Hemp! This tall annual plant might look ordinary at first glance, but wait until you discover its infinite possibilities! In fact, it might have a chance to become THE most useful crop of the future. Used in the food, textile, cosmetics, health and construction industries, the list of its uses is impressive and growing at a fast pace.
The Short History of Hemp in Canada
Hemp, contrary to popular belief, was a common crop in the 18th and 19th centuries. Ropes and textiles were made from hemp fibres, mainly for boats. How is it that it has since then disappeared from fields across the nation? Once again, blame it on cannabis and its bad reputation at the time. Its culture ceased abruptly in the late 1930s due to a law prohibiting any farmer from growing hemp. The authorities in place did not want to make the distinction between these two plants and simply decided to forbid both! Fast forward 60 years to 1998. That’s the year the federal government finally granted the first commercial licence to grow industrial hemp … 60 years later!
No wonder this plant is still so unknown! Unfortunately, the market of the ’90s was difficult and the demand for this plant was low and sporadic. Many farmers gave up along the way. Once again, the glory days of hemp were short-lived. Fortunately, today’s increasing demand for ecological, versatile and healthy products, has given hemp a new chance.
An Environmentally Friendly Plant
Hemp, unlike soy or corn, is generally an ecological, clean and profitable crop. Indeed, the plant is vigorous, and grows quickly. So quickly that it blocks the light from the soil, making it nearly impossible for weeds to grow. It requires little water and is not prone to diseases. Most insects stay away from it, protecting hemp from the major damage these pests can cause. Many farmers therefore grow the plant without inputs: no pesticides, no herbicides, no fungicides. Awesome for the planet, but also for your health! The other advantage of hemp is that it is a champion at absorbing C02, in addition to enriching the soil and making it suitable for other crops.
The Many Uses of Hemp
Hemp is an environmentally friendly plant. We’ve said it already, but it’s worth repeating it, because it really is a true champion for the environment. Did you know that almost all parts of the plant can be transformed? That means almost nothing is wasted! Its seeds can be transformed into hemp hearts, flour or hemp milk. They can even be pressed into a delicious oil, perfect for salad dressing. Hemp oil, which has many health benefits, can also be incorporated into cosmetics, as is the case with Chanv products.
The fibres come from the stem, and can be made into paper, textiles and even insulation. Finally, at the heart of the stem, there is a soft, white flesh called the hurd which can be used as mulch, animal bedding or to make hemp concrete, an extraordinary building material! Psst, learn more about the many uses of hemp and about Quebec pioneers in this field here.
Hemp is versatile, ecological, waste-free, healthy, easy to grow. It’s good for the soil and cleans the air. Could it be the perfect plant? It looks like it! One thing is certain, for a plant that has been used for hundreds of years to make ropes and sails for boats it sure has had … the wind in its sails in the last couple of years!