One of AHMC’s goals is to investigate small scale sustainable hemp farming and processing and Ponda a small farm in Ashford in the NSW central west has been a partner in this research. The economics of small scale hemp production and processing are challenging. In most parts of the developing world where hemp production has persisted, processing relies on a cheap labour. In the industrialised world, processing is on huge scale and needs substantial investment.
Growing hemp in Ashford is about a small town seeking to create regional transformation. Prior to 1995 Ashford was a part of a substantial tobacco growing region in north western NSW. Tobacco provided employment however the impact on the land was heavy. Growing hemp fibre is a significant change in land use given that the crop can be readily grown using sustainable farming methods. The plant’s capacity for bioremediation is well documented (links page) and an average fibre crop (10 tonnes dry per ha) sequesters a tonne of soil carbon per ha.
While there is ready access to river water, a successful minimal irrigation trial applying about 1/3 of the water used for lucerne produced a healthy 4 – 5 m hemp biomass at this site.