Many people don’t know that George Washington was the original pioneer of the hemp movement, but the first President of the United States now has legal hemp planted at his historic Mount Vernon estate for the first time in over 200 years.
Bringing Hemp Back
Workers at the George Washington estate, which is now owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and teaches people about life in the 18th century, planted and harvested a 1,000 square foot plot of hemp. Washington started his career in agriculture as a tobacco farmer. He explored hemp in the 1760s as England began offering large financial rewards to hemp growers. The crop was a vital part of their shipping and navy industries.
Although Washington ultimately opted to go with wheat as his primary crop, he still kept a large plot of hemp for his own purposes such as ropes for his fishing fleet.
“It’s been tremendously exciting to bring back a crop that hasn’t been grown since Washington’s day. That’s kind of our mission, trying to represent this site as it was during his time,” said Dean Norton, the estate’s Director of Horticulture. “But I think it can become an amazing commercial crop for the state of Virginia.”
The hemp plants at the estate are now eight feet tall. Additional hemp is being added to the Sundries Field this year, along with flax, corn, cotton and tobacco. Norton says there aren’t plans to turn the estate into a booming hemp enterprise, though. The current plot is only for demonstration due to the work it involves. All the farming, harvesting and production of the hemp plants follow the same process as during the Colonial Era.
Response to the hemp plants is overwhelmingly positive from visitors. Tourists even stop for photos next to the crop.
Norton says that “agriculture is agriculture. “Whether it’s hemp or cotton or flowers, we can all learn from the practices we do.”