsin could be growing the raw materials for insulation, roofing, car door panels, fiber, rope, and paper. Wisconsin could be growing a new food crop of nutritious seeds that are used in the form of hemp oil, hemp butter, hemp milk, energy bars, and protein mixes. And, since this crop is a dual crop, 2-for-1, each acre planted by Wisconsin farmers could be two harvests; one for food and one for the industrial uses.
Wisconsin farmers, please answer this question. Do we want to be part of an industry that is projected to be $80 billion dollars a year?
More information on Industrial Hemp:
To learn about modern houses made of hempcrete : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZbYsMsMW4Q
To read about health benefits of hemp seeds:
Facts about Industrial Hemp:
To watch the original Transcript of the original 1942 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Film, “Hemp for Victory” extolling some of the many uses of this ancient plant and premier world resource. This film was created to encourage US farmers to grow hemp to support the war effort during WWII.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTnsfFbSaf0 (4 min)
For an article on the history of Hemp in Wisconsin by David P. West, PhD (Plant Breeding and Genetics) http://www.newheadnews.com/hemp/Hemp.in.Wis.html
For a great book on Industrial Hemp:
For a great documentary on Industrial Hemp:
Growing Industrial Hemp, a resource for farmers: