Hemp and a Course-Correction for Agricultural History
How can we reap hemp’s full potential as an agent for change in our world? Our Campaign Manager Nancy Metcalf has worked alongside Dr. Bronner’s and Hemp History Week for 7 years to see hemp return to U.S. farms nationwide. In this article, she explains why in this new era hemp farming hemp must be integrated into a regenerative organic system.
To take full advantage of what hemp has to offer, it must be integrated into a regenerative organic system.
In 2010, my life course veered down an amazingly novel direction upon contracting “hemp-mania”, thanks to the wonders of the internet. What a shock to sit down and blast my mind open to the potency of agriculture in learning the myriad environmental, social, and economic benefits of hemp. I was inspired into action by how hemp could replace synthetic materials, restore soils, revive rural economies, feed us, clothe us, serve all our paper needs, and so much more. From that moment forward my mind was occupied with creative thought-stream explosions and webs of interconnection in a drive to conceptualize how I could bring the hidden history, and future potential, of hemp to a national audience. Little did I know that same year Dr. Bronner’s was partnering with the Hemp Industries Association, Vote Hemp, leading hemp food and body-care manufacturers, celebrity advocates and policy makers with the same goal.
Through my exhaustive research, I soon learned of Dr. Bronner’s radical support hemp, and the great lengths advocates like David Bronner were willing to go to raise awareness and press policy makers to change the misguided and outdated federal law banning hemp farming in the U.S. For those of you less familiar, here are some highlights from the 20-year history of Dr. Bronner’s hemp advocacy, and in a nutshell why I chose to pursue a career with them as an incredible force affecting positive change in our world:
1999: Dr. Bronner’s reformulates soap to include hemp oil to prove economic demand for domestic cultivation
2001: Dr. Bronner’s joins hemp industry’s legal battle against DEA
2004: The Ninth Circuit Court rules unanimously in favor of hemp industry
2009: David Bronner and friends are arrested after planting hemp seeds on DEA’s museum front lawn
2010: Dr. Bronner’s helps launch Hemp History Week
Fast-forward to 2012: Hemp History Week is in its third year, and hundreds of retailers and grassroots organizers, and a growing number of media outlets have picked up the campaign, including myself. After celebrating a successful Hemp History Week that included tabling at my local natural foods stores and hosting a community education event, I attended my first annual Hemp Industries Association Conference (HIACON), held in San Francisco that year. HIACON was small and intimate in those days, attracting leaders in science and innovation, brands like Dr. Bronner’s and Nutiva who had put their necks on the line in 2001-2004 to fight the DEA’s attempt to ban the import of hemp seed and oil from Canada, and die-hard advocates like myself. That same year, David Bronner took another radical action in the name of hemp, and the journey continued:
2012: David Bronner is arrested for pressing hemp seed oil from living cannabis plants in front of the White House
2013: Dr. Bronner’s Hemp History Week team celebrates the first legal harvest of hemp under Colorado state law
2016: Dr. Bronner’s funds and celebrates the renewal of Alex White Plume’s right to grow hemp on Pine Ridge tribal land after a 16 year-long legal battle with the DEA
2017: Dr. Bronner’s donates $100K to Rodale Institute for study of hemp’s role in improving soil health
2018: The Federal Farm Bill is signed into law, legalizing hemp farming on U.S. soil
Today, I am proud to have worked alongside Dr. Bronner’s and Hemp History Week for 7 years—from volunteer activism, to a fulfilling and dynamic career—it’s been an amazing ride to accomplishing our shared goal: see hemp returned to U.S. farms nationwide. But there is still much work to be done to reap hemp’s full potential as an agent for change in our world.
Through my time with Dr. Bronner’s, the horizons of my passion for hemp have come into broader and more intricate focus with other advocacy campaigns I’ve worked on, including: World Fair Trade Day, Right to Know-Label GMOs, and Fair Pay Today. Most recently, the importance of regenerative organic agriculture has come into prominence with Dr. Bronner’s global mission through our Heal Earth campaign, which strongly overlaps the agricultural, social and environmental benefits hemp can provide.
To take full advantage of what hemp has to offer, it must be integrated into a regenerative organic system. In doing so, hemp can:
Nourish and support endangered pollinator species, like bees, with its prolific pollen production
Increase biodiversity when used in a complex crop rotation
Stop and reverse erosion through its world-renowned deep roots and strong fibers, and when used as a cover crop
Reduce environmental contamination by agricultural chemicals as hemp adapts well to organic practices
Out-compete weed pressure through its vivacious growth
Reduce the release of carbon from soil to air through no- and conservation-tillage practices
Contribute to carbon sequestration and the regeneration of soil organic matter through its rapid growth and high biomass yields when returned to the soil
Support farmed-animal nutrition through its seed’s high protein and omega fatty acid profiles, and as fodder
Support suitable shelter for farmed animals by providing a super-absorbent and bacteria-resistant bedding material
Revitalize rural economies as a cash crop that is best processed in the same bio-region where it is grown, while lending well to craft-industry
In an age where human activity is directly impacting the face of the world as we know it—i.e. the Anthropocene—and agriculture as a major driving force of this change, it is imperative humanity take a hard look at the way we employ our life-giving systems. Our complex global civilization is a direct result of the intensification of agriculture and agriculture’s mechanization and technologies. In the same vein, intensive agriculture has also been the fall of civilizations that came before us.
Let us learn from history and apply the principles of agricultural land stewards, like J.I. Rodale, Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Rudolf Steiner, Alan Chadwick, John Jeavons, Eliot Coleman, Gabe Brown, John Kempf, and David Vetter, just to name a few. We have the power, wisdom and resources to transform agriculture as a force to heal the planet. Hemp and regenerative organic practices are a part of the solution.
Nancy Metcalf is Dr. Bronner’s Marketing Campaign Manager and Hemp History Week’s Campaign Manager. She has organized with Occupy Bellingham, Bellingham’s Community Food Co-op’s Member Affairs Committee, Bellingham’s CELDF-inspired Community Bill of Rights movement, and John Jeavon’s Ecology Action. She currently lives in Portland, OR where she supports the growing community around Somatic Center Portland’s MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy Expanded Access program for adults with treatment-resistant PTSD as administered by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the FDA.