Bring Hemp Home: Colorado

In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, worsening drought is causing farmers to face the prospect of losing their livelihoods. Two farmers are placing their bets on a drought-tolerant crop—industrial hemp.

2021 / 12 Min

“When Dion first asked me to do hemp with him,” recalls farmer Shanan Wright, “I asked him about if he was smoking pot and whatnot because he’s married to my daughter.”

In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, farmers Shanan Wright and his son-in-law Dion Oakes share a common dream: to pass their generational farm down to their kids and grandkids. But rising equipment and land expenses—combined with drought—are turning this dream to dust, one harvest at a time.

When the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow industrial hemp in most states, Wright and Oakes got to work. They quickly learned that hemp cultivation comes with its own set of challenges, largely because the knowledge, techniques and infrastructure around a once-thriving US hemp industry have been lost due to decades of the plant’s criminalization.

Last year, Patagonia Workwear connected Wright and Oakes with soil scientists from Colorado State University, the governor of Colorado and our current hemp supplier from China. Bring Hemp Home: Colorado follows this partnership as we work toward yet another common dream: to restore a US industrial hemp industry that promotes soil health and keeps farmers on the land.

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