Thomas Jefferson’s Favorite Crop is Back in American Soil

Reader Contribution by Doug Fine
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Editor’s Note: One of the favorite events among attendees to the 2014 Puyallup MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR was investigative author Doug Fine’s Hemp Bound talk. Here are his thoughts on why hemp matters so much, a belief he translates into a passionate and funny workshop for Fair audiences. 

In the three weeks before I discussed hemp at the Puyallup MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR  in 2014, four more states legalized hemp cultivation. And not just those you might call the usual suspect states: We’re talkin’ Nebraska, Indiana, South Carolina and Tennessee. This on top of federal authorization of hemp research in this year’s Farm Bill. Heck, the DEA just turned over 286 pounds of hemp seed to Kentucky farmers. When did all this good governing start happening?

My key bullet point at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR was that two years of worldwide field research convinced me, a seasoned investigative author, these developments are important for humanity. As a father who’d like to bequeath a livable climate, I’m optimistic about our climate change mitigation prospects for the first time in a long time. 

At every one of the dozen talks I’ve given since writing a book about hemp, some entrepreneurs, farmers or processors have approached me about bringing the tri-cropping ideas expressed in Hemp Bound into the real world economy. (Tri-cropping, as described in the book, is utilizing one hemp harvest for three applications: seed oil, fiber and energy.)

One of these events (complete with slide show, a 1735 hemp-bound book an audience member brought, and my tales of taking a hemp-powered limo ride) was taped by C-Span. (It’s available online at C-SPAN.)

Even I can’t believe this is all happening. Not to this extent. Not this fast. How did it go from the dream of my college roommate with the lava lamp to federal policy? I’m just grateful. So are American farmers. One hemp pioneer I followed in the book, Ryan Loflin, is clear about what hemp’s return means.

“It takes half the water that wheat does,” the 41-year-old Coloradan told me, scooping up a handful of drought-scarred soil so parched and sandy it evoked the Sahara. “And provides four times the income. Hemp is going to revive farming families in the climate change era.”

Also excited are my own Funky Butte Ranch goats, as you can see in the photo below: They’ll be getting homegrown hemp seed feed very soon, as will I.

– Doug Fine, Funky Butte Ranch, N.M.

P.S. I don’t even know what to say about this one except thanks to the one and only Willie Nelson, one of my principal role models. He just tweeted: Best book o’the year! Launch #HempBound 2 #Top10 on @amazonbooks w/1day push 2day &revive #America thru laughter

Photo, above:Taylor Swift, the Funky Butte Ranch nanny goat, attempts to take a bite out of an advance copy of Hemp Bound, April 2014