Mia Feroleto contacted me again by email with her latest article supporting and celebrating the possibilities of re-legalized hemp growing. This piece was first published in 13 Folds Magazine, which focuses only on the issue of cannabis in all its forms. In her email, Mia shared some other exciting behind the scenes developments, and I look forward to posting the official reports of those, as well.
If you’re wondering, “Why hemp?” then this article provides a glimpse into the ways legalized hemp growing can (and has already begun to) transform America — in all the big areas like the economy, transportation, healthcare, clean building materials, veterans’ reintegration to society, healthy food … . It’s easy to see why the gasoline giants and BigPharmafia have suppressed hemp for the past 70 years. Other countries already use hemp in construction, but imagine how this process would grow if the US went back to its historical roots and could use our vast toxic, GMO corn fields for something that heals the land and grows like … well … weed. 😉
H. E. M. P.
Give Me An “H!” “H!”
Give Me An “E!” “E!”
Give Me An “M!” “M!”
Give Me A “P!” “P!”
What’s that spell? HEMP
What’s that spell? HEMP
LOUDER!!! L O U D E R ! ! !
For those of us who are children of the 1950’s and 60’s, we remember Country Joe McDonald calling out another four letter word at Woodstock. That song, The Fish Cheer, personified America’s youth telling the establishment to go fly a kite. Those were the days when life seemed full of wonder and people understood the power of the protest movement combined with the power of music.
America had changed quite a lot by 2010 when Lydia Barnes returned from active army duty in North Eastern Iraq. Having spent time on combat duty in a desert community, Lydia faced economic degradation and issues with her own health when she returned home to upstate New York. After turning to hemp for nutritional supplements to rebuild her immune system and regain her strength, Lydia was ready for something positive. Growing hemp became her focus as she participated in organizing Hemp History Week in the Utica, New York area and a hemp presentation at Paul Smith College. Just last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a bill making it legal to grow hemp in New York State giving Lydia and New York farmers cause for celebration.
Several years ago, returning veterans provided the inspiration for Mike Lewis to found Growing Warriors in Kentucky. When Mike’s brother came back from serving his country, the first thing he needed to do was sign up for food stamps so that he could eat. Mike understood that a community garden would provide food for veterans and their families, along with a skill that could be turned into income. That first year, 12 veterans and their families were taught how to grow, harvest and preserve their produce as well as seed production. Participants asked to be shown how they could do this at home. From there, the program has expanded to include training for children so that they, too, will have skills to grow organic, nutritious food for themselves and their families.
Mike Lewis and Growing Warriors now call a 500 acre farm in rural Kentucky home. From the original 12 community garden participants, three have gone on to run their own programs. An enormous benefit from the program is the therapeutic one, that of connecting these men and woman to the earth. The wonder of planting some seeds, of nurturing, harvesting and eating them, is a powerful gift that is part of the process of returning these individuals to themselves. As Lewis says, the number of veteran suicides is vastly underreported with over half of returning veterans not registered with the VA. Growing Warriors not only feeds the body but enables participants to reconnect as a society. Their goal is to forge a new land: one of respect for land and each other.
Among its crops, Growing Warriors grows hemp. Lewis laughs at the irony of soldiers growing lace for doilies. But for them, hemp represents economic survival. Business people are coming in to talk. Neighboring farmers are asking how they can participate. A sense of community is created.
Doug Fine, author of “Hemp Bound,” and one of the leading authorities on hemp today, is a traveling troubadour /educator for the crop, combining the brilliance of an agricultural Robin Williams and the practical knowledge of what we need to do individually and collectively to turn our environment around. As Doug points out, mankind has been involved in the production of hemp for over 8,000 years beginning in Egypt, yet hemp has been banned in America for more than 70 years. As Americans, we are spending a billion dollars a year to bring hemp in from outside the country when we could be creating jobs for countless people in the growing and production of hemp products by growing at home. Hemp will allow us to create a petroleum free future while cleaning up our air, water and the environment all at the same time.
For Doug, one of the key issues is the rural/urban divide. “Where does your food come from?” This is a critical question that country folks who buy locally can answer but most city dwellers have no idea how their food was raised, processes or delivered. As he travels around the world lecturing and meeting individuals committed to creating sustainable communities, Doug is confident about the future of humanity and that we, as a species, will be allowed to come back from the brink of disaster. But first, we need to take the time to inform ourselves and be patient with hemp for a couple of seasons so the crop can take root and grow.
One of my personal dreams is to co-op a blast from the past using one of my favorite childhood memories. Instead of receiving packets of tomato and marigold seeds in the mail, I would like us all to join together and imagine sending out packets of hemp seeds, beginning in states where it is currently legal to grow hemp, along with information on how to register with the Department of Agriculture where you live so that you can become a registered hemp grower. I would like to see these little brown packets become a symbol of Americans standing up to the corporations who are making decisions for us now, just as they did 70 years ago when they decided to eliminate the cannabis plant from manufacturing and the pharmaceutical industries. By planting hemp seeds we are planting the seeds for a new tomorrow. If you are planting a garden, throw in some hemp seeds just for fun. It may be considered by some to be an act of civil disobedience but there is safety in numbers and we are long overdue to reap the rewards of the return of hemp to our culture.
In the state of Vermont there were 12 registered hemp growers for 2014. More than half did not plant because they felt some trepidation in growing what is still considered to be an illegal substance by the Federal government. Ken Manfredi and Robin Alberti, owners of Vermont Sustainable Farming, harvested what is perhaps the largest hemp crop produced thus far in Vermont: one quarter acre. They harvested by hand, cutting the stalks down and separating the seeds out by hand, and are now leading the way in Vermont as founders of the state chapter of HIA, the Hemp Industries Association. Robin, a talented cook, has developed her own recipes using hemp seeds to create hemp humus, hemp banana bread and hemp chocolate chip zucchini bread to name a few. They are growing hemp to use in the production of a line of food products grown and made in Vermont and are pursuing the development of other areas of production as well. Robin and Ken are working to organize a network of hemp farmers within the state to support the expansion and growth of the hemp industry in addition to creating a cooperative arrangement of sharing the equipment needed to process crops. They share my enthusiasm for distributing packets of hemp seeds to households around the country. Working with other chapters of HIA is one possible way for this dream to become a reality.
Our current Federal budget for 2015 no longer provides for the Federal policing of hemp and medical or recreational marijuana, leaving it up to local government to insure that laws are obeyed. As more states legalize cannabis in its various forms, new economic growth will sprout in unexpected ways. Tom Simon of Hempfully Green in Putney, Vermont, is turning his attention to building with hempcrete, a material popular in Europe, England and elsewhere for building cleaner, cost efficient housing. He and his partner Emily Peyton are giving presentations on building with hempcrete made from the fiber inside the shaft of the hemp plant. This is particularly important for people who are allergy sensitive since hemp acts as a filter keeping out harmful emissions from the environment. Hempfully Green is currently designing a test building that can be used as an example for those choosing to build an environmentally friendly home or professional building, and will be used to help educate students in this new area of study.
Susie Cody, a vivacious woman in her mid-30’s, brings a passion to organizing the New York State chapter of HIA. Like Lydia Barnes, Susie has been involved in Hemp History Week and admits that she had been tranced into believing the propaganda surrounding the cannabis plant. In researching the plant, she met the original New York Hempsters and kept reading about Hempfest on the West Coast. Finally, she quit her job and went on a road trip to Portland, Oregon to attend Hempstock. On her pilgrimage, Susie stopped off to see the hemp house in Ashville, North Carolina, and understood the vision, strength, and possibilities of hemp and the people involved in this movement. Since they are neighboring states, no doubt the two HIA chapters will join forces to produce exciting events to promote hemp awareness of the various ways the hemp plant can increase meaning and sustainability in our lives.
We have come full circle now, beginning at Woodstock and ending at Hempfest. We are on the very first wave of this new opportunity that in and of itself can revolutionize America through new jobs, a new way of building and healthier nutrition for everyone. We can clean up our environment as we clean up our own insides by consuming the best possible source of protein we have available: hemp seeds. It is by going inside and asking ourselves what kind of a future do we want for ourselves and our children that we can identify the obvious answer and tell our politicians we want cannabis to be legal in all 50 states.
I think I’ll write to Country Joe and ask him to consider writing some updated lyrics to his famous song.
“Give me an “H!”
Mia Feroleto is a well-known art advisor, activist and artist who lives in Vermont. She was the creator of A SHELTER FROM THE STROM: ARTISTS FOR THE HOMELESS OF NEW YORK and ARTWALK NY, now a national event that opens well-known artists’ studios to the public to raise funds for the Coalition for the Homeless and other causes. Feroleto is a committed animal rights and animal welfare activist.
She is determined to maximize visibility for the arts and our cultural world and is currently developing the Adopt An Artist Program to send artists to destinations around the globe in order develop their art. Currently, she is working on creating a sustainable, creative community in Vermont where hemp will be grown as a main crop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.