Clothing brand Patagonia has made a stylish film about the US hemp industry.
Called “Misunderstood – A brief history of hemp in the US”, the video is woven with deep environmental messages as it chronicles the legal status of the plant from the Founding Fathers to modern agriculture.
Opening with activist and hemp farmer Winona LaDuke, the atmospheric film charts how the very sails of the first ships to land in America were made of hemp, before discussing prohibition and the recent legal changes that have allowed famers to bring the crop back into mainstream production.
LaDuke – a campaigner for the rights of the indigenous population of the US – begins by explaining that ancient teachings have ‘a covenant with the creator and a covenant with the natural world’.
“We are responsible for things – we take care of our relatives, we only take what we need and we leave the rest,” she says.
“We’re mindful, we don’t cause waste. And we’re grateful.
“And so, I approach this plant in that same way.”
She then explains how hundreds of years of neglecting that gratitude has cost the planet greatly, but that hemp may help repair the damage before it’s too late.
“I feel that plant can help us undo the mess that we’ve made, but we have to approach it right,” she adds.
“We will get nowhere if we continue with the same aggressive industrial behaviour.
“If we treat this plant with respect, this plant will help us change our world.”
Wealth of benefits
Her words are echoed by fellow hemp farmer and activist Ryan Loflin who attempts to explain the wealth of benefits hemp has the potential to deliver.
“You plant the seed and roughly three or four months later you have food, you have fibre for housing and clothing, you have oil – you could replace petroleum, run your car off it,” he enthuses.
“You could eat that oil. It’s safe enough to eat and you can run your car off it. It’s so high in omega 3, 9 and 6 – it’s a super food.”
Until the Farm Bill passed last December, hemp was forbidden even as a fibre since 1970 and was federally illegal as a commercial crop.
But the impact of the Bill on US agriculture is now beginning to be felt across the States which, in turn, could bring about huge changes in the clothing industry.
“It’s so interesting, a lot of people didn’t know you grow clothing and you grow fibre – that’s a new concept to a lot of folks,” explains John Rapp, senior clothing designer at Patagonia.
“Our goal is to make clothes that last a lifetime, and hopefully a couple of lifetimes.
“Ideally, at the end of the day, you can just throw it into the compost and it just mulches back into the earth.”
You can view Misunderstood – A brief history of hemp in the US here…