top of page

MEMBER POST: Amy Pursell

Greetings fellow IHGA Members. Please allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Amy Pursell, hemp enthusiast and recent Environmental Science graduate of Eureka College. During my time as a student there, I was an intern at the USDA-NCAUR-ARS studying potential uses of hemp.

Through that opportunity, I attended the Hemp Research Open House at University of Illinois, and all that led me to an IHGA hemp meeting hosted by Rachel Berry. I went in hopes of discovering how to get involved in the return of hemp as a major agricultural commodity. I met some awesome people and gathered dates for more meetings and summits, some of which I attended.

Surprisingly, after the 2023 Hemp Summit, I also got a little discouraged. It seemed the only roles in the hemp industry were those of farming or working in the one and only processing plant. Neither of those were viable options for me, so I hung up my hemp hat and decided to find a different path to help improve some current environmental issues. The problem was, every path I looked at brought me back to hemp. How can we reduce or phase out plastics?

Hemp. How can we quit cutting down trees for paper goods like notebooks, toilet paper, paper towels and paper plates? Hemp. How can we build better, less toxic batteries? How can we help with the nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from midwest farms causing algae blooms and dead zones in the gulf? Is there a better feed for animals? What crops are less chemically reliant and require less water? How can we reduce the carbon footprint on construction sites? How can we get rid of toxic building syndrome? What building material could replace wood and reduce deforestation? What crop grows quickly and in some areas, nearly year round? Hemp. Hemp, hemp, hemp, hemp. Hemp is a potential answer to all these issues I wanted to help resolve, and so many more. 

I chose to major in Environmental Sciences because I have this grand idea that I can make a difference in the way our resources are being used and abused. I understand that the world will recover from whatever damage humans inflict on it, and when the human race is extinct, the earth will recover and carry on. My thought is, no need to rush our own extinction. Maybe if we can create less pollution in our air and water, if we can slow down the dead zones in the seas, if we can clean and restore the already troubled soils, maybe we humans can have a better quality of existence and stick around a little longer.

I know, I know, I’ve been told I’m a dreamer, always have been. I am aware that dreamers are often laughed at, our little heads given a pathetic pat and all the “bless her heart” whispered under breath, and I’m ok with it all. It seems people forget that they were once dreamers too. The little kid who once dreamed of a farm of his or her own. The truck drivers hauling our crops may have once looked at those big ole trucks in awe. Even our friends down at the hemp processing plant started with a dream. All these dreams, these crazy ideas that somehow manifest into our realities are what keep mankind moving. We need the dreamers, even the ones who forgot they’re dreamers.

As the dreamer I am, I decided to go to college in my 40s, after being a stay home mom. I was one year into my college adventure when hemp was legalized; it changed the course of my education and my future. Every research paper, essay, and assignment that gave me the freedom to choose the topic was on hemp. I researched and learned as much as I could. I was inadvertently teaching my professors about hemp; the comments on my papers were usually more questions for me. They wanted to know more, so did I. I wanted to tell them more. I wanted to tell everyone who would listen how amazing hemp is, with all its possibilities and benefits.

Unfortunately, after the not so great hemp start up, not everyone wanted to hear it. Some people had already given up and wrote it off as a failure. Promises of the new cash crop fell through and some lost big. The bubble had burst. Hemp wasn’t looking so hopeful, and many cut their losses never to look back, but not us. Dreamers know how quickly a dream can turn into a nightmare. We can almost count on it, but we also know that a setback, or twenty, isn’t enough to stop us.

We know that to win big, you have to risk big. You have to give it your all. There really are no losses, just lessons learned and experiences gained. I believe that’s where the hemp industry is now. We took the hits. We may have even lost hope a time or two, but not for long, because we know this crazy hemp idea is worth fighting for. We know there is money to be made. We know the possibilities and the benefits to animals, humans and the planet. We know this is a winning plan. We just need to keep the energy going. We need to spread the word. We need hard workers with big dreams, and we need real science to back it all up.

I think this is where I find my place in the hemp industry. We need loud voices to remind everyone why we’re doing this, to tell our government officials why this is important, to urge our scientists to conduct the research. So, while I can’t currently be a farmer, a processor, a driver or any of the other necessary roles, I can be a voice. It is my goal to raise awareness, gain support, to get and keep people interested and excited about hemp, and to petition government officials to support and improve the Farm Bill and Industrial Hemp Act. It’s going to take all of us to make this hemp dream a reality and I am excited to be a part of it.

If you’d like more information on who your Illinois District  government officials are or how to reach them, here’s a link, Find and contact your Illinois state senator, house representative or Chicago alderman | Illinois Policy

If you have any questions or comments, drop them in the comments section. Thanks!


Rachel Berry
Rachel Berry
Mar 22

Awesome post and story @Amy Pursell! So glad our paths crossed. Hope to see more from you here soon :)


Amy, I experienced the same frustration in Colorado from 2015 going forward. I started Left Hand Hemp in 2016, was building hemp houses and was pushing pushing pushing for processing. Everyone was growing for CBD... No luck. Then due to a conflict with a lovely Gentleman I got a building done for, I was excluded from the "US Hemp Assoc" much for good deeds. Anyway, now processing has come a great deal forward there are at least more possibilities. At any rate, I moved back to Illinois to help my 94 year old dad and here I am sitting on my hands. 😁 We should chat. 217. 220. 5313 My dreams are of hemp biodiesel...the ONLY truly green fuel solution…

Replying to

Hi James, welcome back to Illinois! I moved back for my sick daddy too. He's carrying on better than we could have hoped. I hope your dad is doing well too. Sorry things didn't work out in Colorado. I love the hemp houses. Hemp construction is truly a movement for the future, hopefully not too far into the future though. Hemp biodiesel could be revolutionary! Don't give up 😉

bottom of page