PLENTY SUMMER 2020 - Page 49

flowers of most other plants, however. They look like what you might think of as “pot,” “grass,” or “weed” but without the high when consumed. Hemp stalks can be ground down and serve as a cost effective and sustainable source of cellulose, which is used in a vast array of products such as plastic cutlery, hardwood flooring, single-use containers, brake pads, and many others. With microplastics present in our water, air, seafood, wildlife and our own bodies, industrial hemp represents an exciting agricultural opportunity to shift away from the use of traditional plastics to a healthier and sustainable substitute. The cellulose and fiber from these same hemp stalks can be chopped, combined with water and lyme, and cast into molds to create a building material with properties stronger than concrete! There are many variables and aspects to consider when using hemp as a construction material, but when it is combined with lyme, the mixture has the added benefit of being fire and mold resistant as well. Although the outer layer of fiber on hemp stalks is difficult and expensive to collect, it is also a valuable commodity. Because hemp fibers are quite long compared to other natural fibers, they are used to create strong, long-lasting building materials as well as soft, durable fabrics, clothing and rope. The fiber and cellulose uses for hemp are highly practical and often prove to be stronger and more durable alternative to many commonly used materials today. The breadth of ways to use this plant matter as a less harmful and potentially abundant resource was one of the main reasons why industrial hemp was opened up for agricultural production in 2018. Currently, the US has limited capabilities within this young industry to bring hemp products to market on a large scale. Over the last two years there have been major infrastructure upgrades to help support domestic hemp production, and we are well on our way to making the American Hemp Dream a reality. That being said, there are many hurdles to overcome as the hemp industry continues to build itself, state by state. Hemp farming in our region has emerged as a legitimate agricultural option, but it does not come without risks and challenges for a brand new industry that until recently was mostly underground. It takes hard work to grow high quality hemp and it’s very difficult—and expensive—to even bring it to market. One way to start for many has been to grow a CBD-rich hemp variety which is ideal for extraction or dried for sale as raw CBD products. Alternative varieties can be harvested for fiber, seed, feed, bedding and beyond, with added advantages of providing field cover, weed suppression, regenerative soil benefits, growing similar to grain, and easily chopped-and-dropped for mulch. These varieties require sparse labor after seeding and are far less labor intensive than CBD-rich hemp. With the future as uncertain as ever, in many ways hemp is well on its way to helping make the world a healthier place for us all. I encourage you to dive into the specifics of hemp cultivation and utilization in all of its many forms at www.nationalhempassociation.org. Simon Arendt is founder of Friendly Faces Cooperative, a new engine for social, agricultural, and economic change in DMV communities. Friendly Faces is building a framework to support a systemic shift towards more equitable and sustainable policies, practices, and values. Please get in touch by visiting www.friendlyfaces.net or emailing: simon@friendlyfaces.net. plenty I summer growing 2020 49