I’d never seen a field of cannabis before, but there it was, right in front of my very eyes – and in rural Oxfordshire. And, it was all totally above board with the crop being grown with appropriate licence from DEFRA. Here was what might in time prove to be the beginning of usage of this remarkable crop for a whole plethora of purposes.
Cannabis – or hemp as we should call it when it is not being grown for hallucinatory purposes – has an amazing array of properties. Its cellulose fibres – the bits which give wood and paper and the like their structural properties – are some of the best in the plant kingdom They can be readily used to make things from structural building materials i.e. timber replacements – to fine materials for garments and the like. Some as old as me will be able to remember hemp sacking – that was a pretty low-grade use for some fabulously strong cellulose fibres. At the same time, the plants produce oils which can be used for anything from beauty and body treatments to fuelling engines! Moreover the oils can also be used for cooking and converted into dairy substitutes. If you put on to of that some remarkable medicinal constituents which are seemingly increasing recognised for their value in the treatment of some very difficult medical conditions, then you start to get feel for what is claimed as the potential for hemp. In fact, hemp has been noted as having over 25,000 known uses, making it one of the most versatile plants on the planet, and yet at the same time is also one of the most benevolent as regards environmental and growing needs. Oh yes, and you can ferment the leaves and use them to make a tea!
Sound too good to be true? If, as it seems, the properties are well documented, why is hemp not more widely grown? It’s not possible to create the full range of products from a single crop…….you need to choose, once you have put the oils to cooking use say, you can’t extract another lot of oil for beauty products. But that surely can’t be why it’s not grown. It was a question which Joe McGahan, who was responsible for the crop, couldn’t really answer either – the best we could do together was to assume a naïve blindness from most farmers for the potential of the crop in the context of cannabis smoking, the hassle of having to get a licence and a current lack of processing infrastructue – but Joe and a few friends have created a workers co-operative, Hempen, through which they intend to put the potential to the test.
The aim is to be able to grow sufficient hemp and have processing capabilities to prove the principles of a range of the highest value potential uses. To have got the project off the ground with a crop in the fields is a remarkable achievement in itself. As the need to shift from fossil fuel based economies really starts to bite, they could be very nicely positioned to show the way.Watch this space – as time goes by a crop of hemp might be coming in a field near to you thanks to the commitment and belief in the crop of Joe McGahan and his mates!!
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