The task of reestablishing industrial hemp farming does not happen in a vacuum. While the farmers and the producers do the hard work of cultivating and bringing hemp to the masses, just as essential are those in the background helping to create the framework that the burgeoning hemp industry will sit upon. The Industrial Hemp Research Foundation (IHRF) is one such organization.
The IHRF was created after the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill and the ensuing mandate to allow industrial hemp for research cultivation. By facilitating research and development at academic institutions IHRF supports growing the hemp industry to an industrial scale.
Since becoming Executive Director a year ago, Tom Dermody has focused on the fundamental issue of getting funding for IHRF members and researchers. Universities were happy to talk about hemp, he explained, but the internal protocols were not yet there within the institutions to facilitate the actual research. Researchers had great ideas but were unwilling to pursue proposals if they didn’t think they would end up being viable.
Dermody and the board started at the basic level by crafting policies such as for accepting research materials from third party suppliers. By diligently crafting protocols that abide by federal finance laws and that are attractive to private enterprise, IHRF has helped universities feel comfortable opening their facilities to hemp research. Instead of reinventing the wheel, IHRF is eager to take many existing protocols from the traditional farm industry and extrapolate them to hemp.
Of utmost importance in this process was educating school administrations that hemp is not marijuana, that the farm bill mandates universities to help facilitate research of hemp, and that doing so will not compromise their federal funding. Universities are essential in helping to develop consistent and scalable hemp plants to be used in large scale fiber, replacement plastics, and food science and thus moving the industry forward.
IHRF now has formal relationships with Colorado State University Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses, and University of Colorado Boulder and is working with them to procure funding, recruit faculty, and manage the product development process. They also are assisting projects in various capacities at universities from California to Maine.
Excitingly, through this development and research, Dermody believes the hemp industry will have consistent, scalable material in the next 2-3 years. By learning from the processes in place in Canada for seeds and in Australia and Asia for fiber the United States can piggyback on their success and take the industry to the next level.
While IHRF is not a political organization, Dermody says, “I do believe that the research IHRF supports over the coming years will be the fodder that further justifies the efficacy of hemp derived products to politicians, consumers and interest groups alike.”
To support the work IHRF is doing to further hemp research stop by and see them at the Innovation Tent at the Expo or visit their website at www.theihrfoundation.com to learn more about becoming a volunteer and supporting member. And of course, be sure to back the industry with your dollars by supporting hemp growers and product producers. Use hemp products, encourage friends and family to do so, and go online to search for new and innovative hemp items to try.
The Industrial Hemp Research Foundation is the official nonprofit beneficiary of the 2017 NoCo Hemp Expo and is sponsoring the Seeds of Innovation speaker series in the Hemp Summit Room all day on Saturday. Tom Dermody will be on the Seeds of Innovation panel discussion 2:30-3:20 on Saturday as well.
Laurie Hanselmann is a writer, nonprofit management guru, and lover of the natural world. She enjoys exploring how to find more meaning and connection in her life as a ‘Type B’ person through self improvement and productivity hacks. You can find her at persistentlybetter.com.