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Kansas hemp farmers harvesting first-year crop

Posted at 3:02 PM, Oct 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-03 20:30:09-04

LEAVENWORTH COUNTY, Kan. — It's an historic moment for many Kansas farmers as they harvest what could become the state's most budding industry — hemp.

The farmers growing it hope to reap the rewards soon, but that means the clock is ticking at the Heartland Hemp Farm in Leavenworth County.

"We're on a 10-day time schedule," Heartland Hemp Farm Master Grower J. Bradley said. "We don't want to be over the THC threshold, so we just cut it down."

The first-time farmers are harvesting the state's first crop of industrial hemp before the first frost.

"We've been doing it all by hand," Heartland Hemp Farm Chief Operating Officer Todd Schuler said. "We've got some big cutters and some of the stocks on these plants are pretty thick."

The trio of business partners took the plunge together to be among the first participants in Kansas Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Research program.

According to the Department of Agriculture, 99% of the industrial hemp in the state is field-grown, while only 1% is grown in greenhouses and high tunnels.

"The producers who are involved with the research program are learning what works and what doesn't," Jeff Vogel, program manager of plant protection and weed control at the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said.

The state recently released a breakdown, updating the KDA's Indusutrial Hemp Research Program.

While growing the crop is part science project, it still could be lucrative for the 260 active license holders in the state.

Currently, hemp farmers can earn three to four times more per acre compared to traditional crops.

Industrial hemp is the key ingredient for CBD products. It also can used in food, cosmetics, fabrics and construction materials.

But contrary to popular belief, hemp is not marijuana.

"One of our field inspectors will come out and inspect the field take a sample and take that sample to our KDA laboratory," Vogel said. "At that lab, we'll conduct a quantitative test to measure the level of THC in the plan to make sure that it is 0.3% or below and make sure that it's industrial hemp."

Heartland Hemp Farm characterizes this year as a learning experience, especially since the weather didn't cooperate.

"Once we got them in the ground, then we didn't get any rain the month of July," Schuler said. "We were out here watering every other day once we had the FULL crop in the ground."

Those efforts are helping the state of Kansas grow in the field of industrial hemp.

The deadline to apply for a license for next year is Nov. 30.