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Hemp Licensing. Overgrow the regime.

Hemp Licencing Crop Destruction. UK Hemp.

On the 16th July 2019, we had our hemp licence revoked for producing CBD from the hemp flowers. The UK hemp industry is lagging behind, with mounting concerns towards the hemp licensing regime. It’s time the hemp licensing regime was scrapped and if the government won’t do that then hemp growers will have to go ahead and grow hemp without permission from the Home Office.

Watch the video of the July 2019 hemp crop destruction below.

Hemp Crop Destruction. UK Hemp.

It has been two years since the destruction of our crop.

To stay on the right side of the law (as we always want to do – our livelihoods are built on growing hemp, and we rely on the support of the industry and officials), we had to destroy our beautiful hemp plants growing in the field. We were forced to destroy a perfectly healthy hemp field worth £200,000 as seed and fibre products, which drew international attention on how the UK are regulating hemp. If we were allowed to sell the same field as CBD products  it would have been a £2.4 million loss.

This event, was a damning day for the UK hemp industry. At Hempen, we felt the love and rage from those around the world who were upset by the destruction.

Hempen Co-operative. UK Hemp.
Hemp Licencing Regime UK Hemp.

Due to the UK Hemp licensing regime, our recent hemp licence application has been rejected…for a second year.

This is despite our very best efforts, and legal advice, to follow every request of the Home Office. The application process is complicated, lengthy, judged on a case by case basis, meaning the goal posts can be moved at any moment. The pathway for gaining a hemp licencing is unclear and unsupportive. UK farmers can now only access a hemp licence for industrial seed and fibre production.

All UK CBD is now imported. Hempen was made an example of by the Home Office as a warning to the industry. The message was clear, UK farmers cannot access the CBD market. With our company solely focused on UK hemp production, we have endeavoured to secure a UK hemp licence on our home farm in Oxfordshire, for seed and stalk only. We are successfully partnered with farmers across the UK to continue our production of UK hemp products. Today, every product we organically produce on our farm in Oxfordshire is nearly all UK grown hemp. Our CBD has to be imported from, European neighbours with sensible hemp farming regimes.

International law strongly suggests that industrial hemp should not be a controlled substance.

Two years ago, the World Health Organisation recommended that the United Nations end the scheduling of industrial hemp as an internationally controlled substance as it posed no public health risk. Furthermore, under article 28(2) of the UN’s  1961 Single Convention on Narcotics the whole plant is fully exempted from all the provisions, when used for “industrial” and/or “horticultural” purposes. As such, hemp is not a controlled substance under international law. The UK is a signatory of this convention and yet still classifies industrial hemp as illegal cannabis.

The hemp licencing regime is outdated, not for fit for purpose and is stifling the Green Economy, British Farming and Public Health. We are calling for an end to the industrial hemp licensing regime.

Grow Hemp. UK Hemp Field.

Grow Hemp for the Green Economy

Grow Hemp for British Farming

Grow Hemp for Public Health

Join the campaign to Grow Hemp


Hempen requires more hemp production than the Home Office is willing to dish out. We have adapted our business to every request made by the regime. Yet it’s still not enough for them. We are willing to buy hemp produced by anyone in the UK, as it’s time to overgrow the hemp licencing regime.

Unjustified, archaic hemp licensing regulations.

Licences are regularly issued too late in the growing season for farmers. This year licence applications could not be submitted until January which puts farmers at risk of being left with empty fields, should they be refused. Our partner growers complain of having as many as 4 separate logins and passwords per application. Many farmers are keen to grow hemp for its many benefits to soil health and lucrative end products, however are put off by the process and the associated risks.

The hemp licensing hypocrisy is deafening.

Not only is Medical Cannabis restricted to those who can afford it, UK farmers are cut out of industrial hemp production for the wellbeing aspects of CBD. And not only does hemp provide CBD, but it is one of the most versatile plants out there. It provides sustainable solutions to so many of the world’s problems, including bringing important environmental and economic benefits to UK farmers.

Beautiful feild of hemp growing in South Oxfordshire.

We want to Grow Hemp!

At Hempen home farm in Oxfordshire, we are witnessing our hemp licence applications being continually blocked, as the Home Office rules around industrial hemp threaten the UK hemp and CBD industry as a whole.

We are not the only ones. Farmers are limited in accessing the rights to grow hemp. Despite hundreds of applications, there are only about 20 licensed UK growers, totalling just 2,000 hectares.

It’s a shame this wonder crop is hardly used, or accessible. Especially in times of economic, social and environmental crises.

Hempen’s Co-Founder Patrick Gillett said:

“The UK’s licensing regime has no obvious public benefit and is stifling this emergent green industry at a time when we desperately need jobs which care for our communities and the planet.” 

“If the government won’t get out of the way, then it’s time farmers take direct action to grow this wonder plant without their permission. Hempen needs a bigger supply of organic hemp than we can currently source from farmers who have managed to jump through all the government hoops. There is more demand for organic UK hemp than the Home’s office has licensed.” 

If you are interested in growing hemp or supporting others to grow hemp without a licence, contact us on

Please share your support for this campaign on your social channels to build up the pressure! Share your stories of why you think hemp should be accessible to all, or how hemp as already helped your life journey. Together we are a movement.

It’s time to #GrowHemp and #OvergrowtheRegime


Support the movement – Donate

We believe hemp to be the most important plant on earth. It promotes many, very different uses that promote a more sustainable world, which is coming ever closer to breaking point. 

We have been on a mission to ‘Co-operatively cultivate hemp solutions that enhance the health of people, community and planet.’ 

Our vision is for a better world, where the full potential of hemp can be readily accessed by all forms of life.

The UK has been slow to take up the great opportunity that hemp provides our species, we are stunted without this plant being freely accessible and useable. As a social enterprise and not-for-profit, Hempen’s profit goes towards increasing hemp growing in the UK because we believe in the power of hemp.

We are a not for profit worker’s co-operative. To make a DONATION to Hempen, click HERE.

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UK Hemp Farm and Co-operative

UK Hemp Farm and Co-operativeHempen Organic is a UK hemp farm that is set up as a worker co-operative. This means that the employees run the co-op, the workforce are also the members and directors. There are a few different types of co-ops! Last week we sat down with Hempen’s Marketing Coordinator, Sophia Lysaczenko and Hempen’s Primary Production Coordinator, Theo Chambers. Two, very valued members of our co-operative who shared their opinions and experiences about being part of a co-op on a UK hemp farm!

Hempen is proud to be a cooperative and here’s why…

Co-operatives or ‘co-ops’ are organisations that are owned by its members, working cooperatively to meet their goals. Anyone can be a member of a co-op! From customers to employees, residents or suppliers, anyone who is passionate about a co-op can have a say on how the co-op should run. Co-ops across the nation must follow these sets of principles and values. For Co-op Fortnight 2021 celebration, co-operatives around the UK are working together to show people what it truly means to be a member of co-op. What better way to hear about it from our very own members here at Hempen? This fortnight we will be getting to know different members of our co-op and what their personal experience has been.

How did you hear about Hempen?

Sophia: I was talking about Hemp to lots of people, and they suggested I should go to Hempen. The Hempen Harvest was on at the time. So I volunteered and got involved further ever since. Theo: A good friend of mine introduced me to Joe and Paddy in October 2015. Then by the end of the year we decided on Hempen as a co-operative.

Why did you join the Coop?

Sophia: I thought the project was very inspirational. For me, it was very important to have some sort of ownership in what I’m doing. To have the decision-making power, to learn about the business and to know how the main business functions. It’s a way of being involved in what you’re working with, in much a deeper way. Theo: It felt like a good thing to do. Dedicating my energy towards something that would bring a meaningful impact to the world and be beneficial to people and provide a set of solutions to many of the world’s problems like climate change and people’s health. It felt like a worthy dedication of my effort.

What makes Hempen unique?

Sophia: We are working with such an interesting plant, and it’s still early for UK Hemp Farming. That’s incredibly challenging in itself, and then you also have the fact that we are a co-op, which can be very difficult for people to understand. Theo: I think all co-ops are unique in their own way. But what makes us unique is that we are surrounding one plant, as a UK hemp farm. Our way of bringing health and happiness to the world is growing it, then giving it to the customer at the end of the day.

What does the Coop have to offer to someone?

Sophia: A co-op means you can voluntarily join, so anyone who is an employee at the co-op can actually apply themselves to become a member if they wanted to. We’re drafting up what our membership really means to us and getting that more defined. The coop can also provide more training for its members. Theo: I think a co-op offers a piece of mind to an organisation which you won’t always get out of more conventional organisations. By that, I mean we are ultimately all equal, and we have an equal amount of responsibility to.

What would you advise people who are wanting to join a coop?

Sophia: Do it! Co-ops support one another, that’s the idea! It’s always very friendly and open. How I see it, is that it is a model that already works in the system that we already have. It’s where an employee in a company or business can feel more empowered. Theo: I would say take pride in the fact that you are subscribing to a model that is going to bring much more happiness to your heart, rather than some other models that are unsustainable and are unethical.

How did Hempen and its members respond to the Covid-19 Crisis?

Sophia: We didn’t think the change was going to be so dramatic at first, but it was. We normally have regular business meetings together, but we actually had to have more (online) meetings to make sure we were all looking after each other and communicating well. We do have a live-in community as well as the business. So it was tricky finding the balance between the different sides. The needs of the business came first a lot of the time. But we really needed to think of safety, and how we can continue working together differently. There was some resistance to having meetings online, so we had to try and work out a way where everyone was comfortable and that we could still come together and make decisions. Theo: We are a community that live on the grounds, so we gave each other a lot of support. We tried to respond to it in the correct way we knew how. Making sure our products were safe for our customers, but also that we were too. We felt a lot stronger as a co-operative having gone through it together.

Where is Hempen heading?

Sophia: There are lots of opportunities and challenges with hemp. But we are constantly adapting with whatever is happening so far. We would like to see hemp and CBD be household products! We are launching our hemp seed products very soon and hope that will be a household product. People need to understand the value of the food and well-being aspects of hemp, in general. We would love to help grow hemp in an ecological way around the UK, as it would be of great value for the UK’s hemp farmers and the economy. Theo: I think the future of Hempen is bright! I see hemp is such a great way of being a solution to so many problems, and if we can educate the world and help them understand that, then I think the future of Hempen is bright. So if you would like to know more about how to be a member or different, head on over to Co-operatives UK
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Use hemp in your own garden!

Use hemp in your own garden

Here at the farm, we are BIG fans of compost! And we are always looking for ways to sneak hemp into lives in any way. Here’s how you could use hemp in your own garden too!

For compost, we save all our food scraps and tip them into our garden compost heap. There are lots of ways to bring compost into your life, even if you’re not feeding an army of vegetable fiends twice a day…

Good compost is made from a mix of ingredients – the wider the diversity, the better the compost. You can’t just put veg scraps in a place and expect compost. This makes the ‘not good’ bacteria and not the ‘good’ bacteria.

For a compost pile to work its magic, it needs a balance of carbon-rich ingredients and nitrogen-rich ingredients. Carbon-rich material is normally old and woody whereas nitrogen-rich material comes from fresh, new growth and softer plant matter. 

As plants develop, the nitrogen from the new growth travels down the plant into the roots. That’s why it’s good to leave the roots in the ground! This way, the nitrogen returns to the soil and the soil food web is undisturbed.

We add carbon into our mix by using… Hemp! 

Hemp straw bales are perfect, and we also use it as mulch on top of the beds, as this adds organic matter to the soil. Instead of using normal straw on your beds, use hemp straw. Hemp contains more nutrients which will be transferred to your soil!

Another way you could use hemp in your own garden, is to make hemp bales as planters! Would you believe! You can dig a whole out of the centre and plant your seedlings in there, the straw holds the moisture, creates an easy raised bed. And again, adds those nutrients to your soil.

We all would like to be able to grow hemp in our backyard with ease and freedom, but we are not there yet. So for now we can support in other ways. We can buy hemp and use in our gardens in more creative ways. Use hemp in your own garden to support the hemp revolution!

Use hemp in your own garden

Last year, Tom and Alfie had the wonderful idea of building an outdoor shower using a hot compost technique to heat the water. Hardwick Estate is a working woodland, so there’s a lot of wood chips going to waste from the tree surgeons around the farm.

We created an account with Arbtalk, and now we get deliveries of fresh wood chip once a month or so! We pile this on top of the piping, and it heats the water to a whopping 50 degrees. With the smell of pine in the morning and a fresh breeze to dry off, the shower is a real composty treat!

There are two main methods of composting. Here’s how to compost in your garden:

1. Short term

Also known as the “Berkeley method” or the “18-day compost”

Normally the compost pile will need more than 18 days as this is accurate if all the material is perfectly chopped up and prepared. That’s not really our composting vibe! The pile needs to reach 55/60 degrees in order to kill off any pathogens (such as powdery mildew), and to properly decompose any weed seeds or roots (like nettles or rhizomes) to avoid spreading them around your garden. 

We don’t always get around to turning our piles quite as often as is necessary for this method, so our compost can take a little longer to finish brewing! Some people are very accurate in getting the right balance of fresh green nitrogen rich materials to old dry woody carbon materials. We’re learning as we go along to get the balance right.

2. Long term

With this method, there’s a lot less to worry about. Moisture isn’t as big a deal because the pile is out in the open. The balance is more forgiving but you still need to make sure there’s lots of carbon in the mix. 

This 6-12 month cold composting technique will not destroy the pathogens, weed seeds or roots. The heat comes from the activity of thermophilic bacteria which will happily do its composting thing as long as they have the right environment. 

How to make your own hot compost:

Make a pile of about 1 cubic meter. We use 1 tonne bags but you can use a wooden bay or pig wire. The balance of carbon to nitrogen needs to be just right. In total, it should be 25-30:1 of carbon:nitrogen. 

Old, woody materials have a higher carbon concentration. For example, wood chips and cardboard are around 350-400:1 and will take a long time to decompose on their own.

That’s why wood chips are perfect for the compost shower!

Grass cuttings are around 20:1, cow manure is 16:1 and urine is 1:1 which is why it’s good to wee on your compost! 

For the pile to work, it needs to have plenty of air flow to stay aerobic. To do this, you need to turn the pile regularly. For the 18 day compost method, you should leave it for 4 days then turn every other day until it’s ready.

How do you know when it’s ready?

When you have worms!

These little fellas are a great indicator that the pile has cooled down enough as they don’t like the high temperatures. The mixture should also be dark brown in colour and smell like a woodland floor. 

Be careful if you’re using ingredients that are lumpy or sloppy (like cow manure) as this will inhibit the airflow in your pile.

You want to have all the ingredients chopped up small – but not too small! If you’re getting closer to sawdust size, it can also become sloppy and make your pile anaerobic. 

Once the material is nicely broken down and soft, the compost goes back onto our veggie patches in the polytunnel to help the new vegetables grow. What a satisfying cycle!

Composting is an amazing way to use food and garden waste, as well as feeding the soil food web and the microbial life. In healthy soils, more water is retained and the microbiome is more diverse. This reduces desertification and keeps the soil where it should be – on the ground!

Do you have any hot composting tips?

We hope you will use hemp in your own garden too! Let us know!

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Social Justice in Farming

social justice in farming

The Project

In January, we launched the Growing Solidarity project. We are fortunate to have the means to be on bountiful land. On the farm we work, live and collectively grow organic food together. We recognise the importance of nature connection. Furthermore, we want to do what we can to provide the same access to others…to share what we have got. Knowing that there are many that don’t have the same opportunity, nature can bring opportunity. When do we hear about social justice in farming?

From choice comes empowerment…

The crisis opened up a space to grow something! We began working with Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) to deliver seeds, seedlings, soil, from our farm. To support individuals and families in our local migrant community. As we, cautiously, approach an easing of lockdown, it appears it’s possible to reopen our farm to visitors again. We are located next to a wonderful forest in the Hardwick Estate, inviting the RRSG community to explore with us. Offering space to connect with nature, rest and socialise. It’s a chance to share and grow together, in a beautiful natural setting. 

Standing strong in our belief that everybody should have the opportunity to grow food and medicine. In order to sustain themselves, their families and their own communities. The 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.

Social Justice Growing Project

Sowing seeds

Social Justice Reading
The growing team at no.69

Before the crisis, we were regularly opening up our farm for this project. As we were unable to host visitors 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 led by the individual or household. People can choose to fill up their own planter, and choose the seedlings they want. Having a choice, is important in what we offer.

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!

Practising social justice in farming

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”.

It is a time of disconnection and fragmentation. Not only from each other, but also the natural world. In the hemp industry, we are reminded often it’s difficult and constricting barriers. There are many loops to jump through to get into this industry. As we grow, we want to make social justice in farming part of our journey. 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.

Migrant Crisis

For more information about the project, visit our Growing Solidarity page here:

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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Growing hemp at Hempen in 2020

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

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.