A Victory for Hemp

Tucked away in the long-overdue 2014 farm bill that the president just signed burns the embers of a fire sweeping the nation.

The sparks of legalization of marijuana for “recreational” and medicinal purposes this time, however, have entered a new wood pile: that of agriculture.

This is not a statement for or against recreational use.

Industrial hemp, the non-drug cousin of the recreational drug marijuana, has the potential at least to become a viable commodity again in the U.S.

The language allows state departments of agriculture universities to legally begin research on hemp. These pilot projects must relate to the growth, cultivation, and marketing of hemp. The fact that it was included in the farm bill at all should be seen as a victory of sorts. Before the legislation, approval from the DEA was required.

It’s just the beginning of the process, points out Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer.

~ Kentucky.com

   Last year, Kentucky revived its long-dormant Industrial Hemp Commission and renewed the push to bring its use back, with state legislators citing its potential for economic renewal in the eastern part of the state where tobacco has departed. Hawaii made the growing of industrial hemp legal last year and has been waiting on the OK from the federal government, which the DEA had refused because of the ban on marijuana. One Colorado chef harvested the first legal industrial hemp crop in more than five decades last fall, following legalization of marijuana there last year.

Kentucky has a long history of industrial hemp production, as does the U.S.

Look back in our history and you’ll see names associated with the crop you might not otherwise think. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known hemp growers. It’s reported that they may have even smoked some of the flowers and remarked about the more-potent “marijuana” being worth more than the industrial uses. James Madison reportedly got inspiration for the documents that founded the government while smoking hemp’s cousin “marijuana.”

But, industrial purposes were the driver that made Kentucky the top grower of hemp in the early 1800s up until shortly before the “War,” (that’s the “Civil War.”) Peak production occurred in 1850. Federal legislation in 1938 outlawed production of cannabis, including hemp, until the U.S. ramped up production during World War II. At the end of the war, production of hemp soon fell again. There’s always been a push to bring it back.

Hemp can be used as food, oil, clothing, animal bedding, and rope just to name a few of its uses. Ever so often an old, long-forgotten crop will receive new attention about its potential.

Woody Harrelson ~ BittenAndBound.com

I would hope that the production of industrial hemp would help solve the economic woes of the rural areas of Kentucky and elsewhere.  One very notable Kentuckian would passionately agree.  Actor Woody Harrelson has been a hemp advocate since the 90s, and you can learn more about his activism here.

For more background history on hemp in the U.S.  I’d like to reccommend checking Farm Collector’s article, “The Forgotten History of Hemp Culture in America”.

Maybe it will give new meaning to the old song, “Kentucky, you are the dearest land outside of heaven to me”—perhaps in more ways than one.



Ploughed the back forty, got married.

farmer wedding

Longtime friends of mine, Albert and Leeann on their wedding day.


This rainy day, I seem to recall the journal of a farmer from more than a century ago.

I was interviewing this man’s grandson, also a farmer. It was the man’s custom to write down what he did at the end of each day. While telling me about his grandfather, the middle-aged farmer pulled a worn, leather book housed in a sheath of heavy plastic and showed it to me.

It was in the spring of year 1900, time for plowing and planting. The farmer was in his 20’s at the time. He was already versed in the vernacular of a behind-the-plow view of a mule and how to make a living. He also had been courting for some time now. It was time to take care of the essentials.

“Plowed the back 40,” read the first entry on a day in May 1900. “Went to town, married Linda.”

There, along with the essentials of a man’s work was a life-changing experience viewed in the same light as an everyday occurrence.

No doubt this farmer had studied his intended like the soils in his fields or the changing seasons. More than 50 years of marriage down the road would vouch for his “living with his wife in an understanding way.” Being a farmer he knew, for example, there’s a window of opportunity for planting. Just a few months earlier and he could have doomed the seeds to a freezing death. Planted a couple of months later and the summer’s heat would devour the promise of a new crop.

It’s interesting how life is full of little markers. The first buds of a peach tree, the appearance of a robin in the spring, yellow daffodils. Then, the seasons change to the sweltering humidity of June, July and August.

It strikes me as I remember reading this old farmer’s journal, how he placed plowing a field and getting married on the same page. He was likely planting by the signs.

I can hear the conversation around the pot-bellied stove of yesteryear just as easy as I can hear the rain hitting the window pane.

“So, what did you do today?”

” Well, I finally got that back 40 plowed. And, oh, by the way, me and Linda got married.”

See how it’s worked out so far for me and my Linda at www.yancyandyancy.com.

And for more stories about the history and the people of agriculture, visit http://aghistorysociety.org/.