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Hemp: A History

Hemp is not as new a you might think. The earliest recorded use of the hemp plant dates way back to 1737. We can fast-forward to colonial times when the United States was first being explored and conquered by ancestors from Europe. Over 180,000 pounds of hemp fibers were needed on the US's oldest Navy boat, "Old Ironsides", and just about 55 tons of fiber was used for rope lines, sail canvas and caulking for the wooden hull. The Revolutionary War-era farmers who grew hemp for the British Crown sure did get that ship sailing.

When hemp seeds arrived, they were meant to be planted so the harvest could be used for supplies on the Mayflower. Note that British ships never, ever left port without a plentiful stash of hemp. Hemp was a great choice for naval uses because of its decay resistance and easy cultivation. By the mid-1600's, hemp was a vital part of the economy in New England, where the colonies produced cordage, cloth, canvas, sacks, and paper all from Hemp. The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence was even written on hemp paper. If you can believe it, farmers were compelled by patriotic duty to grow hemp and could pay taxes with it as well.

George Washington grew the great plant and encouraged his citizens to sow hemp. Hemp crops spread through the country quickly and arrived in Kentucky and Virginia just before the Revolutionary War began. These states had such a significant hemp industry until WWI and remained for a long time the nation's leading hemp seed producer in the US.

Hemp could replace a lot of things that create waste today like plastic, paper, and even construction materials. It’s much more environmentally friendly. Hemp has even show that it can replace fuels like bio-diesel and Ethanol. Hemp is a part of our history and played a small part in building this country into the empire it is. Thankfully, we've embraced hemp farming once again in 2019.

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