A hemp event designed to educate growers, learn about health research, look at industry for processing hemp, and explore cleaning up toxic land brought about 100 attendees from across the U.S. to the Native Health Matters conference on Saturday, Nov. 9, at The Venue in Tahlequah.
Registration began at 7:30 a.m., and throughout the day, attendees listened to speakers, presented programs, and networked, until the evening dinner.
Native Health Matters, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization out of Stilwell, is a community development incubator for sustainable health, wellness, education, agricultural and financial sovereignty for Native American communities, minorities, and people of all ages.
“We started this because of the need in Adair County. We have a high infant mortality rate, opioid addiction, high teen pregnancy rate, drug use,” said NHM President J.R. Claphan, whose health issues led him to discover the healing aspects of CBD oil. “I love the product. I’ll not say something works if it doesn’t.”
After four knee surgeries, the pain from bone on bone was tremendous, and Claphan started using CBD balm or lotion and got off the prescribed opioids.
Mary Worsham, secretary of the group, said the organization was created to be an umbrella of services for indigenous people in Adair County.
“We also have a music and art program is schools, and we’re hoping to add more schools,” said Worsham.
Vice President Timothy Houseberg said it is about “reclamation of our health and education, and investing in our future.”
“As Native Americans, we’re one of the first environmentalists and we’re the first to have agronomic hemp study backed by a U.S. university, the University of Arkansas,” Houseberg said. “The study wasn’t for medicine or production, but a fight of mediation, about detoxifying the soul. We have the largest Superfund site on our land around Miami-Tar Creek and Sequoyah Fuels. Our work is to clean up the soil, not to make money.”
University of Arkansas launched the first Agronomic Hemp Research Study on Jan. 1, and NHM partnered with the school. They share mutual interests in the research and development of hemp and its potential benefits relating to phytoremediation. This ground-breaking hemp study is opening the door to using a new crop to re-nourish and detoxify soil, according to organizers.
The true potential of the hemp plant has yet to be discovered, said Dr. Brad Fausett, ag research director, Native Health Matters Community Farms.
Although there has been much buzz surrounding the hemp industry regarding the myriad of benefits for health and wellness, there has been a lack of research in respect to its phytoremediation potential.
“Utilizing the industrial hemp technology developed during our research study, we can return lands to a healthy and productive condition,” said Houseberg. “Not only are hemp-derived products scientifically proven to be beneficial to humans, but preliminary data through this research study shows how hemp can remove, stabilize, and-or destroy contaminants in the soil and groundwater, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the earth.”
Speakers included Carson Nation on Organic Hemp Training in three parts: Dr. Brad Fausett about phytoremediation and indigenous seed genetics; Benjamin Nugent, Smoky Mountain Nursery, about veteran-owned propagation and cultivation; Jeremy Wilson, governmental affairs liaison and office of Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed; Steve Jordan, CEO of Alpha Seed; Zach and Taylor McCormick of 3H Research Hemp Farm on research; Andrew Oberhoulser, Hemp Rope Bridges, on hemp regulation; and Tim Houseberg on navigating the experts, genetics companies, processors, brokers, promoters and farmers contracts.
The event ended with a panel discussion with all speakers and Doug DeRouen, Tad Haygood, Burl Berry, Jeremy Wilson, Richard Tyler and Rayme Myers.
Myers, with NBS Parkhill, said it’s a pathway for small farmers to grow this plant and be successful – and get a return.
“I’m here to help Tim set this up,” said Myers. “We can help with obstacles with the state, USDA and any agency. And help educate about clones, tissue culture clones, seeds, seedlings, genetics and plants, and more.”
Another goal, said Jordan, is to get people aware and take the stigma out.
“This is really a plant for medicine,” he said. “The industry is so new and so fragile; it’s a chance to be an industrialist that we haven’t had in 150 years.”
Robert Mitchell, founder and president of the Hemp Consortium, said farmers need a place to take plants and believes Oklahoma can be the epicenter of the industrial hemp revolution.
“We’re working on a large cooperative to build the first hemp fiber processing facility in Oklahoma,” he said.