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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Industrial Hemp and Celebrating Hemp History Week

On Thursday, June 9th, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute hosted the documentary screening, “Bringing It Home,” a movie about Industrial Hemp and celebrating Hemp History Week. A big thank you to all who attended and to our sponsors and in-kind donors: Dr. Bronners, Hemp History Week, Hemp Traders, Manitoba Harvest, Natierra, and Natures Harvest.

For those of you who didn’t get to attend, “Bringing It Home,” spoke about the history of industrial Hemp, some of the confusion surrounding it, the nutritional benefits of hemp seeds, fiber qualities, houses and insulation made out of hempcrete (a mixture of hemp shiv and natural cement), and further spoke about the mold and pest resistance of the hempcrete insulation.

Since the event comments have been pouring in and I’d like to quote some of these here. “Wow! Clothes, Food, Homes. What more could you need?” So true, and yet industrial hemp can provide much more than that. Another comment, upon hearing about how the plant breeds, “So, you mean when they go around and burn the [sic] ditch weed, they were actually paving the way for growers of drug-varieties of cannabis?” Never thought of it that way before, but yes pollen from industrial hemp would ruin a crop of the drug-variety of cannabis. “I never knew about hempcrete before.” Hempcrete is a building material that incorporates industrial hemp into its mixture. It is very versatile as it can be used for wall insulation, flooring, walls, roofing and more. It’s fire-proof, water-proof, and rot-proof as long as it’s above ground. Hempcrete is made from the shiv or inside stem of the hemp plant and is then mixed with a lime base binder to create the building material.

We are also thirsty for research about industrial hemp. Comparisons of hemp fiber vs bamboo fiber are needed. Comparison between the costs of traditional builds using concrete vs those made with hempcrete are also needed. For example, concrete is made up of three basic components: water, aggregate (rock, sand, or gravel) and Portland cement. Portland cement is manufactured through a closely controlled chemical combination of calcium, silicon, aluminum, iron and other ingredients. Common materials used to manufacture cement include limestone, shells, and chalk or marl combined with shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, silica sand, and iron ore. These ingredients, when heated at high temperatures form a rock-like substance that is ground into the fine powder that we commonly think of as cement. What are the energy costs of the high temperatures needed to produce cement? What are the energy costs on sourcing the materials? What is the insulation value of cement? Will you need to purchase additional insulation? What are the (environmental) costs of purchasing the additional insulation? Will the insulation need to be replaced if it gets moldy? Carbon sequestration values of cement?

On the other hand, what are the energy costs associated with hempcrete? Fuel used during planting, harvesting, & processing? Energy costs associated with the lime? Energy costs for importing hemp shiv (these could be greatly reduced by growing our own industrial hemp.)? How much industrial hemp can one acre produce and how much hempcrete does that equal? Hempcrete can have an insulation value of R-20 to R-30 depending on the thickness of the walls, and it is mold and pest resistant. Carbon sequestration values of hempcrete? These and other questions all should be asked.

These conversations prompted the idea for more educational opportunities to learn about industrial hemp. In a perfect world, if you were remodeling your home and wanted to replace or add insulation, you could grow your own insulation. With some planning, you could plant enough industrial hemp, to make your own insulation, and just order in some lime or some natural cement.

It would be great to gather a group of people, enough for a critical mass to hold a hempcrete building workshop and educational experience. Please contact Allison Pratt-Szeliga at apszeliga@michaelfields.org or 262-642-3303×107 if you are interested in learning how to use hempcrete in a hands-on workshop.

 

Hemp Product Samples!   IMG_0010