Elisabeth Rottenkolber • Farmer for industrial hemp

The married couple Franz and Elisabeth Rottenkolber from Purk near Moorenweis are driven by the desire to farm sustainably. And they are willing to experiment. So, in 2016, they ventured into growing hemp like they used to. The Rottenkolbers now sell delicacies made from hemp in the region. In an interview, Elisabeth Rottenkolber talks about life with hemp.

Dear Ms. Rottenkolber, tell us how you came up with hemp: It's not that common here...

No, that's not common at all. My husband is someone who likes to try things out. The way everyone is doing it often no longer works in agriculture. Destiny led us to someone who told us about edible hemp. Well, what about my husband? Feel free to build first and then think about it ☺ Now we're getting into direct marketing. If someone had told me that two years ago, I would never have believed it.

Is hemp easy to grow? 

The plants did not grow, only crows were there. When a colleague advised us to clear the field with crystals, I immediately followed his advice. We feel at home on the energetic level. After that, when my husband grew the hemp a second time, it grew—the crows stay away to this day. 

It's madness! How many hemp fields do you process?

Just one field. We do it on a small scale. We don't want to get caught up in the hemp hype, but remain true to our sustainable approach. We continue to grow in a crop rotation, which means we rotate the crops every year. The same plant grows in a field every three to four years at the earliest. This puts different demands on the floor and protects it. 

What strain of hemp do you grow? Because of its sometimes intoxicating effect, hemp has fallen out of favor in some places...

Yes, this is madness. Just recently there was another customer at our market stall who confused the intoxicating hemp with ours. We are only allowed to grow varieties that contain less than 0.2% THC anyway. It only becomes intoxicating with high doses of THC hemp. The customer didn't even want her daughter to try our hemp nuts, although there is no health risk. But some people just don't want to be enlightened: We actually see that in every market and across all ages. I have no clue whats the cause of this.

As a hemp farmer, you are subject to strict government controls, aren't you?

We have to indicate where we grow the hemp, we report the start of flowering and we need a harvest permit from the Department of Agriculture. Controls can occur at any time and unannounced. We are very careful about that. And at the moment we are in the process of conversion: our farm has been organically certified since July. Both my husband and my sons are currently training for this. 

Sounds like a real family business where everyone helps out...

Yes, but our company is so small that we cannot employ our sons full-time. But support my children where they can. My daughter also helps everywhere, for example at the stand. Otherwise it wouldn't work either. 

Hemp Flour, Hemp Oil, Hemp Seeds - They make just about anything you can make from hemp.

Yeah right. We differentiate between peeled and unpeeled hemp: The peeled version is softer and has a nuttier aroma. Some people like it better. With the shell, the hemp contains more fiber. 

Do you grind your flour yourself?

Yes, we dehull and grind the hemp on our farm. We just don't press the oil. We have invested in our own machines because we wanted to be flexible in processing. For example, hemp is very sensitive to humidity: if it is too moist, it is difficult to peel. This is where hemp is peculiar - it wants sensitive treatment. 

You obviously understand him quite well by now!

Yes, you grow with your tasks.

Where do you market your products?

Mainly direct, most often via farm shops and private supermarkets in the region. Hemp is all the rage right now. Because hemp flour contains a lot of protein, it is popular with people who want to avoid animal protein, for example. However, conventional grain flour cannot simply be replaced one-to-one with hemp flour: As a so-called pseudo grain, it contains no gluten, i.e. no "glue". Pastries and cakes are therefore not successful if you only use hemp flour. 

What's your favorite way to eat it?

I like to sprinkle it on my breakfast bread, for example with quark. I also like to bake with hemp, I often bring hemp wedges to markets, a kind of pastry similar to nut wedges. I also often bake bread with hemp, but that doesn't suit everyone's taste. In our family of six, four of us eat the hemp bread. In the meantime, some innkeepers in the region are also trying out recipes with our hemp. We are very keen to experiment: Now we have found someone who makes pasta from a mixture of our emmer and hemp flour. The noodles are available with egg and in a vegan version. And recently, a mobile cheese factory has come to us, which processes the hemp herbs and nuts into hemp cheese. You can just do great things when you network with each other. 

Do you also use hemp oil on your skin?

My husband regularly got sunburned while welding in the workshop. Since he smeared himself with hemp oil, there have been no more problems. 

Dear Ms. Rottenkolber, thank you for the interview!

Interview from July 2020

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