Hemp is literally healing the earth.

In Taranto, Italy, sheep farmers are growing hemp to rid their soil of harmful toxins so they can use farm land deemed unfarmable in previous years.

Vincenzo Fanaro never thought he would grow cannabis, “For generations, our family produced ricotta and meat,” he told CBS News. Unfortunately for Fanaro and his family, their farm was only a mile from one of Europe’s largest steel plants. Years of chemical runoff had slowly poisoned the ground, and also negatively affected the sheep that lived on the grass that grew there.

In 2008 the Italian government found toxins and Fanaro was forced to put down his entire herd of sheep. The loss of over 600 animals was only the beginning of his problems; the land had been so contaminated by the chemicals it looked like it would never again be suitable to sustain enough vegetation for his animals.

A process named phytoremediation, the use of plants to clear soil contaminants, gave Fanaro and his farm a new lease on life.
Fanaro used cannabis plants because of its fast growing root systems that allow it to remove the toxins out of the ground and into the plant itself. It can then either be stored within the plant, or it can convert it into a harmless chemical. Fanaro says he has no plans to harvest the cannabis crop, and is simply using it to clean the soil at his farm.

Fanaro is optimistic that he will be able to return his farm to its previous glory, and hopes that one day he will be able to grow commercial crops on his land again