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.
Workers at the 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 began to explore hemp in the 1760s as England began offering large financial rewards to hemp growers because it was such 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 have been grown to nearly eight feet. Additional hemp will be planted this year in the Sundries Field, along with flax, corn, cotton and tobacco. However, Norton said there aren’t plans to turn the estate into a booming hemp enterprise. Because all the farming, harvesting and production of the hemp plants are conducted as it would be during the Colonial Era, the current plot is essentially just for demonstration.
Response to the hemp plants have been overwhelmingly positive from visitors, who often stop to take photos next to the crop.
“Agriculture is agriculture,” said Norton. “Whether it’s hemp or cotton or flowers, we can all learn from the practices we do.”