This weekend marked the second annual National Hemp Expo in Louisville, Kentucky and the burning question on many of the attendees minds – “is hemp farming for me?”
After two days of seminars and exposition floor conversations, aspiring hemp farmers may find the answer to that question still a bit cloudy.
Speakers and exhibitors painted a (not-so-surprising) picture of the hemp industry in Kentucky and Indiana akin to the “Wild West.” It’s of no fault of the eager farmer, nor seed companies, testing facilities, consultants nor equipment providers.
The troubles stem from the lack of infrastructure support and FDA regulations we desperately need to legitimize and standardize the industry.
The prime example used is the confusion that exists on what word we should use – hemp? cannabis? industrial hemp? marijuana? cannabis sativa? What terms should be using when discussing and making regulations for the farming industry.
When we can’t come to a consensus on the terminology, it’s tough to move forward on more complex issues like testing standards.
This doesn’t mean it’s a dark future for anyone stepping into the hemp farming arena. Farmers will need to keep an open mind, dig deep into research, partner with experts and weigh options heavily to determine their best point of entry.
There’s a lovely air of optimism amount participants of the National Hemp Expo and a common consensus that the landscape may shift, but a bright future for hemp is still viable.
“So many different things can happen with that one plant,” said Danny Plyler, Partner at Chronic Nomad Cannabis Company “Not only can hemp help farmers make money but it can truly impact and change the world.”
Plyler shared that he also sees the industry growth as a potential draw from getting people back into agriculture. There may not be an infrastructure in place, but we have a need for it, and better yet, a desire.
CBD may be the glittery cash crop everyone is attracted to but farmers are encouraged to look at seeds and fiber crops for long-term. These crops may not be as “sexy,” but they are hot spot areas many companies are investing in for various manufacturing needs.
The speakers of the “Past, Present and Future” of hemp discussion agreed that it’s likely we’ll see CBD farming moving indoors to a controlled environment setting as the quality of CBD is degrading with outdoor farming. There’s a heavy investment on the part of the farmer to move to indoor farming with environmentally controlled facilities which may be prohibitive for many.
CBD products are growing in popularity but forms may change over time. The smoke-able flowers, which are currently in high demand may not exist in the future.
Shawn Valor, CBD activist and author, recently partnered with Dr. John OConnor PhD. to publish “Farming Industrial Hemp: Not Your Daddy’s Tobacco” to help growers avoid some of the common issues. He believes misinformation is the top hindrance to success when moving from tobacco farming to hemp. Which certainly emphasizes the common theme (and intent) of the conference – knowledge is power and the more informed you are before you begin to farm, the better.
From farming to retail sales, it’s truly not a one-size-fits all business and there’s room to carve out your own niche.
Nancy Roberts, co-founder of One Love Hemp Dispensary and Distributing, suggested that before starting in any role in the hemp industry you ask yourself – “Who do you want to serve?”
Different products help different folks but most hemp farmers, re-sellers and other industry professionals have a singular commonality – the desire to help others.
If there’s one take-away every prospective hemp farmer should take to heart, it’s Kim Edwards, VP/COO of MariJ Pharmaceuticals‘ call to action: “listen to the experts, be cautious, and educate yourself!”
For additional resources, visit the sponsor and exhibitor page for the National Hemp Expo, and consult the Kentucky Hemp Industries Association and Midwest Hemp Council for the latest news and updates.