Non – Food Agriculture: Hemp as a Sustainable Resource

Non-food agriculture is an important part of our world food system that can easily be overlooked due to the sheer nature of the topic, however, some products currently have or have the potential to create a large impact on the food system as a whole. Hemp is a versatile resource that is currently prohibited for industrialized growth in the United States. Legalizing hemp production has the potential to diversify markets that are currently dominated by one product, such as cotton. In addition to this, hemp is also a very sustainable product, it is recyclable and manufactured products have the potential to be 100% biodegradable. Hemp also has a high rate of carbon sequestration, with about 40% of its biomass being composed of carbon. Hemp would also be beneficial for multi-crop farmers to include in their crop rotation. The roots of a hemp plant reach deeper into soil, accessing nutrients that would have entered into groundwater and gone unused otherwise and allowing for the topsoil to regenerate. It also will outcompete any growing weeds, and can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Overall, hemp is a much more versatile and environmentally friendly crop than hemp. However, industrial growth in the United States has been blocked after its prohibition in 1950.

Our action project was designed in order to bring more awareness to the general public about the benefits of legalizing hemp production. We initially got in touch with the Industrial Hemp Association of America with hopes to help them with lobbying and advocacy on campus, however never got anything additional from them after the initial contact. We then had the idea of hosting a town hall on campus discussing the current legislation surrounding hemp production, which also proved to be difficult after reaching out to different congressional representatives and receiving no response. After this setback, we decided our best route to help educate our peers on the importance of industrial hemp, we would create a pamphlet describing hemp, its benefits and drawbacks, and provide information on current legislation surrounding hemp. We also created a short informational video describing the same information.

Industrial hemp is an important part of the world food system, even though it is not food. Much of this class was focused around systems theory, and we placed high emphasis on thinking of a certain part of agriculture as part of a whole rather than a separate entity. Allowing hemp to be a larger part of our food system would benefit agricultural and ecological systems around the world.


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