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The importance of organic farming

“Organically grown”, “farmed organically”, “made with organic ingredients”… these phrases crop up more and more in our everyday, from ads on the underground, to our conversations at the hairdressers.  Organic ingredients are present in a whole host of the things we use, from food to wellbeing, clothing to cleaning products.

Hempen Organic Hemp Seed Oil

But organic farming is nothing new, nor is its importance to the wellbeing of our bodies and the natural world. Though pesticides have been experimented with for 1000’s of years, it has only been since the 1940’s and 50’s when the “pesticide erareally took hold, that non-organic farming became the new norm.

Rising populations, lower yields and smaller labour requirements are used to justify mono-cultural large scale agriculture. Today, non-organic farming accounts for 99% of farming globally, but pesticides and fertilisers are detrimental to wildlife and their impacts go beyond the boundaries where they are used. Insect populations are vanishing, spelling catastrophic consequences for food chains, pollination, soil health and our health. Can organic agricultural methods produce enough food for a population set to hit 10 billion by 2050, avoid the obliteration of insects and trees and the pollution of land and water? In these times of climate change, environmental degradation and disintegration of community, organic farming offers a relatively untapped source of hope.

Insect on organic hemp leaf

A recent US study finds that while organic farms have lower yields, food produced is more nutritious, soil and water is less polluted, biodiversity of plants, animals and microbes is greater, greenhouse gas emissions are lower, and farming methods are more energy efficient. From a social perspective, organic farms also come out tops, being associated with more jobs, healthier work environments and happier workers in more connected communities. 

Hempen is a not-for-profit organic farm co-operative. At the core of our principles is a dedication to practices which promote the health of people and the environment. We make all of our products from certified organic hemp which makes us unique in the UK.

Besides the farm being organised in a way that promotes ecological biodiversity and the wellbeing of all of us who work here, the quality of what we produce is also maximised. As hemp is bioremedial, in areas of contaminated land, hemp’s quick and deep growing roots can clean soils by absorbing toxins into the plant itself. This means it is all the more important that we farm organically. Our soil’s health is integral to the quality and effectiveness of what we make. We’re proud to say that our CBD comes from clean and nourished soils which help to maximise the many health benefits that stem from using CBD.

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Feeding the community well, together

Reading Town Meal 2019

We’re excited to be at the beautiful, community-powered Reading Town Meal this Saturday 28th September.

We feel so lucky to be part of a vibrant web of local growers and producers. This event brings us all together to provide the fruit, veg and – in our case – delicious hemp goodies to feed the community. The locally-grown produce will be cooked up into delicious dishes by Reading College students, and served up for us all to enjoy – for free!

If you’re around this Saturday, come down and join the meal. Learn more about growing your own food from local allotment holders, shop with local producers – including us and our friends from Greenbroom Farm, a local fossil fuel-free organic veg growing co-op – find out what local community and sustainability groups are doing in Reading, and dance to music from local bands. Sounds like a dreamy Saturday afternoon to us…

If you’ve got the time, there will be lots of roles to get stuck in with, from leafleting, to washing up. Volunteers always welcome! Have a browse here to see what you can do, and let the organisers know if you can help out.

See you and our lovely local community there!

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Hemp for the future

Imagine hemp for a moment... What comes to mind?

Hemp leaf

Five years ago, it wouldn’t be so far fetched if mention of this much talked about plant drummed up images of coarse-fibred wallets patched with badges from far corners of the earth, or black and white film reel of thick-set naval ropes tightly wound around iron mooring pulls. Lately, you’d be excused if your thoughts jumped straight to a pom hibiscus CBD-infused sparkling water. The recent re-emergence of hemp into the mainstream markets of the western world may be resetting your understanding of the versatility of this much misunderstood plant. Its uses and potential stretch far beyond the pages of hipster magazines. At Hempen, what excites us is the role hemp is already playing in addressing a whole host of ecological, climatic and social challenges. 

During the second world war, the US government’s Department of Agriculture, made a film called Hemp for Victory, encouraging farmers to grow hemp. US officials recognised the instrumental role hemp could play in rope, rigging and canvas, bolstering naval power. Their sentiment echoes the drive under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to produce hemp for British national security in the 16th and 18th century. 

Today, industrial hemp has a place at the table, but for a very different type of victory and a very different type of security. When you start to look into it, hemp appears a bit of a miracle plant. Can hemp help us overcome the many extractive and exploitative practices that threaten life on earth and offer sustainable and regenerative alternatives for both land and life?

The carbon sink

Hemp takes large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, making it a perfect carbon sink. more than most plants per acre, and more than forests or other commercial crops. Though it’s not an exact science, some estimates say one hectare of industrial hemp can sequester approximately 15 tonnes of CO2. Hemp absorbs more carbon per hectare than forests or other commercial crops. Where the carbon is incorporated into the plant itself, it can then be processed and stored into building materials such as Hempcrete, and fibres, such as hemp cloth. When you consider that cotton requires more water, nutrients, land and is slower to grow, hemp is a durable and more ecologically gentle option.

From a construction perspective, Hempcrete is a natural building material that relies on plant not mineral-based inputs. It is 7 times stronger and half as heavy as concrete, with insulating properties that also reduce the energy demands of the building. Carbon passive homes and clothes are a thing – and an amazing one at that!

Organic hemp growing

The Soil Improver

Industrial hemp grows with a deep tap root, enabling access to water and nutrient supplies deep in the soil. The root also helps to improve soil structure and nutrient availability for future crops, leaving the ground in a better condition to when it is planted. Hemp grows quickly and easily, and can germinate at temperatures just above freezing meaning it can grow in many parts of the world and using organic methods – so no need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

The power house

When tasked with imagining a future world with cleaner air, soils, and oceans, it is not long before conversations stray into the arena of energy storage. Yes we can harness the power of wind, sun and waves, but how can we lock it in for when we need it? Enter, hemp. Again. Research finds that the waste fibres from hemp crops can be “cooked” to produce carbon nanosheets that meet graphene at its game to produce energy storage devices. Hemp alternatives to graphene are a fraction of the price, made with bark fibre leftovers.

The ocean protector

Unlike conventional plastics, derived from petrochemicals, and choking ocean life with debris that take several centuries to degrade, hemp plastic is biodegradable. It takes 3-6 months to biodegrade and, rather than rely on fossil-fuel heavy processes which cause damage to air, soil and water, its raw ingredients and manufacturing process have far less impact on the environment. 

What’s more, hemp seed oil offers a locally-grown, sustainably produced plant-based source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids at a ratio that is perfect for human health, in higher concentrations and better ratio than fish oil. One tablespoon of hemp seed oil provides your daily dose of essential fatty acids as well as being a source of zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and Vitamins E and D. 

Organic Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp for health

Organic CBD Coconut Oil 550mgHemp seed oil is just one of a host of treats this plant can offer. At Hempen we aim to harness hemp for health in the range of products we make. 

Besides its culinary uses, hemp seed oil’s nourishing vitamins and moisturising qualities make it the perfect ingredient for both our relaxing and energising moisturisers. Our moisturisers are non-comedogenic, meaning that the oil doesn’t clog your pores but rather, can help regulate skin’s oil production and hydrate your skin. The vitamin E found in hemp seed oil also helps to moisturise the skin as well as being associated with wound healing and reducing inflammation. Omega-6 fatty acid also has anti-inflammatory properties and encourages skin growth and new cell generation. Our bodies can’t produce linoleic acid and oleic acids which are found in hemp oil. Topically applying these to our skin can play a role in skin cell health and reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

CBD is an of-the-moment acronym. This oil has sprung onto the scene with a lot to say for itself, helping moderate a plethora of complaints from pain to anxiety, hyperactivity to inflammation. The mention of this oil is almost as abundant as the compound itself, but you wouldn’t be alone in not having any idea what it actually is. 

CBD is short for cannabidiol and is the most abundant of the cannabinoids,  a spectrum of chemicals found in the flowers, leaves and stalks of the cannabis plant. When trying to get your head around what is actually going on at a molecular level, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with talk of receptors and transmitters. CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The science suggests that CBD acts indirectly to enhance the effects of anandamide,  a fatty-acid neurotransmitter which interacts directly with the endocannabinoid system. This is important because this system is involved in regulating a range of cognitive and physiological processes including memory, mood, pain-sensation, appetite, and fertility. Described by one of our customers as “meditation in a jar” and another as “like taking a warm bath”, its effects are felt differently by different people, but always, CBD offers a non-toxic and natural route to balancing and levelling core mind and body processes and states.

Hemp for Victory?

Victory has connotations of power and domination, war and control. It might sound quite grandiose, but the astounding versatility of industrial hemp for the health of land, sea, air and body offers a change in course for humanity,  away from exploitation and destruction, towards a peaceful victory over some of today’s biggest challenges.