Hempters Plant the Seed Featured Activist Craig Lee Gets Real About Hemp Seed Production

Fighting for Agriculture

"I wasn't a radical until you made me one!"

Craig Lee was 6 years old getting into trouble in Taylor County, Kentucky like any normal boy in a small rural community.  He remembers hearing his Father and Grandfather talking about Hemp rope.  They were laughing about a rumor they heard how one could get high from smoking hemp rope. Determined to find out, he found a piece of rope and spent time behind the garage smoking it every day for a week. Craig never got high and realized what they were saying about Industrial Hemp just wasn’t true.

The vision calling him to dedicate his life to returning Industrial Hemp to American agriculture came many years later in his early adult life.  Since then he has battled for the cause rallying supporters, legislators and everyone else who would listen along the way.  He started the Hemp History Museum in 1994.

“In Kentucky”, he tells me,” kids were taught about Hemp in the schools. My first historical lesson on industrial hemp came from a teacher.” At one time Kentucky was the leading supplier of Industrial Hemp seeds in the United States.  They cared for a large genetic variety of seeds grown for different purposes. Some Industrial Hemp plants produce strains for food and nutrition, others for fiber and biomass.

Craig spent most of his years of activism traveling around with old time hemp processing equipment demonstrating ways hemp has been processed in the hope of inspiring people to work with the strong fiber in the future.

I asked Craig what he thought needed to be done to prepare the United States for hemp production. He felt confident Americans can have a hemp seed oil pressing facility completely functional in 60 days.

Kentucky Hemp Seeds Guarded by Armed Men

Kentucky Industrial Hemp Seeds

Seeds, he predicted, would take more time. All of the Kentucky Industrial Hemp Seeds were destroyed somewhere between 1942 – 1943.

The only industrial hemp plants growing in the United States today are a feral breed growing in the river banks of Iowa and Nebraska.  Farmers could use the feral weed and cross bread it appropriately with foreign hemp to produce a suitable plant, but optimum results would only be achieved after three or four growing seasons. Proper trials take farmers 2-3 years to conduct for a quality plant.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the only agency keeping farmers from conducting the essential trials needed.  Seed-variety-trials take different seeds and grow them in different conditions to acclimate them to diverse growing conditions.  America will not be competitive in (re)emerging, global hemp industries without allowing domestic production from its farmers. 

We joked about building birdhouses and golf clubs out of hemp materials as ways to relax and enjoy the retirement years. Craig is hopeful for a future where one passes hemp fields when traveling through the back roads of Kentucky. I hope to see that future, too.  

Written by Stephanie Bishop

Edited by Dominick Ohrbeck

Continue the Conversation at www.hempsters.ning.com

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