Cathy and Ian Finley moved to Canada from England nine years ago. With the desire to do a little farming, they walked onto a five-acre plot of land and became full-blown “accidental farmers.” Within three years, Laurica Farm had relationships with11 restaurants and a few farmer’s markets.
After a cellphone explosion led to a fire back in 2016, destroying their home, the couple wanted to put their passion for sustainability into action — in a big way.
For Cathy Finley, sustainability has always been a major driving force.
“We try to farm as sustainably as possible,” says Finley.
That’s when the couple thought about hemp. Cathy recalled watching something about homes made of hempcrete on a home-renovation television program.
“We didn’t realize how not talked about hemp was as a building material,” she says.
It took about a year to even get the plans together for the house and it was a struggle with professionals to get the proper permits required since there was no precedence to follow in Canada around hemp building. Since there were very few resources with good information available, the couple relied on the expertise of Alex Sparrow, author of “The Hempcrete Book”, and also linked up with Hemp Technologies for support during the building process.
And they succeeded.
Theirs became the first house built from Canadian hemp and they began spreading the word on social media and the farm’s website. To their surprise, hempcrete intrigued many people.
What, Exactly, is Hempcrete?
Hempcrete, also referred to as hemp-lime in Europe, is a building insulation material composed of the bio-fiber, hemp, and the mineral lime. When blended with water, these materials ignite a chemical reaction that creates a glue. When it is set, cured and dried, the mixture becomes hempcrete.
While it’s certainly an eco-friendly option, it’s not easy. Unlike a concrete, the hempcrete needed to be mixed in buckets and poured into the frame of the house — a process that took nearly two and a half weeks. The Finleys understood that a lot of sustainable options aren’t always the easiest or the cheapest to bring to life, but felt it would be worth it.
Benefits of Building With Hemp
According to The Essentials of Hempcrete, “many of the materials used to insulate residential and commercial buildings have remained the same for decades, and most have serious environmental and/or health impacts.”
Hemp is a crop. Therefore, it grows quickly and naturally. When you think about the materials used to build traditional homes, toxicity is very real. Ian Finley has a background in construction and was well-aware of the chemicals incorporated into building materials. For example, the fire retardant component in the insulation within your walls is composed of known carcinogens.
The Finleys didn’t want to raise a family in that kind of toxicity.
Sometimes, sustainable living can be associated with things that aren’t necessarily fancy and modern, but Cathy wants to set us straight. Just because something is natural or good for the environment, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be visually appealing.
A word of advice from the Finleys if you think you want to live in a house built of hemp: “know your contractor,” Cathy says. Your contractor needs to know how to carry out all of the traditional tasks associated with house building and then some. You should be even more vigilant than you would when considering a contractor for an ordinary home. “It’s a great material, but it can go wrong,” she says.
Life in the hemp house has proven to be an extremely positive experience. One noteworthy difference: “It doesn’t have that new house smell,” adds Finley.
That smell which we’ve come to know, and even love, is one really representative of the different chemicals that go into the construction materials of your home. Finley says she can certainly live without that.
The Future of Hemp on Laurica Farm
Finley has some dreams she’d like to see come to life on Laurica Farm in the future. She’d love to build little hemp pods for eco-retreats and possibly some mobile processing units. She also mentions potentially growing some small artisan hemp crops herself.
To check out the Laurica Farm Hemp House or stay up-to-date on happenings on the farm, visit the Laurica Farm Facebook Page.