Teaching Fields

        It was about agriculture. It was about families. It was about tourism in a remote corner of The Netherlands. It was about a revitalized local crop - hemp. And, it was a brilliant method for educating the public. Last summer, over 4,000 visitors found their way to Nieuwe Beerta, in the north-eastern province of Groningen, to stroll through a huge labyrinth of Cannabis, an almost 2 hectare maze created inside a 6 hectare hemp field at a local agricultural research institute.
     On this sunny Sunday afternoon in late August, we walked the shady paths with families young and old: clean-scrubbed rural children playing tag on the paths, grandparents, babies in strollers, groups of teenage children - a cross-section of local society. More than a half a kilometer of paths lead to a tower from which one could see the 3 to 4 meter tall plants waving in the breeze. In cul de sacs there were teaching sites, with displays on local farming and environmental features. "We are a research institute for farmers of this [the main hemp producing] area of north Holland. We wanted something that would bring visitors and show them a local crop in production," farmer Titia Schillhorn van Veen told me. "And besides, itís something different than taking care of the cows," added farmer Jacques Overbeek. This was a great example of normalized Cannabis.
     The crop of ĎFedora 19í was sown densely for fiber production, forming a thick impenetrable crop standing over 2 meters tall by the time the maze opened to the public in July. A grass pathway through the hemp field was planted with sod when the hemp field was sown. A tall hemp crop is perfectly suited for building a maze, as you cannot walk through it and you can only see into it for a meter or two. After the maze field is harvested, it will be sold to the Hemp Flax B.V. processing factory in the nearby town of Oude Peekla.
     The project was likely a one-time-only event. The idea came from the Internet, where the test farm managerís son learned about a huge maze created in a US corn field.

Annie Riecken
66 NZ Voorburgwal, Suite 71, 1012 SC,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands