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By Lillian “Lilibet” Clarke
Vicarious Travels with Lilibet: Steve Barron – The Little Farm that Could and Did – Margent Farms
As Mark Twain said during his Grand Tour in 1867, “I travel to learn.” My name is Lilibet, and I welcome you on my European journey to finding the gems and pioneers of natural building techniques across the globe. We look at how local materials, minerals, and the revolutionary plant, Hemp, are used in these natural homes built for healthy lives. Off we go!
Welcome to Margent Farms! Living on the edge and off the grid, we travel next to the illustrious hemp farm of the internationally acclaimed film director, Steve Barron.
After a night of tossing and turning with excitement, I arrived early afternoon to be greeted by a joyous giggling duo; Steve’s granddaughter and her best friend. These little entrepreneurs were selling homemade elderflower lemonade at the end of the drive and convinced me to pay the premium price for unlimited refills. It was so delicious and refreshing on this hot, windy day, and I could not have been more satisfied.
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Steve greeted us with a warm and welcoming smile as he approached the lemonade stand. It was exciting to have a personal tour of his home and farm, all created from the industrial hemp grown on his property. When he said his home was made locally, he meant it! Just think, you can grow your hemp home too!
While leading us through the fields of hemp, like the Pied Piper, Steve educated us about the various seeds they planted. His little granddaughter and her friends frolicked about the tall grasses while Steve regaled us with his story of this leap of faith and how it was one of the most impactful decisions he’s ever made.
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When his granddaughter was born, he realized that the damage his generation and the previous ones had done to the world would impact her life and leave her and all the generations to come to clean up the mess. He saw the larger environmental story, the bigger picture, and asked himself, how can I start to detangle this impossibly big knot? Where do I start?
I thought to myself, did Steve want to create an earthly paradise for his family – as Louisa Durrell did for her family in Corfu? He directed “The Durrells in Corfu,” my favorite film.
We each have a role to play in this tapestry of life. What is yours?
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Steve did not have to look far when a friend told him about the regenerative crop, hemp. After hearing about the benefits of this all purpose natural building material, he was hooked on hope and started to plan his next chapter. But first, in his words, “I need to get a farm.”
Introducing Margent Farms! (once a cattle yard and shed) Steve found this land, true to its name, on the margins of society. It was already net zero and off-grid with wind turbines, so when he ventured on the hemp road less traveled to convert this cattle-yard into his family’s new healthy hemp home, all he had to do was plant and build!
“I couldn’t be more happy with this oasis of positive action that our team has created!” he said as we walked up the path to his home. Steve trusted his instincts to build his home with hemp, and I admire and respect his drive to propel the regenerative architecture movement through the lens of industrial hemp.
He assembled a team of experts to accomplish this task using his film producer skills while collaborating with Cambridge University and H.G. Matthews Brickworks (celebrating its 100th Anniversary in
2023). This included architect Paloma Gormley of Practice Architecture and That Hempcrete Guy, Will Stanwix.
They worked with new processes of combining fibers from the outsides of the hemp plants and bio-resin to create cladding outside the farmhouse. They used internal hemp fibers and other farm waste to create the panels and insulation for the rest of his home.
On Steve’s Little Farm, they are moving forward and testing different kinds of hemp plants and investing in new ways to use the material. I’m happy to see Steve has invited a variety of hemp seeds to his party! Doesn’t this inspire you to have a low environmental footprint too?
It was so wonderful to converse with Steve and meet his sister, daughter, and grandchildren while I was there. He has done so much with his film career and has continued to go beyond the screen to make an impact that will last for generations. A little birdie told me they are even working on using industrial hemp to make biodegradable wind turbine blades!
We hope that Steve’s bold entrepreneurship and positive actions, starting a cottage industry, spark interest in others to build carbon-negative homes through regenerative architecture and farming. We can all be building with sunshine!
*** gift box We invite you to share this article with friends near and far, to help inspire and share these healthy living practices.
Margent Farm – https://www.margentfarm.com/
Practice Architecture – https://practicearchitecture.co.uk/ The Hempcrete Guy – https://thathempcreteguy.com/
HG Matthews Brickworks – https://www.hgmatthews.com/
Earthwise – https://earthwise.us/
Moving forward, let’s remember: We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children!
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Originally published March 3, 2023 on Hemp Building Mag