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Home composting – the breakdown!

Here at the farm, we are BIG fans of 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.

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 chip 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? Let us know!

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Another year, another licence

As many of you may remember, in July 2019 the licence here at Path Hill Farm to grow hemp was revoked by the Home Office, leading to the destruction of a crop worth £200k. We were faced with a decision: to grow or not to grow?

Since then, we have continued partnering with farmers across the UK to support hemp growers while we decided what would be the most effective solution to the issues we were facing.

As of last week, we have officially submitted our new application to grow hemp in our fields! It’s a very exciting moment in Hempen’s journey but we’re not celebrating just yet…

Why apply now?

Applications for licences are accepted from the beginning of January until the end of February. An answer does not have to be returned by the Home Office until the end of April, posing a significant problem to farmers planning their rotations for the year. 

In times of crisis, it is understandable to feel fear, judgement and anger. When faced with the most serious challenge to our business since we began, we chose to focus on solutions and worked to fulfil our mission to provide hemp solutions for the health of people, community and planet. 

Although our capacity to bring hemp products to our customers was threatened by the licence reversal, we believe in the power of community and collaboration to build resilience. Our belief may have been tested, but the results were clear: we’re so much better when we work together.

What’s been happening since the licence was revoked?

We connected with farmers across the UK who had an interest in growing hemp, supported them with their own licence applications and shared our industry knowledge and farming expertise to help them produce the best environmental impact and yields possible for their land and resources.

Our commitment to buy hemp seed and stalk harvests from them provided the stability of a return on investment, and we intend to develop new and existing partnerships regardless of the outcome of our current application.

More hemp was grown in the UK in the past year because we supported other farmers to grow it. That means more carbon was removed from the atmosphere, more nutrients returned to the soil and more ecological alternatives to outdated products were available for the health of our consumers. 

How have the processes at Hempen been affected?

To comply with UK law, we have been importing CBD from Europe, despite the significant financial and environmental costs involved compared with harvesting from the UK if that were possible. 

We have been diversifying our seed and fibre product range so that you – our incredible support network of volunteers and customers – continue to have access to UK-grown organic hemp products at a fair price.

With more seed and fibre products, we are less reliant on CBD, but to do this requires further investment. We are seeking additional finance to bring more of our processing in-house, to reduce our carbon footprint and create a production loop that is as local as possible.

Many hurdles remain for the UK and European hemp industry. All around the world, legislators are waking up to the potential of this booming industry. Hemp offers solutions to so many problems including the ecological crisis, job scarcity, food sovereignty and soil health. 

We are hopeful that our application to grow this most wonderful of plants will be accepted in time for us to plant this year’s crop. Our community continues to grow with more producers and industry partners each year. Show us your support for us by telling us why you think we deserve to be able to grow hemp here on the comments or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

When life gives us lemons, we make lemonade…

When life gives us hemp, we make Hempen!

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How can hemp seed oil help my health?

UK-grown organic cold-pressed hemp seed oil, oh how we’ve missed you!

So luxurious, with your emerald tones, nutty flavour, and heaps of nutritional goodness.

Omega oils galore! We hear your brains and muscles crying out with joy.

Just in the nick of time to start training for that marathon…

Where’s it been hiding?

Hemp is a relatively new crop in modern agriculture, even though it was one of the first crops cultivated by humans.

Somewhere along the way, we went from seeing the ease and versatility of this plant to losing sight of all the benefits it offers to the soil as well as the people.

Now we’re on a mission to bring it back! The health benefits of this wonderful seed just keep on coming. With a perfect balance of omega fatty acids, plus phytonutrients and vitamins, this oil is a must for anyone focusing on their nutritional health.

We are currently applying for a new licence to grow hemp on our farm*. Over the past year, we’ve been partnering with other farms across the UK to help them grow hemp all over the country.

We believe that cooperation and collaboration builds resilience. By supporting each other, we can build an ethical industry from the ground up!

Our organic cold-pressed oil is a deliciously simple way to consume hemp seeds.

Drizzle some over your warm meals, mix into a sauce for salads, or keep it pure as a tasty and vibrant dipping oil. What a treat to have in the kitchen!

Very few plants are as climate friendly as hemp. It’s a fantastic rotation crop, regenerating soils and trapping carbon from the atmosphere.

Hemp removes impurities from the soil, so it’s really important to buy organic. That way you know you’re getting all the benefits with none of the toxins!

We bring all our freshly harvested seeds back to the farm to be processed into products for you lovely folk.

How should I use it?

Hemp seed oil is affected by high temperatures so it’s best to avoid frying with it or overheating it. 

Did you know you can also apply this 100% pure hemp seed oil directly to your skin, hair and beard?

Our Hemp Seed Moisturising Oils have added fragrances (as well as one with CBD extract!).

You could even get creative and mix your favourite essential oils for a personalised scent.

All in all, this wonder oil is tasty, versatile and packed full of nutrients.

With a spoonful of hemp seed oil, you won’t need to help the medicine go down!

 

 

*Our licence was revoked in 2019 and we had to destroy our crop worth £200k:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49082533

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£2.4 million in lost potential from hemp

Close up of destroying hemp crop

You may have seen our story on the BBC News website yesterday. Its headline shares a figure of our estimated financial loss, just from the retail sales we could have generated from the hemp seed alone, as hemp seed oil and hemp protein powder:

That is a large figure, especially for a small business. But, it pales in comparison to our calculations of the potential revenue we could have generated, were we allowed to harvest the flowers of the plant. The 40 acres lost to us this week could have been transformed into £2.4 million as CBD at retail price, for a not-for-profit farming co-operative. Of this, £480,000 would have been tax for the UK government! 

Instead, the flowers are crushed, along with the hopes of other farmers around the UK of being able to harness the full economic and agronomic benefits of hemp. We’re developing our campaign to save UK CBD, and will keep you updated, to let you know how you can support us in our mission to free hemp for all.

Destroying the hemp crop
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Always forward

Standing knee deep in a sea of slender serrated leaves,

the occasional poppy head or daisy gently tapping at the swaying hemp stems, it was difficult to process the news that the Home Office had decided to revoke the licence for us to grow hemp for our home farm in Oxfordshire. After legal advice and with heavy hearts, we’ve been forced to destroy our crop. 

This decision has far-reaching impact on our co-operative and all its operations, on us as a community and on all of our customers and volunteers who help to keep our co-operative alive. Hempen is a beautiful hive of activity and hope. It is a place where we keep in focus the difficult world that we live in, but also where we are dedicated to farming a plant with so much hope to offer in these troubled times. Farming hemp is good for us and for the land we live on. This news only strengthens our resolve to reverse this decision, and raise awareness about the incredible and diverse ways that the hemp plant can help us, our community and our planet. As one of our co-op members Ben said today, “these hemp plants will die, but we hope that the injustice of this nonsensical ruling will enable more hemp plants to grow in the future.” 

Hemp in the morning sun

Hempen is now seeking legal advice on how to respond to the licence denial. We hope to appeal the decision as well as continue to work on a wider campaign to support British farmers to grow industrial hemp and save UK CBD production. 

The news is a shock to us all, but even before the dust has settled, all of us at Hempen have doubled down on our efforts to protect our home and our mission. Our co-operative exists thanks to the generous support of all our customers and volunteers. In these difficult times, this has never been more the case. It has been so heart warming to see the love and concern you’ve been sending our way with so many offers of help. There are many ways you can continue to support us in our work and mission:

Though our crop is destroyed, our products aren’t. For now, you can still buy our full range of products through the website, at our regular farmers markets and stockists. We are also planning new products going forwards, including certified organic CBD, and will update you soon. This keeps a steady income flow to help move us forwards, and fund our campaign costs. If you know of people able to offer legal support, help with funding our legal fees or friendly journalists and politicians then we’d really like to hear from you, on info@hempen.co.uk

Lastly, if you haven’t already, please sign this petition aiming to change the hemp licensing hypocrisy:

https://www.change.org/p/department-of-food-and-agriculture-change-the-hemp-license-hypocrisy

Always forwards.

With love and gratitude, Hempen

Tractor ploughing hemp crop