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Tag: History of Texas Hemp

Building with Hempcrete

Innovative Hemp Building Operation began in Texas in 2008

Passion met opportunity for Gail Moran in early 2008 when an unlikely candidate for her project – hemp – came into play with an innovative building venture, launching the first US venture of its kind and paving the way for the future of the crop in this industry.

Born & raised in Trinidad, Gail always carried on her affinity for limewashed buildings, romanticizing the construction that stood the test of time and built its own character with it. As she built her career as a general contractor, she placed her focus on using these old world materials and architecture in her own work, falling in love in particular with Mexican inspired buildings 33 years ago when she came to Texas from upstate New York. In her quest to find materials to build an old hacienda-style structure with authentic limewash on the outside, she found a company out of Chicago called US Heritage who specialized in historic restorations and had an extensive knowledge about lime in the building process, which is unlike concrete at all. Being the right person in the right place at the right time the Chicago company proposed a project idea to Gail that they were wanting to launch and being open to their pitch and having the means she undertook the first hemp project led by them in the US.

The Chapel’s Hempcrete Structure coming together as it dries.

At that time other countries in Europe, Australia, and Canada had already embraced hemp as a building material and the US launch required a lot of training and direct help to get the project underway. A restoration company out of Massachusetts aided in guiding the team through the learning experience with all of the different building trades adapting to the new techniques of framing, production and even lack of specialized equipment available. The company out of the United Kingdom furnished the hemp, binder and lime, covering the shipping costs and support to help the project get underway. The team had to rely on the hand-mixed bucket method as their concrete sprayers and pumps couldn’t accommodate the density of this new material, dumping and tamping it into handmade plywood forms to create the 12” thick walls. Being smaller structures, they were able to successfully modify the workflow, however lacking the specialized equipment they had overseas kept them from being able on any larger scale projects and push the innovations to any larger companies. The other large factor that kept the team from gaining any momentum on the hemp project was the unfortunate timing of the market crash that year. With financial institutions not loaning money and businesses folding there was no capital in the market to push the use of hemp in the building industry and the momentum of the endeavor eventually folded to the times.

Gail Moran Pouring the Hempcrete/Lime Base into the Project circa 2008

While Gail and her team had complete confidence in hemp providing the depth and timeless look and quality she sought out, and got positive public response in the symposiums she conducted with it through her Hopewell Project, the idea ultimately had to be shelved as timing just was not on their side in the industry at the time of the project. As the personal recipient of her efforts, the hemp buildings that were constructed on her property in Montgomery, Texas by her all-woman team remain this day to be the first hemp buildings in the United States and remain educational opportunities for the material as it rises in popularity again in this region. In addition to its green properties and use of the shaft of the plant, the hemp in building provides phenomenal thermodynamic qualities, material strength, pest resistant, and eliminates drywall and insulation. Should the industry build and begin to gain the physical means to take on larger scale project, she stands by this material’s potential to bring a new façade to construction.

Gail Moran has proven to be a statement of innovation in both her field and indirectly with education and de-stigmatization in the hemp campaign, providing the means and support to use this versatile crop in yet another way as well as not standing down to seeking out other means to bring a more authentic look to construction. With the introduction to a natural product in building it begins a conversation in authenticity and more positive control over how we view and take on building the world around us, working with what we can produce in our own means beyond fabricating so much of it.

Constructed on her property in Montgomery, Texas by her all-woman team, Gail Moran and the Chapel remain to this
day to be the first hemp buildings in the United States

The Story of George Trout: Texan Hemp Pioneer

Texas was not exempt from the hemp propaganda of the early 30’s and leave it to hemp historian and grower, Les Stark, to unearth the truths of one Rio Grande Valley man whose story was lost to the times, a pioneer in the crop lost too soon – the story of George Trout.

Recognizing the golden properties of the sandy loom soil of South Texas and that synergy of the Gulf current breezeway that spun into what had the potential to be the new Indus River Valley, Trout invested a great deal of his own money into a major grow operation and plans for a decortication plant outside Raymondville with campaigns to grow heavy and hard in the area once production began. While the potential of this new crop excited many farmers and citizens who shared Trout’s innovative views of the industry for the lone star state, it didn’t come without resistance.

At the foot of an agricultural and industrial revolution the naysayers – those buying into the widespread hysteria fabricated for it’s demise, born from the threats the mass potential of hemp was having on other industries – did everything in their power to put a cap on it’s growth and sweep the truths under the rug along with the individuals trailblazing it’s way and this absolutely included the endeavors of this Texas man.

The introduction of this quick-to-thrive cash crop was met by immediate demonization and media misrepresentation, pushing all of Trout’s endeavors into the flames with falsely reporting it as a mass marijuana growing operation. Mass resistance began mirroring the mass excitement Trout had worked so hard to build with not only his grow experiments but his conventions with other innovative minds in the use of this wonder crop. With the headlines quickly changing minds outside these circles, a gubernatorial-led ban on hemp immediately followed leading to Trout and other Texas growers having to destroy their crop under the new narcotics laws.

The history of 1930’s cannabis propaganda is nothing new but why do we not know George Trout by name? His identity seemed to quickly disappear with the crop itself and this is where Les Stark’s research into the life of this Texas pioneer has uncovered another plot within.

Underlying systemic issues were brought to light in the firsthand accounts Stark was able to cross reference uncovered news articles with. Alongside Trout’s $100k investment into his endeavors he also invested in educating immigrant and ethnic minority workers in the trade, an action that challenged the racism of the time and most likely aided as a catalyst in the demise of his investment. Personal accounts told  much milder truths to what was reported in the media surrounding the seizure of the crop by Texas Rangers and sadly Trout died just a short time after that occurrence, on his way to plead his case to federal legislature and ironically on the same day the Marijuana Tax Act was put into effect, never having had his story truly told. His name briefly resurrected in 1942, when hemp was revisited in Texas following the Japanese invasion of the Philippines – the US’s overseas supply house – but still not to the level of recognition that his efforts deserved in Texas history.

Les Stark pieced together the past to tell George Trout’s story for the future – the future of the industry he began nurturing far before it’s time to shine and as we embark on this new generation of growth he reminds us to take this account and learn from it, embrace the truths and draw out the same visions that this pioneer brought to light nearly 100 years ago. Take the time to further honor George Trout as he planted the first seeds for this state’s hemp efforts and thank Les Stark for his in not letting this story fade into the historical misrepresentation of this crop.