From the Ground Up : Notes From In the Hemp Field
It was not how I'd imagined. I did not emerge from a corn field to find towering stalks of green hemp hidden from passers by. Instead, it was like walking into a mountain meadow, full of wild flowers. Hues of gold, copper and green.
All of my preconceived notions about growing hemp were about to be tested.
These plants are incredibly drought tolerant. It rained shortly after the seeds were sown, and with little irrigation, the hemp thrived all summer.
Similar to kiwi plants, hemp plants have both male and female genders. Only the female, seed producing plants remained to be harvested for their high protein, hemp seed heart. 3 Tbsp of hemp hearts have more protein than one cup of milk, and 20 times the protein than the equivalent amount of green beans.
The male plants had been pulled from the field earlier in the season to encourage better growth from the females. The plants, saved and dried can be used, like straw, for animal bedding or even mixed with concrete for hempcrete, a great insulated building material. All of the plant is used, from the stalks to the seed, a truly zero-waste enterprise.
Owner of Good Seed Hemp, Blake Hunter and a few good men, gently hand harvested the plants, collected them, and transported them to a drying shed.
Hunter could be considered a hemp pioneer. This pilot project is "the first industrial hemp to be harvested on Vancouver Island in 90 years" according to Hunter. I felt like an Eco-tourist, witness to a ground breaking event. He is an expert in his field and gratefully shares his experience with anyone interested. He looks forward to a day when the home gardener can grow similar varieties of hemp at home, to easily supplement or fulfill their personal protein requirements.
Stationed in the drying shed, I sorted and stacked the bundles of hemp as they were walked out of the field. To prevent any dirt contamination, I worked in my socks. The seeds begin to fall off the plants shortly after being cut. With every bundle I moved, I could hear a rain fall of seeds dropping to the tarp below. I quickly discovered how labour intensive farming is and have a heartfelt appreciation for all farmed food.
Once all the hand harvesting is complete and the plants and seeds adequately dried, the plants will be fed into a thresher to separate the seeds from the plants. Hunter will then have the seeds processed into his final products, including locally grown, hemp hearts!
Thanks to the fine folks and volunteers of Good Seed Hemp for such a great adventure. After 10+ years of sewing with hemp fabric, I am so grateful to have been able to help harvest the fibre I am so passionate about. Next week I will resume my own zero-waste hemp clothing design project.
I am that I am.