There was no shortage of hemp fiber outreach events in the Northeast this growing season. In May, UVM Extension’s hemp fiber specialist Laura Sullivan presented our previous year’s findings at the inaugural Northern New England Fibershed Round Table Event at Sanborn Mills Farm in Loudon, New Hampshire. In June, she held a soggy Lecture and Demo at Two Sisters Mill and Mercantile in Jeffersonville, Vermont.
In July, attendees of the 2023 Annual Crops and Soils Field Day at the Borderview Research Farm in Alburgh were invited to escape the rain and try their hand at hemp processing using antique hand tools after viewing a demo of Roger Rainville’s homemade decorticator.
Early August brought sunshine and a hemp fiber event to Proctor, VT at the new headquarters of Zion Growers, located in the historic marble building. This event featured a demonstration of hempcrete block making by Green Designers Alex and Bob Escher. Artist and professor Steven Kostell also held a design thinking and ideation session for developing hemp fiber product types and product classifications with attendants. Attendants were enthusiastic to see the building live on as the new home of another one of Vermont’s natural resources.
In September, Laura Sullivan and hemp farm collaborator Andrea Myklebust attended Cornell University’s Hemp Field Day Event. In addition to seeing Cornell’s trial fields and several new prototypes of harvesting equipment, they were invited to tour the USDA germplasm trial fields in Geneva, and interface with industry leaders across the country.
Early October saw hemp fiber represented at the Women Can Do Conference, which is held annually at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. Laura Sullivan attended with her regular repertoire of one hundred-year-old hand tools to show high school students and chaperones alike how to process hemp stalks into spinnable fibers.
Later in the month, she traveled to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck to represent both UVM and the Northern New England Fibershed with her fellow Fibershed representatives. Rhinebeck is an event that often attracts upwards of 30,000 fiber enthusiasts from all over the country. She and her small cohort of NNE Fibershed representatives were the only ones at the entire event to offer bast fiber education and were met with an outpouring of enthusiasm. They have since been awarded a microgrant to move forward with a New England Bast Fiber Mini Mill Feasability assessment, in which the UVM bast fiber research is playing a major part.
November and December might see a slowing down of public-facing events but an uptick of reporting, grant writing, and generating of educational materials to share with interested parties. Research farming is a year-round job that moves with the seasons. Before we know it, it will be time to gather genetics and begin the planning for the 2024 field season! For updates on future events and our research reports, check out our website www.uvm.edu/extension/nwcrops.