The legendary Beatles singer reveals he cultivates hemp at his UK farm.
But what is so wonderful about this weed?
Speaking on the River Cafe Table 4 podcast, the “All You Need Is Love” star revealed he likes growing all kinds of organic crops. These include spelt wheat, rye, and peas. However, his passion is for hemp, a plant that comes from the same species as cannabis. As a result, even though it contains microscopic quantities of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a licence is necessary to grow it in the UK. The 79-year-old musician admitted he enjoyed partaking in cannabis in the Beatles’ heyday. However, now his young neighbours want to enjoy his hemp crop too, “The funny thing with government regulations is you’ve got to keep it where people can’t see it because you get all the kids coming in and robbing it!”
But what is hemp? And why is it hailed as a “wonder crop”?
What is hemp?
Hemp is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is among the fastest-growing plants on earth. It was also one of the first plants to be spun into usable fibres, over 50,000 years ago. It can be refined into a variety of products including paper, rope, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
What are the health benefits of hemp?
Research is still underway to prove the health benefits of CBD oil, made from hemp. Anecdotally, users say it helps with insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain, and period pain. It is believed hemp reacts to the body’s endogenous cannabinoid system. This regulates the body’s general state of balance and therefore has an impact on mood, sleep, hormone regulation, and pain levels.
What about the environmental benefits?
In fact, it’s the environmental benefits of hemp that are really creating a buzz. According to Peter Miles, founder of sustainability company, eHempHouse, the plant can help in the fight against climate change. “One of the main benefits of hemp is it sucks huge quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere when it grows,” explains Miles in an interview with Yahoo. “More in fact than trees – an acre of hemp will remove 10 tons of CO2 per acre per harvest,” he adds.
It is also what is called a phytoremediation plant. This means it actually repairs the soils where it is grown. Plus, hemp can be used as a “mop crop”. It can clear impurities out of wastewater, such as sewage effluent, excessive phosphorus from chicken litter, or other unwanted chemicals. “And it needs virtually no pesticides or insecticides unlike crops such as cotton,” Miles adds.
Additionally, it’s a drought-resistant crop. In fact, hemp needs 50% less water than cotton to grow. Plus, hemp crops are tall, thick, and dense. So they can be grown as a smother crop to kill tough weeds. Used in this way, farmers avoid the use of herbicides, gain organic certification, and benefit from crop rotation.
Its recyclable, non-toxic, and biodegradable nature also makes hemp a popular choice in green building construction. A few of its benefits include anti-erosion and reclamation properties. Biodiesel can be made from hemp seeds and stalks. Alcohol fuel can be made by fermenting the whole plant. Filtered hemp oil can be used directly to power diesel engines.
As a sustainably produced textile, hemp is also incredibly useful. It’s excellent at temperature regulation, both in hot and cold climates and has natural UV protective properties. “Even the foods that can be produced from industrial hemp seeds have been shown to have the perfect balance of things like Omega 3 and Omega 6,” Miles adds. “Interesting studies have also shown that cattle fed on hemp seedcake grow faster and healthier.”
How can it help sustainable farming?
The lack of processing facilities is a key problem for farmers in developing countries. Sustainability company Ehemphouse has developed a “green” system that encourages farmers to harvest, process, and sell more hemp products. The “Smartbox” is a self-contained processing factory. It features a hemp decorticator, seed press, hemp oil, and biodiesel generator tailored to small farmers’ needs. Designed to operate off-grid, local communities benefit from irrigation, electric generation, drone-assisted farming, and data collection.
The hemp biofuel output feeds the SmartBox generator. The generator not only powers its internal processing equipment, but its clean electricity is also available to provide self-sufficiency to the farm. It works to sequester large amounts of damaging CO2 gases. Plus, the zero-waste system also delivers a clean water supply, animal and human nutrition, and various commercial by-products that enable the development of local enterprises. These include hemp fibre for clothing, low-cost building material, animal bedding, pellet fuel, and biodiesel for local farm machinery.
The overall goal is to drive environmentally sustainable development across Africa. As Miles concludes, “There is now a small but growing group of passionate people who are evangelising all of the benefits of hemp, how it can help us combat climate change and how it is a more environmentally friendly and healthier option that has to be part of a future solution.”