Posted on

Managing morale with co-operative approaches

Co-operative Principles

Ever fancied working as a Tofu Morale Manager? It might not be the life dream you shared in circle time at primary school, and maybe it wasn’t what your career adviser suggested for work experience in your teens, but join the Twin Oaks Community Foods workers co-operative in Virginia, USA, and this job could be yours. Workers co-operatives do business a little differently; along Twin Oaks, Hempen is no exception.

We are coming to the end of Co-operative Fortnight, a 14 day long celebration of the power of co-operation and alternative economics. Co-operatives recognise that in a world where cut-throat capitalist models dominate, it’s possible to step out of the mainstream with worker-owned business models. With their origins and influences in grassroots activism, co-operatives offer exciting spaces for people to organise collectively for mutual benefit, explore the nature of work, capital and how we can forge and shape new possibilities in a co-operative way. Hempen is a farm co-operative and at the core of how we work is an appreciation for why we work, prioritising values over profits, ethics over growth, well-being over productivity as a measure of success.

Co-op membership is open and voluntary

Co-ops are open to those who are able to give their services and accept the responsibility of membership. Hempen is collectively owned by its members, and we’re lucky to live as a tight-knit community with the additional contribution of long-term volunteers and short-term volunteers supporting us when extra hands are needed.

Co-ops are controlled only by their members, who have equal say

At Hempen, self-help, responsibility, equality and solidarity are core values in our organising and decision-making. We regularly meet to discuss both day to day needs, plans for action and wider visions. We use consensus decision-making to ensure all voices are heard and the direction we take reflects our values as a collective. From seed to soil, from plant to oil, all the workers in our co-operative are involved in the discussion and decision-making that feeds our work and our vision.

Co-ops are autonomous and independent self-help organisations

For us, there is huge possibility in our autonomy. Hempen strives to innovate in hemp farming, the products we make and the way we organise as both a business and community. We recognise our social responsibility to empower and educate our members as well as the wider community through a culture of openness and care for each other, the community and the land.

Co-operation among co-ops benefits members and the wider co-op movement

Wherever possible, we look to collaborate with other worker co-operatives, sharing ideas and resources, to help the movement strengthen and grow. As the philosopher Alan Watts put it, “no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” We find when we prioritise co-operative ways of working and living, with a balance for what we enjoy and care about, we connect to our tasks and to each other and to why we do what we do.

Yes, there are some parts of running a hemp co-operative that can be a little tedious, but we’re a fun bunch, and haven’t needed to draw up a Hemp Morale Manager job spec yet!

Posted on

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.