August 26, 2015 – When UK farmer Nick Voase switched his croplands from potatoes to hemp after severe flooding in 2007, he probably didn’t know he’d one day be using part of his harvest to build a home. Fast forward to 2015 and the Voase family lives in an amazing eco-hemp house, held together with lime, that keeps cool in the summer and warm in the winter. For Voase, the journey to growing his own house was full of twists and turns, but the results were well worth the ride.
Voase comes from a family of potato farmers. They were looking for a break crop – that is, a secondary crop to grow in between regular harvest seasons, to help keep the soil healthy. They tried a few things before they started growing hemp. “We had tried borage and lupins, among other things,” said Voase, “then we tried hemp, and it just fitted, growing it bi-annually with wheat.” During the severe East Yorkshire floods in 2007, their potato crops were damaged and the farmers realized they had to switch gears in order to stay in business. They decided to stop growing potatoes entirely and increase their hemp crops from 25 acres to 300 acres.
After a few mishaps, including a fire that wiped out most of a year’s harvest, Voase’s family cashed in on an insurance claim and decided to grow the farm even more. They acquired a processing machine so they could separate hemp fibers on-site rather than storing unprocessed hemp. Most of the fibers they produced went into loft insulation and mattresses, while the woody core of the hemp plants was used for animal bedding and for wood-burning stove briquettes.
Voase knew there was another avenue for using his hemp crops, and began exploring ways to use it as a building material in 2009. Working with a local builder and a process of trial and error, Voase helped his parents convert a barn on the property into a single story home. That was the first hemp house at the Voase farm. When his parents moved into that home, Voase and his wife inherited the main farmhouse. They decided to raze it in 2013 and build a new home entirely from the eco-hemp and lime material. With the help of an architect, a new design was born and the five-bedroom home was finally completed in April 2015.