A small farm in New York is working to revolutionize the organic farming industry, starting with supporting their local ecosystem while growing, among a variety of grains, hemp — the plant behind the multi-million dollar CBD industry.
Hemp, a species of cannabis that contain low concentration of THC which makes you high, has an ancient history with usage dating back centuries.
Ben Banks-Dobson, who runs Stone House Farm’s 2,600-acre operation, is hoping to help the Earth while promoting the unique plant and its variety of uses.
He expressed hope for the small plant’s ability to aid the climate change fight.
“Our climate problem is that we have too much CO2 in the atmosphere and not enough carbon in our soils, trees and wetlands,” Banks-Dobson said. “If what we do were to be adopted on a wider scale, the planet does have the space for more regenerative agriculture forests, wetlands rebuilding to sequester a lot of our excess CO2.”
However for now, hemp is only grown on a fraction of the reserve.
“I work on two crops. I work on Willow, which is a bioenergy crop, and for the last three and a half years I’ve been working on hemp,” Cornell University horticulturist Larry Smart, who is part of New York’s pilot program, said.
Smart also believes that hemp has the potential to combat climate change if companies are willing to commit to producing more hemp products than those derived from fossil fuels.
“Fossil fuels have the advantage that they can be delivered across long distances through pipelines while hemp fiber, for example, is very bulky, it’s going to be expensive to move,” Smart said. “So we need to have local agriculture supporting local businesses.”
Hudson Hemp is one of those local businesses, and their mission includes improving soil health and air quality.
The small operation also has some high-profile supporters, like Susan Rockefeller, who is on the board of the Peggy McGrath Rockefeller Foundation — which owns the land the farm sits on.
Her mother-in-law, Peggy McGrath Rockefeller, “wanted to save American farmland,” Rockefeller said.
“We’re trying to restore, regenerate, and reimagine a food system that can benefit the land, all the animals, and the people that rely on it,” Rockefeller said.
The mission is no easy feat for small farmers who already work with thin margins — many rushed to grow hemp for CBD, in turn driving prices down.
Asked how the average farmer could afford the sustainability and diversification he achieved, Banks-Dobson said to start with a “manageable amount.”
“There are several small hemp farms who have grown a half acre, an acre, two acres… the investment to do that isn’t very much,” Banks-Dobson explained. “If you’re already a vegetable farmer, you can incorporate it. I’m actually seeing these are mostly the hemp farmers surviving.”