HEMP IS MAKING A COMEBACK
North farmers are being encouraged to grow one of the oldest and most versatile crops known to man which is set to make an explosive comeback in Britain. The use of hemp dates back to around 8000 BC when it made the earliest known woven fabric and today, the multi-use crop which declined in use in the early 20th Century mainly for political reasons, recognition of its health and environmental benefits looks like it will make a huge revival.
So convinced of the potential of hemp and the need to encourage its growth in Britain, Paul Jenkinson left the South of France to return to his native Yorkshire to found Yorkshire Hemp.
The son of a farmer-turned-salesman Mr Jenkinson grew up in Wakefield in the 1960s and by the time he was 24 he was a captain skippering multi-million pound yachts for the rich and famous.
Due to the lack of security in the job he did for 25 years, dabbling with other business opportunities led him to discover the opportunities with hemp and he and his wife and four children returned to Yorkshire to set up the business.
“What drives me on is the fact that I’ve found a fantastic business opportunity and I needed to come back to the UK to make it happen. It’s an industry waiting to explode,” he said.
“If you take the soya industry, 20 years ago it didn’t exist. Everything you can do with soya you can do with hemp.
“Farmers have just got to get on and grow the crop in this country and there will be an immediate market. It’s not having sufficient hemp that’s preventing this market from developing — if there was, manufacturers could get on and start producing hemp products,” he added.
Yorkshire Hemp aims to create and produce a wide range of edible foods, nutritional supplements and body care products.
In actively developing a sustainable industrial hemp processing industry in Yorkshire and across the UK, it is promoting greater public awareness of the exceptional nutritious and healthy hemp seed.
The composition of hemp seed is exceptional making it ideal for use in body care products and nutritional supplements. Hemp seed oil is one of the world’s richest sources of polyunsaturated fats and as a food supplement it contains an array of vitamins, minerals and its perfect balance of Omega essential fatty acids.
But the uses for hemp go far beyond its nutritional values. As well as its centuries-old use as a fabric — the first Levi jeans made in 1900 used hemp to make them more durable — its environmental benefits as a fast growing renewable crop suitable for a wide variety of uses has yet to be fully explored.
Hemp is an excellent substitute for wood in the paper industry. American newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst was instrumental in hemp being outlawed in the US in 1937 because of its association with marijuana, which is part of the hemp plant family. Other countries soon followed suit with the ban.
Hearst is said to have led the war on hemp because new, mechanised ways of processing the crop threatened his own timber and paper interests.
Commercially-grown hemp has been legal throughout the European Union since the mid-1990s because it has an almost negligible quantity of THC, the natural chemical that has psychoactive properties and is far more prevalent in marijuana, a more potent member of the hemp family.
Unlike forests which take decades to regenerate, hemp can be harvested every three to four months.
On average, one hectare of hemp produces the same amount of usable fibre as three to four hectares of forest.
Hemp is also very effective in absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the principal greenhouse gases — so combined with its potential to reduce deforestation, cultivating hemp is extremely efficient in reducing the Greenhouse Effect.
Hemp’s uses in industry are virtually endless as it can be converted into the same wide variety of products as wood based raw materials such as plastics, particleboard and explosives.
The seed oil can be used for non-toxic paints and varnishes as well as lubricating oils and when mixed with water and lime, hemp can be turned into building material stronger and lighter than concrete.
“New uses for the crop are being discovered all the time,” said Paul Jenkinson.
“Anything you can make from petrocarbons you can make from carbohydrates.
“We are using the seeds for food consumption but the hurds (outer shell of the stalk) can be used to make paper or plastic — the Queen even uses it to bed down her horses because it is so absorbent!”
Paul Jenkinson is currently having to source his hemp supplies from Germany but the poor European harvest because of the summer’s drought has made the crop in short supply.
The crop which is easy to grow and suits most soil types has to be grown under Defra licence in this country and to encourage its expansion Yorkshire Hemp is offering the necessary buy-back contracts, seed and support to UK farmers to produce a fibre and seed crop which at a maximum height of four feet can be harvested by a standard combine.
Written by: Anna Lognonné
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