Conference at Pennsylvania Farm Show touts many uses of hemp
Reading Eagle article covering the PA Hemp Conference
People frequently ask Shawn House if his pretzels are going to get them high.
The answer is always no, said House of Columbia, Lancaster County. His pretzels are made with hemp imported from Canada, not marijuana. In a perfect world, House would buy hemp from Pennsylvania farmers the same way he buys wheat.
A new state Senate bill, the industrial hemp bill, could get House one step closer to that dream.
House spoke Saturday at a Pennsylvania Hemp Conference during the 99th Pennsylvania Farm Show. The meeting was hosted by the Keystone Cannabis Coalition.
The conference aimed to teach visitors about the myriad uses for hemp and to introduce the bill, said Les Stark, an Exeter Township resident who is part of the coalition.
Stark said he hoped the conference would inspire visitors to reach out to their local representatives and encourage them to support the industrial hemp bill.
The measure, which is being introduced by state Sens. Mike Folmer, a Lebanon County Republican, and Judy Schwank, a Ruscombmanor Township Democrat, would allow hemp production through programs sponsored by research institutions, such as an agricultural college, or the state Department of Agriculture. The bill follows guidelines set by the 2013 U.S. Farm Bill.
At the conference, Schwank and Folmer both spoke about the benefits of hemp production, including the plant’s ability to bring nitrogen back into the soil.”This bill is a win-win-win for Pennsylvania,” Folmer said. It’s a win for agriculture, the economy and the environment. It would help farmers stay on farms. This is a no-brainer.”
“It’s all about providing another crop for our farmers,” Schwank said.
Hemp can be used in foods and oils as well as clothes and building materials.
“It’s not going to be a miracle crop, but it offers us something else to grow,” Schwank said. “I look forward to helping to promote this legislation.
“Twenty states have passed legislation to let farmers grow hemp, said Ben Droz of Vote Hemp, who also spoke at the conference.
In the meantime, House sells his hemp pretzels, or hempzels, through his business, Lancaster Trading House. He has a booth in in the Main Hall of the Farm Show complex. If the industrial hemp bill were to pass, House said he would consider buying hemp from the research programs.
Hemp was once a powerhouse crop in Pennsylvania, Stark said. Berks County had several hemp fiber processing mills until the mid 1800s. The inventions of the cotton gin and steamship led to hemp’s demise, along with the outlawing of hemp in the 1930s.
Now there are more than 25,000 uses for hemp, Stark said. And farmers are once again showing an interest in hemp production.
“The potential is just unlimited,” Stark said.