Traditionally the first week of June marks the week long ‘Hemp History Week’. The last several years we have hosted events in conjunction with Hemp History Week to not only celebrate the rich history of hemp in PA, but to push for hemp legislation.
This June is different. This year we make history!
Technically, for the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, the historic moments began on May 31st when, after overcoming frustrating roadblocks and delays, we were finally able to pick up our seed! 670 pounds of Anka which is considered a dual purpose crop.
We wasted no time and planted our first field the very next day! June 1, 2017 we planted 5 acres in Bethlehem. After literal years of fighting for the right to cultivate hemp it was almost surreal that the moment had finally arrived.
Just 2 days later, on June 3rd with a group of amazing volunteers, we went to Pinchot State Forest to plant our most challenging trial. This 5 acre patch of land is freshly reclaimed coal mine land. It is a barren moonscape that has not seen any vegetation in decades. With all the contracts and delays we did not have the time we would have liked to prep the field but felt it imperative to move forward knowing that despite how well the hemp grows this year, what we learn will be immensely valuable in the planning for next year.
A week later we hosted a Celebration of PA Hemp in Bethlehem within walking distance of the field we planted on the first. We were honored to be joined at the event by Secretary of Agriculture, Russell Redding, Senator Judy Schwank, Senator Mike Folmer, Representative Russ Diamond who all spoke about the journey to get where we are and the tremendous potential for hemp moving forward. We also were thrilled to have several of the other permit holders come and speak of the important trials they are conducting. Each participant and each trial have their own story and are worthy of their own blogs. We will be talking a lot more about each of them and following their progress.
To help demonstrate the versatility and potential of hemp we had some wonderful demonstrations at our event. Artisan Hemp taught attendees about hemp paper making. Lime Works demonstrated making a hempcrete wall. Penn’s Best Mill Company was pressing fresh hemp seed oil. We also has several other vendor’s showcasing their hemp products along with the Dept of Agriculture who set also up a display. A huge thank you everyone that participated and attended, it was a beautiful day and we hope that everyone enjoyed it as much as we did!
On Monday the 11th we went up to Pinchot to check the progress. We weren’t expecting much but to our delight we were greeted by sprouts! While its too soon to get too excited, the sprouts were fragile and the conditions harsh, it was a very hopeful sign! We look forward to going back up this coming week to see how they are doing.
We also checked our Lehigh field. In just five short days after the last time we checked the sprouts had transformed into seedlings! We look forward to following these healthy and happy plants through the summer! There is still one more trial for us to plant, this one being on an old zinc mine as part of another remediation trial. We are hoping to get those seeds in the ground this coming week.
There is so much to say and there is still much work to do. Tomorrow, the work continues. Together we can help farmers, build a sustainable industry, develop new technologies, create jobs and return Pennsylvania to its rightful place as a leading hemp producer.
Today we only wish to take this moment to remember how we got here, indulge in the sheer beauty of seeing living, growing hemp plants back in Pennsylvania soil and daydream about the future.