Higher Profile: Doug Fine, Hemp Farmer and Goat Herder

Doug Fine is known for evangelizing goats and gardens to save the planet, as well as advocating for the power of hemp.
Fine
Doug Fine with Deborah Colburn, Interpretive Program Supervisor, harvesting hemp manually for the first time in 100 years at George Washington’s farm at Mount Vernon, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Doug Fine.

Doug Fine wants to save the planet by teaching humans about a regenerative and sustainable lifestyle. A lofty goal for a hemp farmer and solar-powered goat herder, but Fine persists. That’s the thing about saving the planet, it takes tenacity. It takes Evangelizing in the Biblical sense, from our mouths to their ears. They may not want or be able to walk the talk, but they will hear you.

Author of six books to date, Fine’s first effort, Not Really an Alaskan Mountain Man, was published in 2004, reflecting his introduction to nature as a guy who grew up in the suburbs of New York. Another published in 2008, Farewell My Subaru, details his life living “green off the grid,” demonstrating how to drastically reduce the use of fossil fuel in order to live sustainably. This was followed in 2012 by Too High To Fail, with a focus on the regenerative side of the emerging cannabis industry at the time, and the green economic revolution—that’s now in full swing ten years later.

In 2013, he appeared on TEDx Talks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his farm, the Funky Butte Ranch, is located in a remote area hours from the nearest city. The talk, tilted “Why we need goat herding in the digital age,” is a call to arms, with the intent of luring humans back to the garden to save their soul—and health.

Fine introduced himself: “I stand before you today, a neo-rugged individualist, solar-powered goat herder.” Thus begins his humorous-yet-informative talk on how and why he supports his family by tending goats off the grid.

In 2014, he published Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, wherein he shares his life on his farm, expounding on the many uses of hemp—and how it can help save the planet.

His latest effort was published in 2020, American Hemp Farmer, Adventures and Misadventures of the Cannabis Trade, wherein David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, exuded, “A fantastic piece of Americana that shows the way to a sustainable future.”

American Hemp Farmer has been developed into a TV series, with a pilot and episodes in the can, and more in production now, seeking distribution.

The series includes visits to the Rosebud Sioux tribal lands, with Fine advising on its organic hemp cultivation. Other visits within the show include George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, with Fine manually harvesting, wearing a full outfit of Colonial-style clothes made of hemp, of course.

Doug Fine: Evangelizing a Sustainable LIfe

As detailed within his TEDx Talk, his first experience with nature was moving to rural Alaska in 2003, where learned about sustenance fishing, catching salmon in the wild. 

He enjoyed the thought of sourcing food from the backyard, so to speak. This, he said, got him in touch with what he calls the Indigenous Gene, or I-gene, calling humans back to our Paleolithic roots from living off the land as hunters and gatherers.

“Despite all our digital age accouterments, as humans, we are still the same hunter-gathers that we’ve been for tens of thousands of years,” he said. “I feel at my absolute best self and more relaxed when I’m out milking a goat at first light of day, with the local owls returning from date night. For me, it’s this feeling of living as one is intended to live.”

The experience in Alaska reawakened a vital part of himself that he’s been cultivating ever since, moving to New Mexico two years later, establishing his Funky Butte Ranch, to nourish his soul, with the end result of giving him a sense of contentment. Balance, he said, between the digital age and our indigineous selves.

And then there’s Climate Change, for those who understand the ramifications.

“We’re at the bottom of the ninth with two outs when it comes to tackling climate change, and we’ve got a game plan,” he advised. “Teaching that to everyone is my day job.”

And teach he does, with courses offered from his website, as well as hundreds of speaking engagements around the world under his belt.

To date, the most high profile talk given was a plea to the United Nations, in association with The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD), an organization working for better drug policies, globally. In this nearly five minute talk he urged change within the failed War on Drugs.

On February 27, he’ll be the Keynote speaker at SXSW’s Eco-Ag Conference in Montana for its 50th Anniversary, with the event airing on C-SPAN.

His “Johnny Hempseed” journey teaching the citizens of Earth how to help heal the planet is seemingly endless, as he presents himself clad head to toe in hemp—including hemp boxers made by his longtime companion.

Doug Fine harvesting hemp with a scythe at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. Courtesy of Doug Fine.

Hemp can Heal the Planet

The stats on how sustainable industrial hemp is are remarkable, when one thinks of all the trees felled over the years—not to mention the amount of plastics now littering the earth that could have been made with hemp and other plants.

“The prohibition of cannabis, and subsequently industrial hemp, was a terrible mistake that a great country made,” he explained from the ranch. “In my talks, I bring with me a little plastic goat made of hemp, created using a 3-D printer. We don’t need to use petroleum byproducts—we never did.”

The benefits of industrial hemp are many, able to be used for everything from fuel to building materials, to pulling toxins from the ground after contamination—demonstrated at what is now Ukraine, at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear melt-down, where thousands of hemp plants have been planted.

Fine’s own hemp seeds from his farm are being used in an experiment to clean contaminated soil in a New Mexico University study, with initial reports of great success in pulling uranium.

“I can confidently write that hemp cleans up radioactive soil,” he wrote within a blog at Vote Hemp. “Not, I heard it does, or I wish it did, or even someone told me they used it at Chernobyl. It actually does, according to this study.”

As explained in an article published by the Global Hemp Associations, the process is called Phytotech, wherein plants can actually decontaminate soil by pulling toxins—with hemp being exceptionally good at the process, decontaminating at a very high rate, eating up chromium, lead, copper, nickel, and more.

Cleaning air quality and soil is nothing new for plants, but our understanding of how they work is. 

“When you look at how many trees it takes to make anything, and how many years it took for those trees to grow big enough to use, it’s stunningly ignorant of us to ignore these facts,” he explained. “Before we began synthesizing petroleum byproducts, everything we made and used came from the earth—and it was all regenerative and sustainable. There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t turn this around.”

To give one example, as noted by the European Industrial Hemp Association, hemp contains upwards of 65 to 70 percent cellulose, whereas wood measures in at around 40 percent. The Ministry of Hemp informs that one acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four to 10 acres of trees over a 20 year cycle. Hemp stalks grow in four months, whereas trees take 20 to 80 years, depending on the species.

One can see why the “Plant for the Planet” movement was founded, encouraging humans to plant as many trees as they can—with the goal of one trillion trees planted globally by 2030.

“It’s such a no-brainer,” Fine lamented. “Hemp paper is more durable than paper made from trees, because it doesn’t break down over time. Building materials made from hemp are also mold and fire resistant. Not to mention the devastating effect deforestation has on the climate and health of the planet.”

Climate Change at the Door

Several years ago, a massive, 130,000-acre wildfire hit the Funky Butte Ranch, devastating years of hard work on the farm.

“This is not a dress rehearsal, it’s really happening now, and it’s at the door” Fine said of climate change and the forever fires, super storms, and flooding around the world, predicted years ago.

Fine said he watched a bear flee the wildfire, then attacked all but one of his goats, as he tells the story to show the collateral damage from the devastation. 

“The destruction affects everything,” he continued. “Fires, floods, and water levels rising due to melting glaciers. All of this compels me to keep talking, keep teaching, and keep growing regenerative hemp. The good news is we have two new baby goats on the farm now, blessings abound!”

The ever-hopeful Fine explained that we don’t all have to become farmers, but we can begin to understand the process by growing a little patch of something—even if it’s a bunch of basil in a pot on a city balcony.

He does believe that farmers can lead the way, while being supported by the masses by small changes made to the way we live everyday.

“Supporting small, local farmers by buying locally-sourced products, getting produce from community-supported co-ops or farmer’s markets—or even working in community gardens, are all valuable contributions,” he surmised. “Who knows, you may find, like me, that farming or gardening and growing your own food is the most fun you’ll have outside the bedroom!”

For more information on Doug Fine visit, dougfine.com.

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  1. Doug Fine wants to save the planet by teaching humans about a regenerative and sustainable lifestyle. A lofty goal for a hemp farmer and solar-powered goat herder, but Fine persists. That’s the thing about saving the planet, it takes tenacity. It takes Evangelizing in the Biblical sense, from our mouths to their ears. They may not want or be able to walk the talk, but they will hear you.

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