Growing Low THC Content Hemp -A Legal New Agricultural Industry in WV
In this third and final installment from our interview with Greg Hamons, the WVU Extension Agent in Marlinton, Hamons talks about a potentially lucrative cash crop which is beginning to appear in Pocahontas County farm fields -legal low THC content hemp.
Greg, is there anything that you see as a new trend in agriculture here?
“Something that I wouldn’t claim to know a great deal about -hemp- is becoming pretty popular in the Greenbrier Valley” said Hamons. “I’ve been in contact with some of those producers, you know, soil analysis, planting techniques, different things like that. Primarily what we’re seeing around here is for the purpose of producing CBD Oil-they are harvesting the oil out of the plant.”
Where are they growing it around here?
“Mainly southern Pocahontas County but down in Greenbrier and Monroe, there is quite a bit of hemp being planted this year. It’s expanded a lot over what it was last year. I hope that’s a new industry that these guys can diversify and make some money on. The whole industry has kind of transitioned from the fiber to this CBD Oil product. There is a processer in White Sulphur Springs, and they’re supposed to be expanding to handle more of this product that’s being grown locally.”
Does that have THC in it?
“There is a level of THC in it, but it is very low. That’s regulated by the Department of Agriculture – what it can be before they consider it to be marijuana verses hemp. It’s pretty controlled as far as plant genetics. So, they’ve picked these plants to produce the highest amounts of oil and the lowest amounts of THC. Some of these companies have hired geneticists to improve the product that they’ve got, so as far as I know, that’s going to be pretty regulated, that level of THC, because they want to keep that low. A lot of companies that I’ve heard about and talked to are actually doing sexed plants, so you can’t have cross-pollination to increase THC level, so if there was marijuana in the area that got cross pollinated by insects, you’re not going to get buds or whatever with high THC levels. There is a lot of money and a lot of research going into it.”
“I think the people can diversify their farming operation. I hope it’s going to be as successful as it sounds like it’s going to be. But it’s expensive to get into. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the fields around or not, but they are laying around plastic, laying down drip line. I’ve visited some of the farms and helped them plant and that kind of thing and there is a lot of manual labor going into planting. Those seedlings are pretty expensive, so it’s not like throwing a three-cent vegetable in the ground and it makes it or not. There is kind of a lot of care going into those and watching over ‘em.”
“As far as this spring is concerned, that’s probably the most booming topic that I’ve ran into,”
Greg, what other educational things does the Extension Office provide?
“We always are doing gardening classes and we have a beef quality field day down at Lewisburg at the State Fairgrounds, and that’s for the entire Greenbrier Valley. And so we are always doing small educational classes and stuff like that.”
Are there any special events coming up?
“Probably the biggest thing coming up – and it’s going to involve agriculture and 4-H both, and FFA – is our County Livestock show and Sale. It’s going to be the 24th of August and it’s up here at the Marlinton Stockyards. That’s where all our 4-H and FFA kids get the opportunity to show their animals and we have a sale that night. That’s a really good program. It exposes a lot of these kids that… -some of them are from big farming families, but some of them aren’t- gives them the opportunity to expose them to agriculture raising animals, gives them some responsibilities and some skills that they wouldn’t have otherwise. So, it’s a really good program and we’ll probably have forty kids that come and show livestock that day.”
If people have any garden or agricultural questions or problems, how do they find you?
“We’re in the basement of the Courthouse here in Marlinton. Our number is 304-799-4852. Stop by; give us a call anytime if you have anything agriculture related or 4-H related.”
Thanks for all this information, Greg!