Hemp Herder Derek Owen

Derek Owen and his wife Ruth work their 150-acre farm in Hopkinton. It used to be larger, but taxes tend to shrink the terrain. Still, it’s a busy and friendly place. Owen was elected to the NH Legislature and served for 20 years. He has long advocated for industrial hemp (think rope, not dope) as a legal crop. He remains hopeful and has a field set aside for whenever the government wises up.

Photo by David Mendelsohn, Assistance by WendY Mendelsohn

In his own words:

  • No, I don’t mind a bit if you mention my age. I am 85. I can still dance.
  • My college roommate introduced me to Ruth when both were students at UNH around March of ‘62, and we got married in September … a fast romance.
  • We’ve got five kids, two of whom live in New York. I don’t know just what they do.
  • Our farm labor pool includes young people who want to find out about life, how to live with other people and get along … Often that facet is more important than learning about organic farming.
  • Sometimes people come for a visit and stay for years.  Sometimes exchange students have come from other countries … France, Germany, Japan, Africa, Nepal.
  • I was in office from 1992-2012. I ran the first time to see if I could help get some relief from the unfair property tax. Unfortunately, after 20 years, I still hadn’t gotten anywhere. People are still losing their homes.
  • I either sponsored or co-sponsored a bill relative to the industrial growing of hemp every single term.
  • Hemp goes back to early China and the Egyptians.
  • Betsy Ross used it when she made the first American flag. George Washington farmed it. The paper of the Constitution was made from hemp. It’s used as animal food. It’s the strongest natural rope known to man.
  • Hemp is also used for body products, human food, animal fodder, and animal bedding and clothing. It produces 10 times the amount of pulp that wood does for making paper. It’s good for the environment
  • The federal government is opposed to its growth because of ignorance. Hemp is not marijuana. It is not psychoactive. It is a fibrous plant with unlimited uses, and the American farmer is being denied the right to grow this cash crop.
  • Like cannabis is today, growing hemp should be a state-by-state movement. It is no threat to anyone.

Owen says his trademark “Farm Here to Eternity” hat was originally found at the Mall of NH by a couple of foreign exchange students from Brazil and Kazakhstan who were staying at his farm. “They bought it and brought it home as a present. With that inscription, it fit me perfectly. I finally wore it out and had more made.”

At right, the photographer and his lovely assistant serve as hat holders.

Categories: Q&A