VALLEY — Did you know George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all grew hemp and actively advocated for commercial hemp production? June 4-10 is Hemp History Week nationwide and there are several activities planned across the San Luis Valley.
Since the 2014 Farm Bill was passed, which allowed hemp to be grown again in the United States, Colorado has led the nation in hemp cultivation. Of the record 25,000 acres grown in 2017 nationwide, 13,000 acres were grown in Colorado. So far in 2018, Colorado alone is slated to grow 27,000 acres. Some of the largest hemp acreage in the state is grown in the San Luis Valley, which has become one of the most important centers of hemp activity in the United States. With momentum building across the country, and increasing consumer awareness about the health benefits, economic opportunities, and sustainability advantages of industrial hemp, advocates are eager to see 2018 be the year industrial hemp farming expands across the American agriculture landscape and sets deep roots in American soil once again.
Industrial hemp had been grown in the U.S. since the first European settlers arrived in early 1600’s and it was a staple crop until the early 1900’s. The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper. In 1938, Popular Mechanics named hemp “The New Billion Dollar Crop” for its multitude of uses. In 1970 industrial hemp was classified as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act despite decades of government funded agricultural research that identified industrial hemp varieties as unique in structure and function. Hemp farming in the U.S. became illegal as the rise of synthetic fabrics and fibers skyrocketed. Currently, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 recently introduced before Congress has widespread bi-partisan support and would once again fully legalize hemp if passed.
Among the fastest-growing categories in the natural foods industry, hemp seed is a rich source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), providing both SDA and GLA, highly-digestible protein, and naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E and iron. The natural products industry has witnessed robust growth in sales of cannabidiol or CBD products, as consumers become increasingly aware of the health benefits of CBD dietary supplements. An excellent source of dietary fiber, hemp seed is also a complete protein—meaning it contains all 10 essential amino acids, with no enzyme inhibitors, making it more digestible by the human body. Hemp seeds, milk, ice cream, oil, cereals and snacks, as well as hemp protein powder, and hemp-derived CBD dietary supplements are increasingly popular and widely available at conventional and natural grocers everywhere, as consumers become turned on to the nourishing health benefits of hemp nutrition. The San Luis Valley is a national leader in hemp food processing through the San Luis Valley Hemp Company based in Del Norte.
Advancements in hemp research and manufacturing demonstrate the remarkable versatility and product-potential for hemp. Hemp bast fiber has shown promising potential to replace graphene in supercapacitor batteries, which could then be used to power electric cars and handheld electric devices and tools. Hemp fiber can also be used to create environmentally friendly packaging materials, and hard bio-plastics for use in everything from airplanes to car parts. Hemp homes are also on the rise, as hempcrete has many advantages to non-sustainable materials, like lumber and concrete. Hempcrete is energy-efficient, non-toxic, resistant to mold, insects and fire, and is much more sustainable and renewable.
During Hemp History Week, over 250 grassroots events will take place nationwide. In the San Luis Valley, the following events are taking place:
Monday, June 4
DEL NORTE – San Luis Valley Hemp History Week Kick-off - Hemp products will be featured, hemp foods will be enjoyed and hemp history will be celebrated at the Grand Opening of the San Luis Valley Trading Post in Del Norte right next to Three Barrel Brewing. Ribbon Cutting at noon. 505 Grande Ave Del Norte, 12-5 p.m.
Tuesday, June 5
CRESTONE – COHIA Field Trip to Crestone Brewery - The Colorado Hemp Industries Association will be touring the state with the Hemp Road trip. From the Western Slope to southern Colorado and even the capitol; COHIA will be hosting events for industry members and the public to celebrate hemp and provide hemp education opportunities. Hemp expert Caren Kershner will talk about all things hemp, from planting to cross pollination to production. 187 W Silver Ave, Crestone, 5-9 p.m.
Thursday, June 7 – Saturday, June 9
MONTE VISTA – Three Guys Pubs Celebrate Hemp - Three Guys Pubs is celebrating Hemp History Week with a $4 special on the new Hemperor HPA from New Belgium and delicious hemp food items in addition to their regular menu, which includes the BEST pizza in the Valley. Discover Monte Vista’s hidden secret at the Monte Villa Inn. 925 1st Ave, Monte Vista, Thur, Fri & Sat 5-11 p.m.
Saturday, June 9
FORT GARLAND – Land to Hand Fiber Arts in the San Luis Valley - A day of all things fiber in the San Luis Valley. Learn about the emergence of hemp farming and the tradition of sheep ranching to production of fiber and finished products in the San Luis Valley. Throughout the day you will be able to try your hand at a variety of fiber processing activities. There will be a marketplace with hemp and wool vendors selling supplies for your own projects and some of the region's most beautiful fiber work by local artists. Fort Garland Museum, 29477 Highway 159 Fort Garland, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
SOUTH FORK – South Fork Hemp Appreciation - Booth at the farmer's market in South Fork for Hemp History Week to learn all about hemp. Hemp educational materials will be available, including stickers such as "let’s talk hemp" and "Tree Free Hemp". South Fork Visitor Center, 28 Silver Thread Ln South Fork, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
For more information about hemp and Hemp History Week, see www.hemphistoryweek.com.