By Pamela Bosch
Highland Hemp House
I’d been wanting to do a European hemp road trip for some time, so I took off for Steve Allin’s 5th International Hemp Building Symposium in Germany this past autumn. Steve’s the kind of guy who puts together hemp builders from Washington State to Nepal, from Morocco to Sweden, from France to Haiti.
The presentations were fascinating and I was able to organize nearly my entire Euro Hemp Tour among the incredible characters who attended Steve’s event.
During IHBA, we toured the Hanfasser hemp processing plant in Prenzlau, in northeastern Germany, and saw a hempcrete spray gun in operation.
I left Germany with a rented car, an outdated GPS system and 16 days of freedom.
Not 20 miles from the symposium, I stumbled upon a chicken farm in Germany with hemp growing across the road. I was told that chickens fed on hemp seed produced the best tasting eggs; the nutritional analysis of hemp seed indicates why this should be.
My next stop was Oude Pekela in the Netherlands, where I had arranged a tour of the DunAgro plant, one of Europe’s biggest and most advanced industrial-scale hemp processing facilities.
I was very impressed with the range of products, the efficiency of the plant, and the fact that the climate, growing conditions, and agriculture in Oude Pekala are so similar to those in Washington State, where I live. And, of course, the graciousness and generosity of my host, Albert Dun, who shared a wealth of information.
In Belgium, I visited Wolf Jordan’s colorful world. Wolf is one of Europe’s leading experts in working with lime and the pigments used in all-natural paints, and to color the plasters and renders used in finishing hempcrete buildings.
Wolf is truly a craftsman of the old world variety, with a love and a feel for the materials that support a simple and noble lifestyle. I couldn’t help but contrast his centuries old craftsmanship with the unsatisfying jobs that are supported by our exploitative global economy and its materials of unidentifiable origins.
I had the privilege to sleep in Wolf’s gypsy wagon, which serves as guest room at his compound in the town of Kalmthout, in Flanders.
From Belgium I was guided through France by Klaus-Josef Haag of Gratenau Holz GMBH, whom I’d also met at the IHBA Symposium, to find examples of hemp buildings, as well as to witness the operation of another hempcrete spray machine.
I was actually inside a building that was a center for tourism without realizing that I had found one of Klaus' examples. It is very difficult to distinguish hempcrete constructions from those that are decades and even centuries old in Europe. The plaster finishes are the same as in any 'traditionally modern' buildings.
I found the spray machine in a small rural village. Mathieu Boisante’ demonstrated the spraying on a model he had built to show me. He also gave me a tour of some nearby homes that were retrofitted with hempcrete spray. Until I went to Europe, I had no idea how many of the homes that people live in are centuries old. I was told that there are about 70 of these spray machines in operation in France from this company source. Each machine is used to spray about a house a week. The old stone structures are made energy efficient without destroying the aesthetics and the architectural history that are so valued by the people.
Short of time, I missed seeing a very well designed contemporary passive solar house being built near Pilsen in the Czech Republic. ( I confess that I wanted to see Prague!). But I will be following the progress of Hemp House, a truly bold project in sustainable living.
My final stop was in Poland where I met with Kehrt Reyher of HempToday and the Naklo Foundation and his wife Marzenna. From the center of Poland they are a networking hub for advancing the growing of hemp and the hemp industries throughout the world.
It was Halloween, so I put my pumpkin carving skills to work.