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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
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Donate to our legal & campaign fees

Many of you have so generously asked how you can help, and whether you can donate to help us in our legal appeal and wider campaign to #saveUKCBD.

If you’re able to, any support would be gratefully received. Click here to make a donation.

Thank you in advance for any support we might receive. Your kindness is already enough. We’ll update with a campaign plan very soon.

For those who you who haven’t signed, there’s a petition here:

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

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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
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Home Office revokes hemp growing license from leading UK hemp and CBD grower

Sad news at Hempen today…we have had our license to grow hemp revoked. This is an unexpected piece of news, that has understandably sent ripples of shock and sadness throughout our lovely community. It also means that, 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 have to destroy our beautiful hemp plants in the field. 

As you can imagine, this is very hard for us. And we know it will have an impact on many of you, too. We want to keep everyone up-to-date with goings on, and so are sharing with you our official press release. Please do share far and wide – we are hoping that the press will be moved by our story, and the impact this has on other UK hemp farmers and our ability to grow hemp and produce CBD in the UK. We are so grateful for all of your support. We will update you with another post very soon. For now, here’s the official news…

uk hemp farming not-for-profit has its license to grow hemp blocked, as the home office rules around industrial hemp threaten the uk hemp and CBD industry

Today not-for-profit Hempen have begun destroying their crop in Oxfordshire, as the Home Office belatedly denied their license to grow hemp in the UK. This decision has a far-reaching impact, not just on the not-for-profit’s operations, but also on the livelihoods of its workers. 

Home Office guidance in November 2018 had made clear that British Farmers would not be allowed to harvest the lucrative flowers for CBD oil and accordingly their licence applications were just to grow seed and stalk.

 Hempen is now seeking legal advice to appeal the decision, which has left the co-operative with no other option than to destroy the crop in the next 24 hours. Hempen has been clear in the statements submitted each year to the Home Office around how the plant was to be used. The Home Office raised no issues with the intended use of the plant over the course of the three-year license, and so to have the full license revoked mid season has come as an emotional and financial shock.

This highly punitive decision puts UK hemp farmers at a disadvantage, where the most valuable part of the crop, which is used to extract CBD globally (except in the UK) is rendered worthless.

Hempen co-founder Patrick Gillett said: “In challenging economic times for British farmers, hemp is offering green shoots of hope as a rare crop that can pay for itself without subsidy. Instead of capitalising on the booming CBD industry, the Home Office’s bureaucracy is leading British farmers to destroy their own crops and millions of pounds’ worth of CBD flowers are being left to rot in the fields.” He added: “The government should move the responsibility of regulating farmers over to DEFRA and legislate to stop our CBD spending being sent abroad and be used to secure the future of British farming.”

ENDS.

Notes to Editors:

– Website at www.hempen.co.uk

– This licensing decision significantly affects Hempen’s business, with an estimated financial loss of  £200k expected as a result of destroying the crop. The hemp lost had the additional potential to lock in 130 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

– Hempen Co-operative was founded as a not-for-profit in 2015, to harness the power of hemp to create rural sustainable livelihoods. The vision is to cultivate a new hemp-based economy, finding alternative ways of operating for the health of people, community and planet, utilising hemp as a sustainable alternative to thousands of common and environmentally damaging products.

– The Home Office had previously stated in writing that Hempen should continue to act as though the license had been granted, while the new license was pending. However, recent communications have contradicted this advice, leading to the need to destroy the crop. 

– Hempen will continue to work with the Home Office on the appeals process, in the hopes of having their license reinstated, and will continue to supply UK-grown organic hemp products from other organic British hemp farms. To continue to supply customers with certified organic, fully traceable CBD products, Hempen will now import CBD from partners in Europe.

– Hempen’s products include UK-grown organic hemp seed oil, hemp tea, moisturising oils and CBD products.

– Hemp is one of the world’s oldest crops, cultivated and used for 10,000 years, by ancient and modern cultures across the globe.  It is a miraculous plant with a multitude of uses, from cloth and rope to health care, nutritious food, building materials and bio-fuel. As hemp also cleans the soil and sequesters carbon from the air as it grows, it is a truly sustainable crop.

– For legal enquiries contact Industrial Hemp Licensing specialists David Hardstaff at BCL Solicitors: dharstaff@bcl.com

To discuss this press release, for print resolution photography or to schedule an interview, contact Ali Silk at media@hempen.co.uk.