Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to the Soil!

This was the cry of many in the 1960s and ‘70s, but it fizzled out because it lacked a true Christian, communal foundation.  It is time the South resurrected this movement, in order to free herself from the net hoisted on her by the industrial-technological-financial strongmen of the world.  And one plant in particular may help get her there: hemp.

To address the elephant in the room, hemp is not marijuana.  It cannot be smoked, etc. to alter one’s state of mind.  The Congressional Research Service addresses this issue in its report, Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity, pgs. 1-2 (, accessed 15 Nov. 2013).  It is not currently illegal to grow hemp, but one must obtain a DEA permit before doing so (in ‘Summary’ of same report).  And some states like California and Colorado have nullified the DEA’s oversight of hemp.

What hemp can do is described briefly by Carolanne Wright:

An ancient crop, hemp has served humanity since 2000 BCE -- providing fibers for cloth and rope, building materials and paper. It's also an incredible source of food. Even the American founding fathers recognized the brilliance of hemp and cultivated it actively on their own land. Hemp is remarkably versatile and Eco-friendly with many modern applications for fuel, automobile fabrication, toxic waste removal and concrete manufacturing.

. . .

The demand for hemp in the world market has made it a contemporary cash crop. New technologies have allowed hemp to be made into soft and durable clothing, biofuel, insulation, lightweight yet strong concrete as well as paving materials that last for hundreds of years. And hemp is exceptionally eco-friendly. It removes carbon dioxide from the air and pumps out oxygen -- offering a practical solution for global warming. Astoundingly, one acre of hemp produces more oxygen than 25 acres of forest land. Hemp can also be used for biodegradable plastic and building materials that are "non-toxic, non-flammable, mold and mildew resistant and cash positive," according to Scott Thill in the article Ten Great Reasons to Kill America's Ban on Growing Hemp. Henry Ford even manufactured a car body out of a hemp resin and demonstrated its resiliency by taking a sledge hammer to the side panel -- not a nick, dent or blemish to be found. In France, bridges made of hemp and lime are centuries old.

Hemp is easy to grow in a variety of soils and conditions, drought tolerant and resists pests [i.e., no dangerous pesticides, herbicides, etc. are needed-W.G.]. As an added bonus, hemp does not strip the soil of vital nutrients but actually enriches it. Hemp has also been used successfully as a toxic waste 'sponge' for nuclear disasters and chemical spills.

. . .

Hemp is an incredible superfood. An excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids, zinc, iron and magnesium -- hemp seeds have been consumed throughout history during times of famine and long sea journeys. Hemp is a high quality, complete protein. Sixty-five percent of the protein content is in the form of globulin edestin which supports the immune system. The perfect ratio of fatty acids found in hemp oil fosters healthy brain function, repairs DNA damage and wards off inflammation. High fiber levels in the seed keep the digestive system happy too.

Source:  Encourage Prosperity, Alleviate Famine and Heal the Environment with Hemp, 16 Nov. 2012,, accessed 15 Nov. 2013.

Health problems are becoming increasingly linked to products made from oil - drugs, plastics, etc.  For example, regarding plastic products,

Hemp, as noted in Miss Carolanne’s report, offers a safe alternative. 

Other uses are summarized in a chart from the above-mentioned congressional report (p. 5, Figure I: Hemp Products Flowchart.  Source: CRS, adapted from D. G. Kraenzel et al., “Industrial Hemp as an Alternative Crop in North Dakota,” AER-402, North Dakota State University, July 23, 1998,

But there is something more important in adopting hemp cultivation:  The South would be recovering her agrarian inheritance, honoring the wisdom of her forefathers and mothers who knew that industrialism carried with it great evils, living at nature’s pace (to use the title of one of Gene Logsdon’s books), making her livelihood from the land in cooperation with nature, not against it (to paraphrase an idea of Wendell Berry’s).  Thus would she begin to clear her spiritual vision; thus would she be able to perceive the energies of God in all created things, upholding all He has made and loves, so long as she repents of her desire for luxury, machines & gadgets, endless comfort, etc.

There is the danger that she will continue down her present suicidal course of greed and exploitation even with an economy grounded in agriculture (John Taylor of Caroline Co., Virginia, never tired of making this accusation against his generation), but it is less likely than under the present conditions:  The closer one lives to the sacrament of the creation, the more likely one will honor the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Who are revealed through it with a life of virtue.  Howbeit, the destruction these vices could loose would be significantly lessened in an agrarian, as opposed to an industrial, society. 

Wendell Berry in his 1991 essay entitled ‘Conservation and the Local Economy’ suggested that local communities, for their well-being, secede from the global, industrial, exploitative economy.  That is what the South must do if she is to survive as a ‘social and spiritual unity’ (Andrew Lytle, ‘The Backwoods Progression’, From Eden to Babylon, ed. M.E. Bradford, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1990, p. 87).  With all that hemp offers - for food, clothing, and all sorts of other products, great and small - centering her economy on it would give her a strong position from which to begin life as a free country in a world dominated by powerful corporations and centralized states whose goal is to foster dependency on them in as many ways as possible.

Perhaps one day soon we will have to change the familiar words:

I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times they are not forgotten;
Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land.’

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