Interview with Vorarlberg hemp farmer Dominik Erath

Interview with Vorarlberg hemp farmer Dominik Erath

The Vorarlberg hobby hemp farmer Dominik Erath talks about growing hemp in Vorarlberg - on the meadow directly behind his house.


Dominik, how did you get the idea to grow hemp and what was your motivation for starting?

There are several reasons for this:

  • On the one hand, the diversity of the hemp plant has fascinated and interested me for a long time.
  • After my trip to Latin America two years ago, I was convinced of the need for a hammock. Therefore, I really wanted to make my own hemp hammock, and preferably with hemp fibres from my own cultivation.
  • After moving back to Vorarlberg after almost ten years, I decided to combine family and hemp field. With hemp cultivation, it was possible to bring together four generations - from my grandfather to his great-grandchildren.
  • After extensive research, I came to the conclusion that fibre production and especially processing in the region was not feasible. So the production of hemp seeds came to the fore.
  • In spring 2018, we finally started the hemp project on the small acreage available at my home.

What bureaucratic hurdles did you have to overcome to grow hemp in your garden at home?

In principle, there are no real bureaucratic hurdles for the private cultivation of hemp in Austria. Since we are only cultivating as hobbyists and currently without any economic intentions, it was only important that EU-certified seeds are verifiably used.

How often were the police or onlookers at your hemp field?

Since our hemp field is located directly on the Kirchweg in Hörbranz, we knew from the beginning that our project would cause a stir. This is exactly what we wanted to achieve, so that the local population is confronted with hemp, which in turn facilitates educational work. Of course, we also had several visits from the police, including from the State Criminal Police Office, LKA.
Much more exciting than the police visit, however, were the whispering visitors with torches in the field at night.

How did you harvest the hemp?

We harvest exclusively by hand, as our drying process does not correspond to the conventional procedure. In order to exploit the full aroma of the plant, the seeds are therefore gently dried in the complete flower. You can taste this difference in quality very well.
With the machete and without heavy equipment, the amount of work involved in harvesting is enormous, but with a lot of heart and soul from the entire family, it can be done.

Apart from growing hemp, what distinguishes you from conventional farmers in your area?

We want organic farming that you can "see and touch". By this we mean a 100% local product that everyone can help with and find out about on site. In contrast to many animal products, some of which are reared abroad, fattened with South American concentrated feed and ultimately sold as a local product, we are committed to full transparency. Honest and sensible cultivation without chemicals is more important to us than certifications.

How did your environment react to your decision to grow hemp?

The reactions of my family and neighbours were positive throughout.
Of course, there were isolated sceptical comments along the church path, mainly because of the one-sided knowledge about the hemp plant. By putting up signs and having numerous conversations with interested walkers, we were able to dispel many misconceptions and convince sceptics.

Finally: What is your vision for the future?

It is important to me to familiarise people with the hemp plant and, above all, its many uses. Both young and old need to realise that hemp is not just for "smoking weed" and that there is no need to be afraid of the hemp plant.