Meet the Hemptress


Originally published in Taos News

Ruth Fahrbacht bought a hemp guitar strap from a vendor in Kit Carson Park back in 1997 and loved its durability and strength.

“It was not like any other strap I had owned,” she said.

From that moment on, she started researching and learning as much as she could about hemp.

“I began to study hemp and marijuana relativity and irrelativity,” she said. “In the process, I found out the many uses of hemp.”

In 1998 she attended the first Hemp Expo in Santa Cruz, California.

In 1999, after returning from a hemp research trip to Thailand, Nepal, India and Tibet, Fahrbacht decided to create her own hemp company, Taos Hemp LLC.

The business allowed her to combine her Buddhist philosophy with the work of her hands.           Taos Hemp began its cottage industry on the West Rim Mesa of Taos, in an off-grid, solar home.

Today Fahrbacht sells her own brand, called Dharma bags, made of 100% hemp. She is also known as “the Hemptress.”

“With the emphasis on no stress,” she said. “Oh, by the way, it also accounts for ‘great tress.’ Hemp fiber tresses are the strongest and longest on the planet.”

Fahrbacht considers herself a natural person. She lives and works in an eco-friendly way.

“My hogan (in Dine hogan means ‘blessing way’) is built out of straw bale, adobe, stone, and wood,” she said. “It has passive solar and active solar. The solar panels, with a kilowatt of electricity, run 2200 square feet of dwelling.”

Why hemp?

Fahrbacht describes hemp as “a miracle plant that can heal the Earth.”

“I like to say hemp covers it all,” she said, “from food, clothing, paper, shelter, medicine, fuel, and plastic composites to remediation of toxic soil. Also, economic recovery: it can provide jobs for farmers and individuals in a cooperative setting.”

Hemp is the second highest protein next to soy, high in vitamin E and magnesium. Hemp oil is also used in the cosmetic industry.

“It is a superb moisturizer and detoxifier at the same time,” Fahrbacht said.

A Taos-based skincare company, Nabis Naturals, uses hempseed oil as an active ingredient to produce a moisturizing serum and a cream.

Hempseeds contain Omega-6 and Omega-3, essential fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties. They can also be used to make butter, milk, and protein powder.

The legal fate of hemp

Fahrbacht points out that hemp is not a drug.

“Hempseed has very, very little amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), just .03%. THC is the primary ingredient in marijuana cannabis,” she said. “Using hemp products will not give anyone a high!”

It is not legal to grow hemp in New Mexico right now. But Senate Bill 94 (SB94) would authorize the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in New Mexico, if successfully passed. Under this bill, New Mexico residents could be licensed to produce and distribute hemp.

“The Federal 2014 Farm Bill allows hemp, when individual states pass the pro hemp legislation,” Fahrbacht said. “Then they can safely do pilot studies and test plots to determine the correct cultivars.”

There may a long way to go, though. At federal level, hemp is still classified as a Controlled Substance Schedule 1— along with heroin and its cousin marijuana.

“In 2013 twenty-one states introduced industrial hemp legislation, but current federal policy still places a barrier on production,” Fahrbacht said. “The irony of this is that more industrial hemp fiber, seed and oil is exported to the United States than to any other country.”

Hemp history

Hemp is one of the oldest cultivated plants. Its use can be traced back to 8000 B.C.

“Hemp was known by the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, and Persia,” Fahrbacht said. “It was used to make textiles and for cosmetic purposes.”

However, we don’t have to go that far in time. Hemp it is also part of American history. The United States’ declaration of independence was written on hemp paper.

“Washington and Jefferson demanded that the colonists grow hemp for their clothing, food, and maybe building materials,” Fahrbacht said. “Hemp paper requires no bleach, no heavy dioxin like the tree pulp industry which has polluted our rivers and cut down our virgin forests for paper.”

Hemp production was endorsed by the government in the 30’s and during World War II because it was needed to make ropes for Navy ships.

“Henry Ford made a hemp car and ran it on hemp fuel,” said Fahrbacht. “The question is: what became of Ford’s idea? Guess he was run off the road by Dupont (plastics), Eli Lilly (pharmaceuticals), Hearst (paper), Andrew Mellon (friend with Hearst) and Harry Anslinger (chief of Narcotics Bureau). We still have huge lobbies against hemp in these arenas today.”

Despite the obstacles, Fahrbacht is convinced that a green future will include hemp.

“It will propel us into the age of self-reliant, self-sustaining livelihoods,” she said. “Let’s get together behind the production of the strongest fiber crop on the planet.”