Local Hemptress Markets Product World-Wide

By Cornelia de Bruin, The Taos News Nov. 14-20, 2002

Ruth Fahrbach, owner of Taos Hemp, knows the many uses of the hemp plant: foods, clothing, shelter and paper products.

She markets her products internationally by contracting with hemp producers and manufacturers (Ecolution) in the Eastern European country of Romania.

Fahrbach, who calls herself a “hemptress,” wholesales Dharma bags, market bags, wood sacks, scrub clothes, back scrubbers, salve and copies of the Declaration of Independence that are printed on paper made from hemp.
The healing salve Fahrbach markets is made by Julie Sutherland, who lives in la Lama.

Politics is linked to the history and uses of the hemp plant, and its products.

Hemp, a cousin to the mariiana plant is illegal to grow in most of this country because of The Marijauna Stamp Tax-Act of 1937. Fahrbach can’t grow the plants from which her products are made, and so contracts with manufacturers who use fabric made from that country’s Hemp crop.

The effect of legalities on her fabric actually give her products an advantage, Fahrbach explained.

“Romanian hemp has long fibers,” she said, holding her hands about a yard apart. “That rneans stronger fabric.”

Fahrbach said clothing and fabrics made by the Chinese are not as strong because manufacturers chop the hemp fibers into shorter lengths to blend them with other fibers, such as silk and cotton.

“I got into hemp in 1997, when I bought a guitar strap made from hemp,” she said. “I started thinking about hernp, and had a business called High Mesa Hemp Wear in 1998”

Thinking about hemp, to Fahrbach, meant considering the plant’s multiple uses, such as its being a food source and building material as well as the root source of strong fabric.

Her curiosity took her to the Far East, where she “saw the real thing” – plants that can grow to a height of 20 feet- in Thailand, Nepal, Tibet and India.

The trip inspired her line of Dharma bags, patterned after the bandoleer-strapped carrying bags used by traveling Buddhist monks.

The bags come with three choices of strap length, 64, 68 and 72 inches, and three styles. Straps range from seven to nine inches wide to allow for equal weight distribution and to prevent heavy loads from digging into shoulders.

Extra-large and children’s sizes are also available.

Her styles include a travel utility bag, which is 17.5 inches wide and has 16-inch top and eight-inch front zippers, as well as six open pockets.

The 16-inch reversible Walkabout Bag is simpler in design, with an open top, a front-zippered pocket and two liner pockets.

Fahrbach’s basic utility bag is 14-inches wide, open, reversible and Without pockets.

All three bags are 13.5 inches high and come in numerous colors.

She will show her products in Taos’ Christmas show, partnering with Melissa Larson of Wholly Rags for the event in a booth in the Rio Grande room.

In addition to wholesaling her own products, Fahrbach is helping John Stahl of Leggett, Calif., find investors for his business, New World Pulper, which would use hemp, recycled clothing and many other fibers to create paper products that reflect his and Fahrbach’s environmental awareness views.

Fahrbach works out of her off-the-grid solar home in Tres Orejas, where she employs an assistant.

Her customers include people in Osaka, Japan, Nelson, B.C., Canada, London, England and Encinitas, California. Her products are locally available at multiple locations, and in the Nature’s Way booths in Santa Fe’s Villa Linda Mall and the Coronado Mall in Albuquerque.

Fahrbach donates one percent of her earnings to help support the children at Sanmarga Dayasrarnarn Orphanage in Tirtivannarnalai, South India.

Another one-percent is donated to the Free Leonard Peltier campaign, to reflect her beliefs supporting the sovereignty of Native American peoples.