NEW MEXICO, UNITED STATES
Hemp Returns to Humanity
“Hemp Bound tells us with detail and humor how to get to the environmental Promised Land. Doug Fine has created a blueprint for the America of the future.” –Willie Nelson
I started writing these words ten minutes after President Obama legalized hemp. (If you’re not yet among the throngs pausing for collective pinching of self and recitation of, “God Bless America,” you will be, pretty soon.) He did this by signing the 2014 Farm Bill, which included a tucked-in bipartisan amendment that allows university research of the crop.
As I’m about to invite you to check out a book (and associated live event) about the immense economic upshot of this, I suppose I should be broadcasting Canada’s existing billion-dollar hemp industry in all caps. But inter-continental field research into hemp’s reemergence has me optimistic about something bigger — our planet’s atmospheric future — for the first time since I became a father (which is when you really become an environmentalist). So if you were sitting around full of faith that the whole climate quagmire would work itself out, it just might.
Less ethereally, this year’s Farm Bill made the dream expressed in Hemp Bound’s first paragraph one big step closer to reality.
It goes, “my plan the day hemp becomes legal is to begin cultivating ten acres of the plant so that my Sweetheart no longer has to import from China the material she already uses to make the shirts I wear in media interviews to discuss the fairly massive economic value of hemp. In a cynical age, we can use one less irony.” (Read more about Hemp Bound.)
I’m just back from two years of research that’s taken me from Manitoba to Belgium and I’ve discovered that worldwide family agriculture and locavore industry are both on the cusp of a sustainable and (even more shocking) lucrative future.
Who knew? Many of us were feeling pressure to surrender to the inevitability of GMOs and BP. I know I was. It happened when I was confronted one Wednesday by a particularly juicy non-organic green chile cheeseburger. Two days later, I was asked to write a book about hemp.
I said yes. That meant learning what hemp is (a dioecious plant whose foot-long taproots provide erosion control and allow soil rebuilding, much needed everywhere in the monoculture and climate change era, but especially in drought-ravaged areas of the world). In fact hemp is, it turns out, a plant with qualities that explicitly unite the goals of Farewell, My Subaru and Too High to Fail, my previous two books, under a sort of “sustainable cannabis” banner.
Suddenly I was in Hawaii and Prague doing fun things like:
— Injuring my toe trying to dent a a tractor hood made entirely from hemp fiber,
— Touching (much more gently) the silky Dutch hemp fiber that today goes into Mercedes and BMW door panels (the fiber can be stronger than steel),
— Visiting the first U.S. commercial hemp farm this century (see photo below), and,
— Taking a hemp oil-powered limo ride. That one was sweet. Ferdinand Marcos used to own the limo.
You can see short films that show the moment of limo fill-up and indeed a lot of these already in-play hemp apps at dougfine.com. Also there is a live event schedule, a clip of some testimony I gave at the United Nations last week, and a recent TEDxABQ Talk entitled, “Why We Need Goat Herding In the Digital Age.”
So. I didn’t know that hemp would be re-legalized domestically (after 77 years) the month before my book about hemp came out. Which is to say even before finding itself blessed with impeccable and entirely accidental timing (thanks, feds, for helping the marketing effort), Hemp Bound was already describing the “astonishing no-brainer” of the billion-dollar industry I discovered on a journey from very cold Canadian prairie seed oil processors to tiny Springfield, Colorado.
That last place was where America’s first digital age hemp crop was in mid-season form. Canadian farmers can’t keep up with demand for their seed oil crop (a genuine Omega-balanced superfood), which is growing 20 percent in annual acreage and netting farmers as much as ten times what they get for wheat.
Midway into this research, the book changed from a plea for a change in policy to a handbook for how to take advantage of that change. The idea in Hemp Bound that I hope spreads the widest and most quickly is a farm waste biomass energy plan that I believe can wean humanity from fossil fuels. It’s already in play in Europe. Last month I was able to lobby for its implementation from Day One in Colorado’s coming community-based hemp processors.
This was at an event marking the first day that the State’s Agriculture Department was accepting applications for commercial hemp cultivation permits from farmers. That (commercial hemp cultivation) is ahead of federal law for the moment, but Colorado is blazing forth regardless. It looks like more and more states soon will be as well. It’s called tax revenue, people. From a sustainable corp that puts family farmers and small business owners back to work.
That the modern hemp industry is brand new is what has me the most excited. We can launch it according to whatever value system we like (and Canada, by the way, banned GMO hemp right from the start of their modern industry in 1998).
And that is why I owe Congress and the President thanks for this year’s Farm Bill: because I want America’s hemp farmers and investors to implement Hemp Bound’s plan for for a distributed, community based food and energy system to replace the monoculture food system and mega fossil fuel-powered grid we have today.
That’s how big hemp is. Duh. Last month it was found (in good condition) clothing the people in a 9,000-year-old Turkish family grave.
You can order Hemp Bound everywhere, from online retailers to your local bookstore.
Thanks for the ear, see you at the coast-to-coast events (they start this weekend in Colorado before moving to East, then West), and as always, thanks for forwarding as appropriate. My goats tell me social media can be effective.