Hemp is a wonderful plant with countless applications. It is known to have been used since at least 8,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. It has been used in the manufacturing of textiles, paper, building materials, fuel, food, rope, twine, canvas, and personal care products. Until the 18th century, 90% of canvases, rope, and nets on ships were made with hemp.
Hemp is a great rotation crop and is good for putting nutrients back into the soil. It needs little to no toxic fertilization, herbicide, or insecticide. It is an annual plant and is grown from the seed. It takes only 70-90 days for a hemp plant to grow enough to be harvested. A special machine with rows of teeth and a chopper are used to harvest hemp. To harvest hemp for textiles, specialized cutting equipment must be used. Carbines are also used for harvesting hemp.
Once harvested, hemp must be retted by natural exposure to the environment in the field for about 4-6 weeks, and stalks are rotated on a regular basis for even retting. After the hemp has retted, it is made into bales and stored in a dark, dry place until it is manufactured.
Hemp seeds are properly cleaned and dried before storing. Hemp oil can be extracted by using mechanical cold pressing or by using certain solvents. Refining and deodorizing may also be used for cosmetic manufacturing.
Hemp fiber is processed by separating the woody core from the bast fiber. Breakers or hammermills are usually used for this. The fiber is cleaned and carded. Hemp fiber can be matted or pressed based on what it is being manufactured for.
In the 1942 documentary Hemp for Victory, the United States government encouraged farmers to grow hemp for use in the war effort during World War II. In fact, the farming of industrial hemp was considered a patriotic effort. According to the movie, in 1942, 36,000 acres of American soil was used to grow hemp, with a projected goal of 50,000 acres for hemp growth in 1943.
After the war, in 1955, industrial hemp farming was banned in the United States. Most of America’s hemp is now imported from China and India. Today, approximately 10 states are allowed to grow hemp for research. There is an active movement to have the ban on industrial hemp farming lifted due to its many applications.
Today, over 25,000 different products are made from hemp or use hemp in manufacturing the product. A few applications hemp is used for are clothing, rope, twine, yarn, automotive components, paper, horse bedding, and compost.