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.
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