Ah, the delights of autumn—an invigorating crispness in the air, the striking beauty of fall leaves against a crystal blue sky, a spectacular full moon, pumpkin-flavored fare, and the traditions of the harvest. It’s the time of year when the final bounties of fields and farms are gathered. In several US states, this may also include an industrial hemp harvest.
State legislation enabled growers in Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont to begin cultivating hemp in 2015. Colorado proudly boasts the nation’s largest industrial hemp farm—300 planted acres in Eaton, Colorado. It is part of Colorado Cultivars’ hemp-growing venture, which manages about 20% of the state’s hemp farms. As of this writing statistics are not available for the number of acres harvested in 2016 but, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, 8,900 acres and 1.3 million indoor square feet are registered and permitted to grow hemp.
Fiber and other evidence points to hemp as the earliest domestically cultivated crop, first farmed as long ago as 8,000 to 12,000 years. Industrial hemp grows successfully in many types of soil, even in regions that are dry or have short growing seasons. Its brief seed-to-harvest cycle is typically about 120 days, which also makes it a great choice as a rotational crop. Hemp is easily grown organically; it helps purify the soil, requires little fertilization, typically needs no pesticides and, in fact, kills some weeds.
Hemp outperforms many other crops with its impressive, high yield. For example, one acre of industrial hemp produces twice the oil as one acre of peanuts. Almost four times as much paper fiber pulp is produced from one acre of hemp compared to an acre of forest—and in only one year’s time rather than twenty! Hemp cultivation is also financially viable. Industrial hemp research projects show yields ranging from 860 to 1,125 pounds per acre; the value per pound far outweighs the cost of cultivation.Save trees! Fast-growing hemp can produce up to 4x the paper fiber pulp in 1/20th the time. Click To Tweet
There is little waste from the hemp plant—all parts contribute to its thousands of applications. Seeds are used for oil, which is used in foods and some health and beauty products. Stalks are used for fiber as the basis for countless cording and textile products as well as building materials like hempcrete. The fragmented bits of the stem’s core, called hurds, are high in cellulose and are used to produce plastics, animal bedding, fuel pellets and a source of CBD extracts.
After harvesting, the various parts of the plant must be separated and processed. Obtaining the fiber, which is naturally glued along the hollow core of the plant and sheathed by thin bark, can be challenging. The traditional method of separating the fibers, called retting, is a labor intensive process. Harvested stems of the plants are left in the field to allow moisture and bacterial action to break down the glue bonds. This natural action requires a period of weeks or months, during which the stems are turned several times to keep the retting balanced. Decomposition must be stopped when fiber separation is complete or the quality of the fiber suffers. Although much less common than field retting, water retting produces the highest quality fiber. This technique involves standing the hemp stems in a pond or partitioned part of a steam where the bio-waste can be washed away.
Stems are then dried and smashed in a process called braking, which is sometimes done with the use of rather primitive equipment. The preferred machine, designed for this purpose, is called a decorticator. Invented in Italy in 1860, there were likely hundreds of decorticators in use in the 1930s but many disappeared with the criminalization of cannabis. Family owned Hemp Inc., of North Carolina, currently has a $15 million, German-made decorticator. It is the only high-capacity machine in the United States—one of only five in the world – and will process hemp from various locations.
With pro-hemp legislation on the rise, beautiful fields of hemp may become a more common sight. Demand for products sourced from hemp is on the rise. Enrich your life with its tasty, healthful benefits. Choose from a variety of Pure Hemp Botanical products, made from cruelty-free industrial hemp, organically grown in Colorado.