Selective Harvesting of Male and Female Fiber Hemp Plants and Water Retting Experiments for the Production of High-Quality, Long-Line Hemp Bast Fiber

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $29,938.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2027
Grant Recipient: Mountain Heart Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Andrea Myklebust
Mountain Heart Farm


  • Agronomic: hemp


  • Crop Production: other
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    The over-production and overconsumption of synthetic textiles is
    a significant contributor to climate change. The objective of
    this project is to help in the creation of a new local textile
    economy based on locally-grown and processed natural bast

    In this proposal, we seek to improve our capacity to sustainably
    grow, ret, and process high-quality long-line hemp bast fiber for
    textile use. Through our work, we hope to add value to an
    expanding knowledge base of fiber hemp production that will
    support farmers and spinning mills in our region and beyond. The
    work of the project includes:

    • trials of several different dioecious fiber hemp varieties
    • selective harvesting and processing of male and female plants
    • study of several different retting processes
    • a test of the use of retting water as fertilizer
    • partnership with a local spinning mill to bridge the gap
      between growers and commercial customers for locally grown bast

    The project is designed to span
    three growing seasons, and is based in Danby, Vermont at Mountain
    Heart, the farm of the applicant/project leader, Andrea
    The results of the work will be shared via a
    series of field days, on-farm demonstrations, organizational
    website and social media outlets, and presentations to interested
    stakeholder groups, including academic partners, Fibershed
    affiliate groups, local growers, and laypeople interested in
    local, natural-fiber textiles.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of the project:

    • demonstrate that it is possible to grow and process very
      high-quality long-line hemp fiber in our region
    • continue to build a set of retting methodologies for regional
    • work with a small regional spinning mill to understand the
      qualities required for locally-grown and processed hemp fiber to
      be utilized in their blended wool/hemp yarns.

    To achieve these objectives:

    • I will grow several different dioecious fiber hemp varieties
      chosen for their potential to yield high-quality, long-line bast
    • The plants will be harvested at two different times/batches
      by pulling male plants when they mature, and female plants when
      they mature at a somewhat later date. 
    • Male and female plants will be processed via dew retting (a
      control sample) and water retting with several variables,
    • traditional water/tank retting and dispersal of retting water
      as a fertilizer for dye plants.
    • experiments with the addition of saponification, alkaline,
      and acidic ingredients to the retting water, based on historic
      recipes but adapted to use non-toxic ingredients.
    • evaluation and cataloging of the resulting fiber through hand
      processing and spinning, and evaluation by a local dry spinning
      mill for use in their yarns.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.