Welcome to Hempen
Photography by Benjamin Eagle
An Article published in The Earth Issue 002: IMPACT
Frustrated by the institutions of school and the state, and having lived a childhood inspired by nature and community, Patrick Roberts decided to change the world for the better. In his case 'better' meant building a world more in tune with its natural rhythms and free from the hypnotic death-pull of consumerism. He went on to found 'Hempen', a non-profit organic farming co-operative based in Oxfordshire, England, which aims to grow hemp for the benefit of people and the planet.
Roberts studies politics and philosophy and turned his frustrations to environmental and anti-capitalist grassroots, campaigning with horizontalist movements like the Climate Camp, as well as groups such as Bicycology, Plane Stupid, Workers Climate Action and Transition Heathrow. Eventually he became fascinated with building a community for meeting collective change and challenges. Challenges such as questions on how to survive climate change, peak oil and the breakdown of neoliberal capitalism.
We spoke to Hempen founder Patrick Roberts about the growth of his project, and the environmental benefits of hemp:
Tell us about your journey in founding Hempen?
My journey with Hempen started by acknowledging that I am nature. We all are. Everything we do to the planet we do to ourselves. I had previously lived at Grow Heathrow, permaculture community, where everything is based on common sense and a long-term perspective that, we are not apart from nature, but a part of it. The Earth and the people who inhabit it, are not separate, and as such, permaculture is really just an ancient wisdom applied in a contemporary context.
My personal motivation for starting Hempen was my belief that hemp could not only facilitate the building of rural communities thanks to its many valuable properties, but also be one of the answers to the global environmental crisis.
Modern processing technologies have made it possible to create alternatives to gasoline, plastic, and other petroleum products that can help the human race lessen its reliance on polluting and expensive fossil fuels. Hemps is socially beneficial and environmentally miraculous for the health of people and the planet; wether you are measuring the qualities of the seed as a superfood, its flowers as a health supplement or its stalk as an eco-construction material, the posibilities are endless.
How can we include hemp in our everyday lives?
It's hard to know where to start with this as the possibilities are endless.
The hemp plant is a renewable resource that can be produced domestically. It grows quickly, naturally resists plant diseases, requires little weeding, thrives in most climates, and enriches the soil it grows in. Hemp can replace the fish and meat that we intensively farm and overfish from the oceans as it is rich in protein and omega oils for your brain. The growing of the plant benefits the soil and sequesters more carbon than sustainable forestry. Hemp bioplastic is bio-degradable and based on a renewable resource unlike plastic made from oil that litters the planet. Hempcrete is more insulating and easier to build than concrete and other standard building materials and it does not need such a high expenditure of CO2 in its construction.