Pioneering in Pacific Northwest Hemp Grain slowly paying off
Slowly building a slow food supply chain is our little effort in helping change the food system.
I am not one to boast or brag, but I’m going to take a moment, LOL. You were warned. 😉
This month marks our third harvest of hemp grain in Washington State. While many brands are looking to jump on the hemp bandwagon and rush to be at the party, we’ve been slowly developing the relationships, the growers, the education and the supply… one farm, one field meeting, and one sunburn at a time. Our hemp journey has been as slow, and we’re ok with that. So here’s a little walk down memory lane.
When we started this venture in the fall of 2017, we were eager to encourage Pacific Northwest farmers to grow for us. “Why wouldn’t all farmers want to grow this incredible crop??” We had no idea how hard and slow it would be.
We gratefully met the farmers of the Colville Confederated Tribes, who grew Washington’s only successful hemp grain seed crop in 2017. We hit it off with Colville right away and paved the path to pass legislation at the capitol for a hemp program that would allow us to process that grain for food production. Through testifying at legislative hearings to meeting with senators and media interviews, we made it our mission throughout most of 2018 to do whatever it took to create a legal and viable industrial hemp program in Washington State. After all, we were just trying to make nutritional food products!
Through that process, we finally received approval from the Washington State Department of Agriculture to bring raw hemp grain seed from Colville, Washington and across the Columbia River to our processing facility in Oregon. We made many trips to the central northeast corner of the state in our van for field-prep, help harvest, clean seed, and just nerd out on the field. To finally see the seed show up in a big tote that we couldn’t fit through the door, was incredibly rewarding.
After pouring those first seeds in the hopper, watching nutrient-dense oil drip into a stainless steel bucket, bottling the oil and putting a Queen of Hearts label on the front, we realized it had taken a year to do what should take a week. But we did it. We brought the first successful harvest of Washington-grown hemp seeds to market.
Since then, we have inspired, connected with, and watched other Washington farmers grow hemp grain seed… from the Olympic Peninsula to Walla Walla and the Palouse. It hasn’t been easy or fast… or even fruitful, yet. But like I said, we’re in it for the long game. What can I say – we’re into SLOW food, not fast food! We are committed to building a network of farmers that see the value of growing hemp as a healthy crop that is good for the body and the planet.
Tomorrow we are visiting one of the most impressive Washington hemp grain seed fields who’s farmer and agronomist we met in 2019. It’s a bit of a big moment for us. It’s the first gathering of growers and stakeholders who we’ve met and developed relationships with over the years (and their friends) who are all proactively coming out to learn about this crop. We didn’t beg or bribe them! Farmers from Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon, researchers and agronomists from Oregon State University Extension, Washington State University Extension, and Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center will be there to learn and share about growing hemp grain for next year amongst probably many other conversations about hemp.
For the first time in the last two plus years, instead of being the one to stand up and educate, testify, inform, push and promote… I get to watch, listen, and soak it up.