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we are growing solidarity

The Project

In January, we launched the Growing Solidarity project. We are fortunate to have the means to be on bountiful land where we can work, live and collectively grow organic food. We recognise the importance of nature connection and want to do what we can to provide access to others and to share what we have got. We know that there are many people that don’t have the opportunity to be connected to nature and harness its possibilities.

We are working with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) to deliver seeds, seedlings, soil, and support to individuals and families in our local migrant community. As we cautiously approach an easing of lockdown, we are reopening the land that we are part of on the Hardwick Estate to the RRSG community. We are offering our space to connect to nature, rest, solialise, share and grow together in a beautiful natural setting. 

Working together

From choice comes empowerment

We believe that everybody should have the opportunity to grow food and medicine to sustain themselves, their families and their own communities. Our aim is to listen to the individuals and families that we work with, provide resources to support the ideas that they come up with, and empower them to shape the project and take it in directions that they choose.

Sharing soil

Sowing seeds

Before the crisis we were regularly opening up our farm for the project. As we were unable to host people during lockdown, we have been connecting with people directly at home. Each week we deliver a range of seeds and plants to homes, along with planters (up-cycled from pallets!), soil, tools and knowledge about growing. What we bring each week is lead by the individual or household. People can choose to fill up their own planter, and choose the seedlings they want.

During our visits, new gardeners have given us their own pickled delicacies. People have also been sharing their seedlings and produce with others in the community. Through sowing seeds in a literal sense, it is our hope that this project can be a seed from which all kinds of fruits will grow!

The growing team at no.69

Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible

As Canadian activist Naomi Klein puts it, “the status quo is an emergency…in this moment of vulnerability, we must shine light on what is possible and carry this forward into building a different future”.

We exist in a time of disconnection and fragmentation from each other and the natural world. We see investing in connection to one another, our communities and the land as a necessary stepping stone towards a better future. And a more resilient future. Growing Solidarity offers one of those steps.

@MollyCostello

For more information about the project visit our Growing Solidarity page here: hempen.co.uk/growing-solidarity/

To support the project, please donate here – each time you shop with us, you can show solidarity with our local community!

 

 

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Wash Your Hands! Nourish Your Hands! Moisturise the NHS!

Important current advice by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and our NHS is to wash our hands properly and frequently, and use sanitiser when out and about.

Soap has the power to wash away the mircobes, whilst sanitiser directly kills microbes.

Both are important ways to stop the transport and transfer of microbes in this crucial time.

Solidarity in these times can take many forms. One way is through upholding high personal hygiene standards. Unfortunately the chemicals that this might involve take a toll on our skin, often leaving it dry, sore and cracked. This in its own way, can have negative impacts on our health.

Moisturising is an important full stop in the hygiene process!

We’ve noticed we are making more of our Organic Hemp Seed Moisturising Oil… are you finding our moisturising oil helpful?

Why is our Organic Hemp Seed Moisturising Oil both Relaxing & Energising good for this…

  • Hemp seed oil is deeply moisturising and encourages new cell growth.
  • 100% natural, organic, and non-comedogenic, meaning that the oil allows the skin to breathe and doesn’t block the pores.
  • It contains vitamins A, D and E which help prevent premature ageing and skin disorders, by providing nourishment to all types of skin.
  • The unique essential fatty acids found only in hemp seed oil have therapeutic effects.
Organic Hemp Moisturiser Oil
Oragnic Hemp Moisterising Oil
Organic Hemp Moitsuring Oil

the nhs is a public service

Nowhere is hygiene more thorough than among our frontline workers, working around the clock to treat patients while minimising the spread of this virus. After a recent stint in hospital (welcoming a new baby to his family and our community!), one of our members noticed how dry the hands of maternity ward staff are becoming. 

We wholeheartedly believe that the NHS is a public service, not a charity, and that it is the duty of our government to properly fund this indispensable service. We worry that recent public fundraisers to provide PPE for frontline workers are needed only as a result of this woeful underfunding. While we do not accept this underfunding, we do recognise that as individuals and communities, we can try and fill the gaps.

Whilst clapping at 8pm on Thursdays are a great way to bring attention and show our support. We hope that the conversation around this continues. Clapping alone is not going to #SaveTheNHS!

Inspired by mutual aid groups and volunteer networks working hard, up and down the country to support vulnerable people, we are dropping off over £350 worth of our hemp seed moisturising oil to Royal Berkshire Hospital local to us.

And in this spirit, we will also be offering NHS Staff one third off our moisuristing oil or 15% off everything online. Thank you NHS!

Email shop@hempen.co.uk and send an image of your ID card to receive your own discount code. 

Your unique individual code will be valid for three months and reusable. 

NHS Workers
NHS Discount

And for the most fun way to wash your hands see Wash Your Lyrics, to add you favourite lyrics!  

And for a more textbook option see the NHS Page.

#protecttheNHS #clapforourcarers #mutualaid #supportthenhs  #StayWell #ThankYou

Washing Your Hands
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Why Farming Matters

farming is public service

Last Wednesday, the UK Agriculture Bill was debated in parliament and despite an impressive campaign forged by the Landworkers’ Alliance and more than 5000 letters sent in support of amendments seeking to recognise farming as a public service and incentivise UK farming that is ecologically and socially sustainable, the amendments to the Bill were defeated.
 
It is entirely possible to produce all the food we need in ways that benefit people, community and planet. Big farms are not the solution.
 
COVID-19 is rattling communities and economies alike, and is exposing the fragility of the food systems that we all rely on. We urgently need to change the ways that we produce and consume and recognise the foundational role that farming plays in the wellbeing of us all. 
 
@rosannaprints

The words of Soul Fire Farm, located upstate New York, resonate:

This outbreak reveals the interconnectedness of our world in a very personal way. It is showing, conclusively, that the health and well being of one is intimately bound to the health and well being of all. We must take action to protect the most vulnerable who will be hit hardest: those whose health is already compromised, those who are denied access to medical care, those who bear great risk in asking for help and those on the frontlines of poverty and pollution.

We stand with the immigrants who are demonized, and the people in prison who are denied the tools to protect their health. We stand with our elders and neighbors with compromised immune systems. We stand with the workers in healthcare and service industries, who are at the front line of financial and health risks. We stand with the farmers and landworkers whose livelihood is at stake.

Here, Now.

Waiting to be served at the counter of a local corner shop the other morning, I glanced down at the shelf stacked with tempting snacks – crisps with familiar flavours, and weird ones, jelly snakes and sweets shaped like emojis, classic kit-kats and chunky ones with peanut butter in them, it was all there, arranged invitingly. Amid the spread of cheerful colours and fonts I spotted a label which read:

 

“Sorry! No brazils.” 

 

On an “Eat Natural” cereal bar, an innocuous looking information bubble explained that failed harvests have led to a worldwide shortage of brazil nuts. My mind whirred. Stumbling across yet another disconcerting example of the impact environmental changes was no surprise to me. What felt so stark was the way this reality had crept into a routine activity. Marketing companies expertly avert our attention from the convoluted and unfair supply chains of land and labour; and the impact climatic fluctuations have on essential supplies. This label felt as though the marketing mask had slipped. The label was a glimpse into a situation that doesn’t look as ordered and dependable as a typical wrapper might have you believe. It is so easy to browse the vast range of food on the shelves of brightly lit supermarkets and not give a thought to the people or environmental conditions that brought it there. 

 

Though it is the backbone to all our lives, the tireless effort of farmers is rarely acknowledged and given the respect it deserves. Nor is the land and it’s complex ecology and interactions from which our food, and many other essentials, are derived. It is labels like the one at the cornershop that morning that, for me, jolted our collective complacency into a new perspective. When we take our food, and all else that we derive from the land for granted, we do so at our peril. Even more so when we overlook the labour involved. The work that farmers do to meet our needs has far reaching implications. Both globally and at a UK level, many farming practices are not good for the land, for farmer wellbeing and security, for rural communities or for us as consumers, and the systems are not set up to incentivise practices that are. 

 

The brazil nut shortage is a reminder that farming practice impacts the quality of what is grown, the soil, the ecology and the climate – as one article put it, the shortage is “a canary in the mine of climate change. There is an urgent need for widespread change which honours the vital role that farming and farmers play in the survival of us all. 

Sorry! no brazils

Big problems need big solutions

The challenges we face are global, but can we do anything on a local or national level? And how can this slot into a global picture?

In recent decades, farming has become increasingly industrialised. Small farms are being swallowed by larger ones – in the UK, 30,000 small farms have closed in 10 years, and along with them, knowledge, skills and rural culture have been lost. Supply chains and local markets are being swept out of the way with big business taking their place – 95% of food retail is controlled by supermarkets

The diverse and dynamic form that farming can take is being hampered and shut out by the government and DEFRA’s market-based approach, which rewards intensive and industrial scale farms. Power is being removed from the hands of small-scale producers and communities with it. 

Furthermore, currently less than 1% of the population owns over half of all agricultural land. Land is opportunity: opportunity to grow food, opportunity to produce energy, opportunity to build homes, opportunity to access to nature. With land in the hands of a wealthy few, only a tiny minority of people get to decide how land is used and farmed, and who benefits. Access to land needs to be fair, it needs to be a resource for the many, not a vehicle to entrench power and privilege. 

The hurdles and obstacles that farmers face have heartbreaking consequences. In the UK, one farmer a week takes their life. Farm work conditions are not easy; work is often hard and repetitive and farmers work in environments that they have very limited control over (increasingly so in a changing climate). To top it all off, farm work is undervalued in society: farmers are key workers too, where are their claps? Farmers are forced between a rock and a hard place. Either they have to opt for corner cutting; or industrial scale production which threatens the health of land and compromises the quality of what is produced; or take on large financial and personal risk if they choose to opt for a smaller scale, ecologically gentler approach to production. 

Time for change

As it stands, it is not easy for farmers and rural communities to challenge the state of affairs that prioritises the interests of corporations and international free trade agreements. We, as land workers, need to  reclaim the farming system so that policy and practice accounts for the needs of all of us – anyone who grows, prepares, distributes or eats food is represented and has contributed to the answers. We need distant policy makers to recognise that we operate in the finite limits of the earth, and as such, we need policies that promote a system of using land within its means.


Could a return to farming through a patchwork of smaller holdings offer a way out of the multitude of challenges we face? Research suggests it could. A recent report points towards the ways in which small farms promote diversity and innovation in the farming sector, offering meaningful, skilled work and the opportunity for training; as well as reducing supply chains to allow for a more responsive way of working that connects farmers to consumers –  good news for rural economies and communities.

Developed by the LWA, Global Justice Now, the Ecological Land Co-op, The Centre for Agroecology and the Permaculture Association.

This involves incentivising and rewarding work that promotes on-farm biodiversity, practices which promote healthy and well structured soil, and practices which look after the people who work on the land and in connected work. In her book, Farming While Black, Leah Penniman centres the oppressive impacts of policies and structures. She centres the disproportionate affect these have on people of colour, impeding access to land and good food.  When we take a socially and racially just approach to these issues, the strategy for how to challenge oppressive policies and structures will be enriched.

Where does hemp fit?

Though the problems we face are vast, complicated and difficult to untangle, local scale farming practices and innovation offer us exciting possibilities to address these challenges. At Hempen we’re excited about hemp for its manifold possibilities; from social to economic to ecological. Recognised worldwide for thousands of years for its versatility in providing societal and economic benefits to people and community, hemp offers a promising stepping stone on the path out of the entrenched extractive practices of modern industry, towards regenerative ones. Hemp can provide us with much needed resources while also giving back to the land. 

Hemp is easy to grow organically because the dense canopy it forms eradicates weeds and is naturally resistant to insect pests. Its strong root networks can restore soil health by preventing erosion and promoting bioremediation. At Hempen we have used hemp in our crop rotation, replenishing land which is used by us or other tenant farmers. Bees love hemp flowers for their pollen which they use in nest building and feeding their young.  Small birds and mammals such as ground larks and deer, enjoy the shelter the plants provide. 

Hemp is also effective at sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere, for every ton of hemp grown, it is estimated that 1.63 tons of carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere – an indispensable tool in combating the climate crisis.

From the perspective of rural livelihoods, hemp is also powerful. It is said to have more than 25,000 uses, including as building materials, plastics, energy, and for health and nutrition. At Hempen, we are harnessing the plant to promote economic and social opportunity in our community. The small-scale production and processing methods that we use for our products provide reliable communal work in our community and form part of a varied and meaningful week. 

There are considerable and unjust barriers preventing the expansion of hemp farming in small scale farms in the UK. Hemp licencing is outdated, based on legislation created in the 1960s. Hempen is working with other farmers and activists to educate and lobby decision makers within the Home Office  to challenge current legislation and push for reform.

Stepping Stones

Just as growing hemp can be a stepping stone in the route towards a farming industry that is more in harmony with the wellbeing of people and planet, so is small-scale, agroecological farming. In the UK, the Land Workers Alliance (LWA) is working to assess and reform the way that farming is legislated, to include the voices of… Land Workers! In their post-Brexit policy recommendations, LWA are focusing on making sure that small-scale farmers have a ‘seat at the table’. The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) does not reward small-scale farming, there is a democratic deficit in how farming is legislated, meaning the government is failing to ensure that producers and consumers can meet their needs. Reforms can revive family, community and co-operative based farming for high quality and healthy produce, while “enhancing the environment, strengthening communities and supporting good livelihoods for farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk”. Farming should be recognised and valued for what it is. Just as as healthcare workers look after us in times of need, and educators support us to learn, farms nourish us,  and farming is a public service. 

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Why CBD helps with Anxiety (and why its not the ultimate solution)

Anxious? Depressed? You might be suffering from capitalism

Note: This blog was written by Sophe a while back, before ‘coronavirus’ was a word we all knew. This moment we find ourselves in provides a lens for reflection. How can we embrace lockdown and the different forms of impact it is having on our lives, as an opportunity to connect with ourselves, and observe the experiences of our body, our mind, and our heart and at the same time be curious to meet and navigate the bigger forces at work? How can we understand the interactions between our individual lives and the structures, both enabling and oppressive?

The title of this blog is also the title of recently published research from the journal of Sociology, Health and Illness. It suggests that society’s mental health crisis is strongly related to the capitalist system. We are living in a time where politics is often framed by polarising narratives that simplify and divide, where vital services such as hospitals and schools are being battered by austerity, where tech and social media tend towards sideline human-to-human connection, lengthening our working day and providing us with round-the-clock stressful media updates – all set to the backdrop of looming climate breakdown. (It is important to note that tech is also a huge enabler for many of us affording vital and empowering possibilities for meaningful connection, creation and organising for people of all walks of life.) It’s a lot to take in, to say the least, and we would be remiss to not name the system that pulls the strings in which all of this takes place: capitalism.

Lots of different things affect how we feel. We can do a lot to help ourselves. But it is important to keep in our sight the larger forces at work

Feelings of anxiety and helplessness in society are on the rise and it is no wonder. Anxiety can be felt in the body as much as in the mind and can be described by feelings of restlessness or panic, and difficulty making decisions, taking criticism, or taking risks. In our target-driven culture, where more value is put on our ability to produce than on our wellbeing, there can be little space left to notice and untangle our feelings, let alone, make steps to understand where they’re coming from or address them. 

The options available to tackle anxiety are wide-ranging. But pharmaceutical options bring side effects, while the suggestion of a “mindful minute” from your boss at the start of an 8 hour working day can feel tokenistic and a cynical attempt to improve economic performance. The wellbeing movement is soaring, with gong baths, yoga retreats and cacao ceremonies being an increasingly mainstream go-to for people feeling the need to duck out of their day-to-day. Meanwhile, more and more people are reconnecting with the power of plants to help them feel well.

Ancient folk wisdom teaches us the benefits of integrating cannabidiol (CBD) into our lives, as a way to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. CBD, extracted from the flower of the hemp plant, works in a way very similar to the psychiatric option of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. CBD impacts the brain receptors responsible for our body’s response to anxiety, bringing your serotonin to a normal level. At Hempen, we’re constantly moved by our customers’ accounts of the impact that CBD has had on their wellbeing. 

But despite the many options we, as individuals, have at our disposal to treat our malaise, it is so important to remember that mental illness is not a personal failure. We all live in the world. We all have to cope with all the things that happen in it. And we are all less in control of our lives than ever before. The psychiatrist Peadar O’Grady explains: “The term ‘anxiety’ is used particularly when the threat is not immediate or is unclear but it is fear by another name”. Our wellbeing cannot be solved simply by us working to change ourselves. Beware of the many ways that wellness solutions can distract us from honest conversations about the system we live in and the anxiety that stems from its toxic roots. Capitalism is making us sick. A small example: how easy is it to find a place outside of your home to sit down and catch up with a friend without having to buy a coffee or fork out for a venue? The monetisation of everything, including just being, is an inhibiting vice.

Some sound advice from @Emilyonlife

If you’re feeling low, struck by a sense of isolation or lack of meaning, it is ok. You’re not on your own. CBD can offer you effective relief. But it is not necessarily the elixir to solve all. We need to directly challenge the systems that pedal our problems – though being an important part of wellbeing practice for many of us, no amount of pills, pipettes, gongs or yoga mats will get at what is really going on. There is a stark gap between what we need as human beings and the conditions that we live in, under capitalism. It’s important to keep in mind that so many of us are raised to understand our value as being attached to how hard we work. And that this notion is convenient to productivity and profit.

Human beings need connection, they need safety and they need meaning. Luckily for us, this trio is highly compatible, if not fundamental, in what is needed to counteract the forces underpinning our unwell society. Stop to reflect on what actually brings you feelings of connection with others, a sense of security, a sense of meaning. Is it really ticking off a long to do list?  In her podcast, Krista Tippett explores “how settling inside ourselves right now, and kindness towards ourselves, are gifts to the world we want to make.”

Have a break. Get your body engaged. Sit down. Hang out with a tree. Do nothing for a bit, like Tom!

Also think about how your actions could feed into a bigger picture. What struggles can you offer your energy to? What resources can you give?  What perspectives could you bring to what gathering? You and your wellbeing are important. And so is the wellbeing of the people around you. A good balance is there for all of us, and for all us the balance is going to be different. Let’s stick together, look after ourselves and each other and join in the struggle for a better world. Collective organising and mutual aid is more powerful than the highest-strength CBD.

You are important and you have power .
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Growing hemp at Hempen in 2020

And now, in other non-virus-related news…

Hemp farmer in a field of hemp

You may have seen our news from July 2019 about losing our ability to grow hemp. Since then, lots of you have been keen for an update, asking us whether we’ve got our licence to grow hemp back. Well, it’s been rather a long and complex process of legal advice, back and forth with the Home Office, debates and scenario planning to get us to the point where we can give you a proper update. So sorry about that.

And unfortunately, for now, the short answer is no – Hempen are not growing hemp directly this year.

But don’t worry, it’s not as straightforward as that! 

Why aren’t Hempen growing this year?

Before I explain properly, just to clarify a detail. Technically, “Hempen” the organisation can’t hold a licence. Again, not as simple as it sounds – hemp growing licences are held in the name of the tenant farmer on the land or landowner, as growing hemp is a farming practice (we’ll ignore the fact hemp is regulated by the Drugs & Firearms division for the purposes of this point!) – in our case, this was the very brilliant, experienced organic farmer James, then one of Hempen’s directors.

OK, back to the main point.

Rest assured that our long term vision is still very much rooted in the cultivation of hemp. And that’s what we’re still doing on a daily basis. The only change is that there’ll be no plants growing on this farm, this season. 

The main reason is one of the complexities around growing hemp in the UK: in this case, the Home Office’s request for a compliance visit to the farm before deciding whether to issue the licence. Not only is this costly, it is also a challenge for James, who would hold the hemp growing licence. Here’s why:

Most arable cereals (e.g. wheat or barley) are sown in March. Hemp is generally sown in the UK in early May (after last frosts). Usually, organic arable farmers will grow more than one crop in their rotation (part of organic principles and maintaining soil health). In order for the farmer (in our case, James) to decide whether they can sow hemp that year, they need to know if they’ll have a licence to do so by March. Because if not, they will, quite logically, choose to sow another crop, rather than risk having their fields lay bare.

Hempen farmers prepping the hemp seed drilling

The Home Office requested their visit for mid-March. The risk was, that if the application was turned down, James would have missed his chance to sow other crops, leaving empty fields and losing all potential revenue. And no-one wants that, when it’s already such a challenge to be a farmer. So the decision was taken to sow other arable crops instead.

No hemp?! What are you doing instead? Where is all the organic hemp for your products going to come from?

Though it is a little disappointing that we won’t have beautiful acres of hemp flourishing here in our part of south Oxfordshire in 2020, it won’t have any negative impact on our business, and we’ll still be helping acres of hemp grow!

It gives us the chance to focus more on our goal of increasing the amount of organic hemp grown in the UK. Alongside our own harvest, we’ve been collaborating with other organic farmers around the UK since 2016. And while we’re not growing here this season, we will be continuing to collaborate – to help more farmers grow and develop, and also source our seed-to-shelf UK organic hemp, so we can keep up with the rising demand! And our aim is to have hemp blowing in the breeze here at Path Hill again next year.

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to continue produce locally-grown, organic nutritious foods like hemp to bring food security in difficult times. We’re grateful to keep having that opportunity. Love and peace to all.

We’re always looking for new partners, so if you're keen to grow hemp, do get in touch - email us! And follow us on social media for all sorts of goings on - links below.
#SaveUKCBD saveukcbd.org