Wandering Home

Wandering Home by Bill McKibben Read Free Book Online

Book: Wandering Home by Bill McKibben Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bill McKibben
warming, and have chakra-realigning Tantric orgasms? If not, you might want to visit some of the several million hemp sites on the Web. The week I was writing this chapter, an e-mail arrived from someone who had read one of my books. “You missed the boat on hemp, Bill, in
The End of Nature.
We could have already independicized our nation from OPEC! We could have reversed the Greenhouse Effect, saved the rain forests, fed the Third World…. Everything that soy does, hemp does better.” Anyway, Netaka had once been a kingpin of hemp. He’d started by weaving the fibers into cloth and sewing the cloth into backpacks and bags. Soon he had a little business going: Artisan Gear. Then the Japanese discovered hemp clothes—discovered them in usual Japanese style, which is to say everybody all at once. Suddenly Netaka had a multimillion-dollar company. Then, just as suddenly, the Japanese moved on to something else—snowboarding clothes, maybe, or fast-food uniforms. Anyway, the company more or less imploded, and Netaka was left with the small retail store he’d started with his wife, Claire, in downtown Middlebury, a place called Greenfields Mercantile. “We made the decision to open italmost overnight—the site became vacant because the previous tenant, a lingerie store, turned out to be doubling as a child-porn download site. They were busted, they tossed their stuff out on the street, and since it was a prime Main Street location, we moved in.”
    Greenfields Mercantile had specialized, of course, in hemp. When it first opened, thirty manufacturers supplied a wide range of hemp clothing, hemp accessories, even hemp vinaigrette. But the supply steadily shrank—federal agents cracked down on one manufacturer after another. “The feds have taken the position that all cannabis is bad cannabis. The stuff we use is incredibly low in THC. The industry has standards to make sure that hemp oil is THC-free, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all politics.” Anyway, Middlebury couldn’t really support an eco-fashion store, so they branched out, adding a coffeehouse and café.
    Still, old dreams die hard. As we wandered toward the northern border of town, past the covered bridge, past open meadows and woodlots, Netaka said, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be walking by fields of hemp right here. The University of Vermont did a study, it showed that Addison County was the very best place for this stuff in the whole state, all the right soil types. Heck, there’s still feral hemp growing in Addison County from before the legislative ban in the 1930s.” A few paces farther and he said with a resigned sigh, “Do you know they’re building houses with hemp in Canada? It’s fantastic insulation—highR-value, very breathable, completely sustainable.” There’s something sweet and noble and for the moment utterly quixotic about this particular quest, so Netaka continues to branch out. He’s taken out some of the shelves of slow-moving hemp shampoos—more and more his store is specializing in free-trade coffee and in soups made from local ingredients. Before we’d gone more than a few lots farther down the road, in fact, he’d pulled himself out of the dumps, his entrepreneurial gene had reasserted itself, and he was imagining a sign in the window keeping track of what percentage of that day’s food came from Addison County. “There’s a bakery in Crown Point—all they use is organic Champlain Valley wheat and they’re doing great,” he said. “I bet we could do that. Local really could be the new organic!”
    Two things interrupted our reverie before it could really take off. One was a hawk, perched out at the end of a big pine branch by the side of the road; it screeched several times, and then began to fly in looping dips, back and forth over us, time and again. The second was a driveway that led to the University of Vermont’s Morgan Horse Farm. Now, we’d each driven past this big barn dozens of times, and we

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