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​​Judy Wicks: Bringing Local Strength to Pennsylvania Hemp

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​​Judy Wicks: Bringing Local Strength to Pennsylvania Hemp

Judy Wicks, activist, entrepreneur and local supply chain advocate founded All Together Now, PA. Photo courtesy of All Together Now.

By Jean Lotus

Judy Wicks, Pennsylvania author, businesswoman and fierce advocate of local economies, has turned her attention to hemp through her nonprofit All Together Now PA.

Hemp’s reintroduction as a new rotational crop in the United States fits well with the organization’s mission to unite rural and urban communities and build “resilient restorative local economies that produce basic needs locally,” Wicks told Let’s Talk Hemp. 

Two years ago, Wicks, 74, helped build the state’s Industrial Hemp Coalition, which brings farmers, entrepreneurs and “world-be entrepreneurs” together to develop a localized hemp supply chain. The point is to increase value in the local hemp economy from farmers through production of textiles (including both hemp and linen), food, building materials and plant medicine and keep profits close to home, she said.

The mission also includes making sure opportunities are available for entrepreneurs of color who want to get in on the new industry, she said.

All Together Now will sponsor the second annual Hempcrete Week October 17-19 with three days of hemp building workshops featuring hemp insulation subcontractor Cameron McIntosh of  Allentown-based Americhanvre, a hempcrete building company.

The final presentation in Philly will invite members of the city council, architects, developers, builders, engineers and home remodelers to “find out, what is hempcrete, how do you use it and what is the future of hemp in our city,” Wicks said. “This can be a great green job opportunity for Philadelphians,” she added. 

Pennsylvania’s hemp community has developed a culture of collaboration and mutual cooperation thanks to a supportive Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and a long history of US hemp production before industrial hemp was outlawed federally in 1937. Non-intoxicating Cannabis sativa hemp was re-legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. 

The state hosts hemp businesses that specialize in CBD as well as Susquehanna Hemp Company, which specializes in hemp seed oil, Americhanvre and Coexist Build, hemp building materials companies and Tuscarora Mills, a hemp textile company.

“Every state can do what we’re doing in the hemp industry. it just takes people who are really committed and willing to work together,” Lori Daytner of New Castle, PA-based DON Services told Let’s Talk Hemp last spring. “In Pennsylvania we have smaller cities and towns, and a mix of agriculture and manufacturing, and that feeds into how we approach things. That’s part of being a Pennsylvanian. It’s in our DNA,” Daytner added. 

Wicks, an activist and entrepreneur, pioneered the concept of farm-to-table restaurants when she opened Philadelphia’s iconic White Dog Cafe in 1983, bucking against a centralized long-distance food system that trucked ingredients thousands of miles. 

“I had a transformational moment when I was developing supply chains for my own restaurant and realized it wasn’t enough. I had to share my knowledge with my competitors rather than keep this as my market niche, and work together to build a whole local food system that was sustainable for the farmers,” she said. Soon other restaurants and grocery stores were jumping on the locavore trend. Wicks sold the cafe in 2010 and retired from business in order to found All Together Now, which she currently runs as a volunteer. 

Now with climate change and the supply chain disruptions of the COVID-19 international pandemic, it’s more important than ever to build a “localized, self-reliant system,” Wicks said. 

For hemp, that includes building supply chains that link Pennsylvania farmers to the end-users. 

To that end, All Together Now has hosted hemp and CBD-infused dinners at Long Pond, PA-based Pocono Organics, a certified organic regenerative hemp farming operation with a restaurant and boutique 56-room hotel. 

By building localized networks for hemp products “you not only save on carbon emissions, but by moving closer to home we move power and wealth from outside corporations to our own businesses,” she said. 

After two years of volunteering, All Together Now has received three year-long grants for $250,000 per year that will enable us to hire an executive director and build the organization further, Wicks said. 

The organization  plans to catalyze “social enterprises to fill gaps in the supply chain,” she said. 

“We are building a network based on the values of cooperation and generosity and the understanding that we’re all connected to each other and to nature,” she said. “It’s not all about making money, it’s about how we can develop local economies that provide a sustainable living for all, while also sustaining life on Earth.,” she said.

Ideally “every region could have its own production chain for textiles and other basic needs, that would make a sustainable living for many people. That’s what globalization destroyed,” she added.

While the author of a best selling book on running a business says she is “not a socialist,” the current system is “driven by greed,” she said.

“Ruthless capitalism has destroyed our environment and caused great wealth inequality,” she said. “Are we going to be a civilization that gets along and cooperates and shares, or are we going to be competitive and greedy, and become extinct? We’re at a crossroads of humanity whether we’ll survive or not, and we need to understand the values needed to evolve as a species,” she added.

Hempcrete Week events will take place Oct. 17-19 at the Hempstead, an organic hemp farm in East Stroudsburg; Wild Fox Provisions, a hemp farm and CBD company in Barto and at the Viaduct in Philadelphia. Find more information here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hempcreteweek-2021-tickets-173949265937

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Jean Lotus is a Colorado-based award-winning journalist and hempreneur who writes about the American West and sustainable food and technologies.

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