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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As many of you may remember, in July 2019 the licence here at Path Hill Farm to grow hemp was revoked by the Home Office, leading to the destruction of a crop worth £200k.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What’s been happening since the licence was revoked?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more carbon was removed from the atmosphere, more nutrients returned to the soil and more ecological alternatives to outdated products were available for the health of our consumers.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 them from our partners UK farms. 

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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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