Misunderstood: A Brief History of Hemp in The United States
Patagonia has been utilizing legally-sourced hemp fiber in their clothing lines since 1997. Now that the 2018 Farm Bill has passed, they have started talking to domestic farmers here in the US about opportunities for locally grown hemp fiber. Currently, Patagonia sources their hemp fiber from China where the government heavily subsidizes hemp production. “We haven’t grown hemp for so many years in the United States that the expertise we used to have, all of that historical knowledge, is just gone,” says Patagonia Material Developer Alexandra La Pierre, who heads up the hemp project for the company. “We’re playing catch-up.” While hemp is relatively easy to grow, turning hemp into an actual fiber is a complicated process.
Patagonia sent a photographer to China to document the process of turning hemp into a fiber and posted it on their blog (don’t we all love to see the behind the scenes of how a product is made?). They also created a short film titled: Misunderstood: A Brief History of Hemp in the United States. The film touches on not only the history of the hemp plant but also some of it’s uses and potential uses. It includes several hemp visionaries and experts like Winona Duke who is an environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development and who is also a hemp farmer, Mike Lewis a Kentucky hemp farmer (be sure to check out Patagonia’s previous film directed by Dan Malloy called Harvesting Liberty featuring Lewis) and Elizabeth Pilon-Smits a Professor of Biology at CSU Ft. Collins among others. Be prepared to be inspired and learn a little more about this incredible plant we call hemp.
Check out Patagonia’s new women’s hemp collection here.