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The History of Farming Hemp in the USA and Beyond

Hemp is not a new concept. The earliest recorded use of the hemp plant dates all the way back to 2737. Now fast-forward to colonial times and the United States first being explored and conquered by our European ancestors. 120,000 pounds of hemp fiber was actually needed on America's oldest Navy ship "Old Ironsides", and nearly 55 tonnes of fiber was used for lines, sail canvas and caulking for the wooden hull alone. Where did all of the plants come from to get the ship sailing? The Revolutionary War-era farmers who grew hemp for the British Crown.


Hemp arrived in Colonial America in seed form meant to be planted to be used for fiber in the lines, sails, and caulking for the Mayflower. At this time British ships never left port without a healthy stash of hemp on board. Hemp was the number one choice for maritime uses because of its natural decay resistance and its adaptability to cultivation. By the mid-1600's, hemp had become an important part of the economy in New England, and south to Maryland and Virginia the colonies produced cordage, cloth, canvas, sacks, and paper all from Hemp, the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence was actually penned on hemp paper. Hemp fiber was so important to the Republic that farmers were compelled by patriotic duty to grow it and were actually allowed to pay taxes with it.


George Washington grew hemp and actually encouraged all citizens to sow hemp and Thomas Jefferson bred improved varieties and ended up inventing a special brake that was used for crushing the plant's stems during fiber processing. Hemp crops spread far and wide quickly and arrived in Kentucky with settlers from Virginia just prior to the Revolutionary War. These settlers set the stage for what would eventually be known as America's longest standing and most important hemp industries and would eventually be the only state with a significant hemp industry until WWI and remained the nation's leading hemp seed producer.


Hemp is a crop that could replace a lot of things that we use today like plastic, paper, and even construction materials and is more environmentally friendly. Hemp could even be used to replace fuels like bio-diesel and Ethanol based products. Hemp is a part of this country's history and has helped to build this country to the empire it is today. It's time that we, as a country, get back to this country's roots and embrace hemp farming once again.