I came up with the idea for an alternative to jar sprouting in 1978. That’s when I came out with the first ever fabric sprout bag. I view jars as a kind of modern mythology. I can’t tell you exactly how this folklore started, but what I can tell you is that jars were never designed to be gardening tools. The problem is that their inadequate air circulation and insufficient drainage create the perfect environment for growing mold. On average, I find that only about 3 or 4 folks out of 10 are able to overcome the limitations of growing sprouts in jars, while 6 or 7 out of 10 quit sprouting altogether because they grow too much mold.

My first sprout bags were cotton. But cotton molded consistently so I switched to linen. Linen comes from the flax plant—a sister plant to hemp. I made flax bags for years until hemp became more fashionable and its price more affordable. Today, my sprout bags are made from hemp.

Some of the land where the hemp is grown is certified organic land. However, because there is not enough of certified land yet in Eastern Europe, some of the hemp fabric we use comes from non-certified land. So the hemp we use is grown on a mixture of organic certified and natural land. Hemp is a weed and weeds need no fertilizer. Never have. Hemp grows robustly as it has for thousands of years. Not only are agricultural chemicals not necessary, local farmers are too poor to spend money on them! The old ways of farming are good enough. But hemp is basically not “grown” by “farmers.” It grows “wild” and is harvested.

The process of how the plant fibers are turned into thread is also not certified. This process is called “retting.” It does not involve chemicals, anyway. The harvested hemps stalks are submerged in a stream for approximately 2 weeks. The fabric color varies from year to year precisely because of this retting process. The retted stalks or “straw” are then cured in the open air and light. The long woody portions are separated by rollers and by hand. Some of them are suitable for paper manufacturing. Others can be burned and used as fuel or made into wallboard for use in construction.

The warehouse where the bags are sewn is not a certified organic manufacturing facility. Even though the threads are spun and the bags are assembled without chemicals, the building and the work space is not organic. In fact, this section of the world still has very little consciousness about organic. And there is very little money available so changes come very slowly.

Therefore I cannot call this product organic. However, the product can be called “all natural” since there are no agricultural chemicals used in the growing, no chemicals used in the curing, the spinning of the thread, or the sewing of the bags. I don’t even allow the use of simple starch during ironing. Hemp is a great agricultural product. It has been grown for thousands of years for fabric, construction, cord, and paper being the main uses. Industrial hemp has only minute amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes pot famous. It is a shame that fear and politics keep this plant illegal in America. A whole industry can be built around this renewable resource. In addition to the items listed above, hemp can be cultivated for its food value. The seed is deliciously nutty and is rich in protein and has a better balance of omega fatty acids than flaxseed oil. Farmers who used to grow tobacco, could be in business again because they have the perfect land and climate for growing hemp.

It is ironic that this useful crop is politically obnoxious when the U.S. Constitution itself was printed on paper made from hemp.