Agronomist, consultant, instructor
Regardless of how many hemp fields Anndrea Hermann visits, she’s still taken aback every time she sees a majestic crop. The feeling often stirs her emotions, particularly when she sees cultivars that are named in honor of people that have been influential in her life and career, she said.
Hermann’s experience in the hemp industry is almost as broad as the range of uses for the ultra-versatile plant itself.
She’s been all over the world teaching classes, providing consulting services, performing quality assurance testing, speaking at conferences, advocating for sensible policy changes and being an ambassador for the hemp industry and hemp-based products. She’s the owner and host of iHemp Radio, an online program for all things industrial hemp; owner of The Ridge International Cannabis Consulting; an advisor for food and building supply products; president of the Hemp Industries Association and a Health Canada authorized hemp THC sampler, among other projects.
Interestingly enough, being an American is one of the biggest hurdles she’s faced with the hemp industry.
Despite the potential uses of hemp, the U.S. maintains an illogical stance of prohibition against the plant, lumping it under the same category as marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.
That dichotomy spurred Hermann’s initial interest in the subject.
“When I really learned it was this amazing crop and we couldn’t grow it, I always felt it was wrong from a very young age,” Hermann said. “When I got into school and Jack (Herer) came out with his book (The Emperor Wears No Clothes) and that drove even more passion. It was more about the fact of being denied from something so useful.”
While working toward her bachelor’s degree in hemp ecolonomics from Missouri Southern State University, she had the fortune of being selected for an internship with the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers Association. A simple email from Hermann to Sue Schlingerman of the Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers set the course of Hermann’s career in motion. Schlingerman could have just as easily ignored the email, but she didn’t.
“That one woman changed my life overnight,” Hermann said.
At that time, furthering a career in hemp in the United States was not a viable option. She had little choice but to venture north to Canada, where the commercial production of industrial hemp has been legal for nearly 20 years.
She immigrated to Canada through a provincial nominee as a unique skilled worker in 2004, then earned her masters of science in hemp fibre agronomy from the University of Manitoba in 2008. Finally, she became a Canadian citizen in 2011.
“It’s definitely been a ride,” she said.
“For what Manitoba allowed me to be a part of, professionally, that is like being mentored by this whole really strong sector in this industry.”
Now, she’s able to see her vast career come full circle. She instructs an online class about industrial hemp at Oregon State University.
“It’s an honor to be on the other side, when I respected my professors so much,” she said.
Teaching college students provides her the opportunity to help guide students in whatever avenue they are passionate about — whether it’s fashion, plastics, building materials or other sectors, hemp can be a central part of students’ future. Plus, with the U.S. slowly relaxing its policies regarding hemp production, more career opportunities are opening every year.
“On the fiber side of things, there’s so much that can be done. There’s so much that can be developed,” she said. “We haven’t been able to scratch the surface because the demand is so huge. If we want all cars built in the U.S. to have hemp composites, we’ve got to have a lot of acreage.”