To hemp or not to hemp – Part 2

The journey continues into the modern and historical world of hemp.

One important factor I figured out relatively quickly was the following. As my focus is on the small scale, grassroots, community level in whatever issue, I couldn’t help but be frustrated with the fact that my internet searches kept bringing me to industrial hemp so essentially big hemp industry so big ag (agriculture) & big industry, aka as capitalist industry, corporate industry.

I was like where’s the info on small scale hemp?!?!

I finally figured out that you needed to use the search term, ‘traditional hemp’, in order to find info on hemp of days gone by, so hemp pre-WWI & WWII.

I actually came across an uploaded publication from the USDA (U.S. dept of agriculture) Farmer’s Bulletin No. 1935 entitled simply Hemp. Hemp wasn’t actually made illegal to grow without a permit until 1970, but other pressures saw to its plunging popularity in the 1930s. Again watch the documentaries I mentioned in Part 1.

I also stumbled upon an article from 2013, “Why Legalized Hemp Will Not Be a Miracle Crop” which in my opinion is outdated and thus wrong in its assessment considering where we are now. the following: “… the [U.S.] federal government incredibly enough … still classifie[s] [hemp] as a Schedule I narcotic. That means the government considers it among the most dangerous of illegal drugs and attaches the most severe criminal penalties to it. Even though smoking it would do no more than perhaps give you a headache. Like marijuana, hemp contains the psychoactive ingredient THC, but in such small amounts it’s almost not measurable in hemp.” https://modernfarmer.com/2013/10/legal-industrial-hemp-wont-matter/

I have to thank google for taking on the task of digitizing many old books as it was here that I found treatises on how hemp was cultivated and processed generations ago.

The tools used in the traditional hemp industry are wonderfully basic. You need wood materials and some metal. The scythe to harvest the crop, the wooden breaker to separate the fibre from the woody stalk, the wooden ‘brush’ with metal teeth to separate the fibres.

My internet searches also confirmed that the hemp industry in Canada which is pretty much only industrial hemp scale is centered in Manitoba, to a lesser extent in Saskatchewan, BC, and Ontario. Where the small scale is evident is in the end product. The bulk of the hemp sector is focused in the retail sector. I did a search with the keywords of hemp & Canada in linkedin.

I couldn’t help but feel ‘here we go again’. We have the usual players in an industry where the raw inputs are from farmers, then we have the middle industries that take the crop from farmers and convert it into various products, then retail sales take the finished products to clients. As is the standard practice, the farmers will not be making the $ on this. It will be the players afterwards that make the ‘big’ bucks.

The same thing is/has already happened in the now legalization of marijuana industry. I’m sorry but the term ‘venture capitalist’ or ‘venture capital’ makes me want to scream and vomit – not sure in which order but most likely in repeated cycles – and then I fantasize about acting out all these nasty thoughts in my brain. How can anyone be proud of being a venture capitalist. When I was looking up the background to this, I came across this line: “Frankly, most VC guys give me the creeps”. (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230526), written by an entrepreneur with some good advice – entrepreneur beware. The term just reeks of greed & selfishness, which the capitalist system just adores. No wonder the world is just so fucked up when we value such traits as virtues.

This was so apparent to me in the following situation that I experienced more than a year ago when I came across hemp products being sold in this part of Canada. There is a company which I will not name that is focusing on production of hemp seed products. This small biz was looking for folks/farmers to grow hemp. In conversations with one of the co-founders, I understood they were looking for land to grow more hemp as they had the equipment, as well as looking for farmers to do some growing as well. I offered my land, my fallow fields, on several occasions, both in face to face conversations with no indication of a ‘no thanks’, in phone voicemail messages and in email messages.

Perhaps I can chock it up to the typical cultural trait in the Maritimes, but I don’t really care if this is the reason. The outcome of my attempts was nothing, NADA. None of my offers ever received the decency of a reply. I take the lack of reply as a sign of disrespect. Why would I ever want to do business with a person or company that does not respond to several repeated modes of contact? In hindsight, I just couldn’t help but think this company wanted to make $ in processing & retail end; they were not about helping out farmers. Fair enough – obviously they can do what they want but I just felt there was some misrepresentation.

I have recently connected with a fellow in Cape Breton who I believe is also seeking to go the route of industrial hemp, with a focus on manufacturing so big industry. We plan on meeting up to have a conversation so that’s good. Connecting with folks in or interested in the industry is good, I firmly believing sharing information is the way to go.

I do have to ask – what motivates someone to think of creating a big industry business? In light of today’s catastrophic problems (climate change, economic collapse, etc…), why would anyone in their right mind seek to undertake such a large scale enterprise? Such thinking denies, ignores the reality of what is comind down the pipe.

So in light of all of this, an idea of how to organize this initiative is the following:

It would be a non-profit multistakeholder cooperative where all players would equally benefit. The different stakeholders would include: i) the farmers, ii) the processors, iii) the buyers – individuals or retail enterprises. I already know how to set up such a coop having done so several years ago now.

It would be community based and focused on all levels from the producers to the customers.

This is not about doing big industry.

This is not about making a quick return on investment (ROI).

This is not about making big bucks.

This is not about export.

This is about a long term industry.

This is about a community and/or regional industry, e.g. the Northshore of NS.

This is about having an industry that can employ local folks, it would be labour intensive.

The is about work that would be seasonal in many cases.

The is about work that would contribute to one’s livelihood.

This is about creating an industry that brings together various members of a community who have different skills and experience.

This is about pooling resources, financial and others, to get this project up and running. Some folks may be able to contribute $, others may be able to contribute land or equipment, others time.

This is about bringing back into use fallow farm land.

This is about organic and non-GMO agriculture.

This is about re-creating an industry that benefits individual people, a community and the land.

This is about creating a destination experience to draw in visitors.

This is about creating an educational experience.

This is about creating high value or premium products.

This is about addressing one of human’s fundamental needs – that of needing clothing.

As for what end products should be the focus, I haven’t yet decided. I really like the idea of:

– insulation, something that could replace the horrible fibreglass

– animal bedding for horses, pigs, rabbits, etc…

– animal feed – I am sick & tired of being at the mercy of animal feed companies, the bulk of which is either non-organic and often contains GMO products, e.g. corn.

At the end of the day, any product could be made. It would just depend on interest, expertise and buyers of said products. Here’s a neat graphic I came across showing all the products – click to enlarge.

 

In the growing of the crop, I like the idea that:

– you don’t need to use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc… – in essence you can grow hemp organically

– you can cut the crop with human powered tools, e.g. the scythe – a skill that many will need to reacquire

– you don’t need to process the crop right away, this can be a project for part of the winter

– you can grow a dual purpose crop, some seeds can be used to grow seeds to harvest to be used for next year’s crop

– you can grow animal feed – hemp seeds and animal bedding.

I want to create a business and thus economic opportunities that are scaled to the future we will be living in as we enter this new phase of life on the planet.

There is a culture of working with fibre here, that of wool fibre. I learned in my research that it was in Asia that the history and development of fibre was plant based. In Europe it was animal based. It really depended on climate. Think about cotton – you need warm climates and LOTS of water. With wool you need lots of land for animal grazing but the quality of the grazing doesn’t have to be high. I have to say I think plant based was far smarter but we probably just didn’t know this at the time. I can’t help but feel it shows the arrogance or stupidity of the colonial powers that they focused on animal fibres because hey there is an unlimited amount of land for the taking.

In light of all my research and my attempts to connect with folks who might be interested in hemp in all its stages (if only I was living out west), and as is my usual way of being ahead of the curve or should I say outside of the curve, I am most likely going to simply apply for a permit to grow hemp in the coming weeks. However I only plan on planting less than 1 acre – yes you read that right – less than 1 acre. This way I can plant in by hand, I can harvest it by hand, I can process it by hand. This is a project of cultivation for 2018, and processing 2018-19. I have sourced the seeds and of course can’t source them locally let alone east of Ontario. So I am choosing to buy it from a hemp farmer coop from out west (the shipping will cost more than the actual seeds – argh!!), but they first need my permit # so 1st step is the permit application.

I am considering this project as my hobby project for 2018-19.

Next is rice growing!!

Am I crazy?

Stay tuned.

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