Our nation’s had a very long and complicated relationship with hemp. On the one hand the plant used to be required to be grown on all farms, not to mention a draft of the constitution was written on hemp paper. It wasn’t long after that the paper industry launched their attack on the plant and its THC rich sister cannabis strains. Nearly a century later we’re finally about to start reintegrating hemp into our agricultural utility belt. Farmers in West Virginia are about to hit the ground running with some testing plots to report back on how viable this crop could actually be to start making some serious cash. There are only some select farmers that have received the permits so far, but depending on how their experiences go this could be a huge homecoming for hemp to the state it was once commonly grown in. Hopefully things go well so that we can start utilizing hemp for its dozens of versatile purposes.
One farmer that is pioneering the way in these test is Dave Hawkins. He’s fought his way through all of the barriers that have been set up to keep him from growing hemp. The program is still in its early stages and there were a lot of scary moments that almost brought it to a halt. For example, earlier this year a rules bill passed that almost ended the research before he had even planted any of his crops. Only a few other growers made it through the process along with Hawkins to get their permits from the Department of Agriculture. Now that he has his permit, he’s got big plans on what he’s going to do with it. Hawkins has three hemp plots that house over five varieties of hemp. The difference between each plot is that one has no fertilizer, one has manure, and one has a nitrogen enriched fertilizer. Hawkins will report all of his findings to a master’s agronomy student at West Virginia University to be analyzed. He also has three of these seed varieties that are for fiber production and two for seed production in the plots.
Fiber is just the beginning, though. If this experiment goes well and shows that hemp is as cheap and easy to grow as many people think it’s going to be, then we could see a huge shift to a plethora of hemp based products. Others believe that it is unrealistic to expect farmers to buy new equipment to start growing hemp, but supporters of the movement believe that farmers are more likely to be repurposing older tractors that they weren’t using anymore to initially test out the viability of hemp as a crop. Maybe we can someday get back to the staggering 150 million pounds of hemp that we produced as a nation in 1943 during World War II. Once we do get back to that point, I expect that we’ll be seeing lots of products changing, that we had absolutely no idea hemp could be used as a substitute for. Even some microbreweries have started using hemp as a replacement for the malt in beers. Obviously there are some more practical applications, but it puts things into perspective just how versatile the plant can really be.