Farmers’ crops could soon be grown at an industrial hemp farm, the world’s first with the potential to produce industrial hemp.
The plant, which grows by itself, is the world first to be certified as an industrial crop by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Farmers are now able to grow hemp by the pound, which will mean that they can buy higher-quality products and also save on energy costs.
They can also make their own fertiliser, and produce the fibre for their clothes.
The idea of making a profit from industrial hemp is not new, but the potential of the crop has never been more real.
This story is about industrial hemp, not cannabis, but there is a lot to be said for a crop that grows by the foot.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time,” says Matthew Gentry, a farmer in South Carolina.
Growing hemp has been a lifelong dream, Gentry says.
“It was one of the things that I always wanted to do, that I was always working towards.”
The US government, which first granted the plant’s status in 1971, is currently considering whether to grant it a legal status, something that would allow the country to produce hemp in large quantities for the first time in decades.
Gentry’s dream of producing hemp was fuelled by his wife’s work at the University of Georgia.
“I started going to her class to try and learn more about the plant,” he says.
They both started working in the fields, and soon Gentry was working with the University’s agricultural research department.
Eventually, the couple decided to expand their farm to include two other farmers, who were also interested in industrial hemp and were keen to help.
With the help of the University, they began growing the crop on the property.
“We didn’t want to have to go out and buy seeds from anyone else,” says Gentry.
Their operation was successful, but they were still not quite sure how to make money.
One day, Gentley says, they noticed that a farmer from Texas had started a grow-your-own hemp operation, and was growing it for a small business called T-Bonsa Farm.
T-Bonas was selling hemp seeds to other farmers in Texas, and wanted to make a profit.
“We were interested,” Gentry recalls.
That’s when Gentry asked his wife to come and help them out.
“She’s a really great farmer,” he recalls.
“And she knew about industrial crops.”
Gentley then contacted his friend, David Stearns, an attorney who works for a Texas-based organisation called the Texas Industrial Hemp Alliance.
“He’s one of our guys and he saw what T-Bs was doing,” says Stearn.
Stearns contacted the Texas Agriculture Department to ask for permission to grow the hemp on their property.
The department granted the application, and the couple planted the crop.
In 2014, the US government officially granted hemp the status of a food and agricultural commodity, making it legal for commercial production.
But there is still a lot of work to be done.
For example, the hemp is still not certified as a crop by either the US FDA or the World Health Organization, so many farmers are still trying to find ways around these requirements.
It’s a problem for Stearnes and his colleagues, because the plants have not been approved for human consumption yet, and it’s not yet clear whether or not they’ll ever be.
Even if the hemp does make it onto the shelves, it may not be a big seller, and Gentry hopes that it will never make it to the grocery store shelves.
He has been looking for ways to turn his farm into a profit for a while, and he is already working on an alternative way to make his business work.
“I’d like to do something with the hemp seed,” he said.
“Because the seeds are good, it’s a good source of fiber.
We have a lot in the ground.
It’s easy to transport and we have a little bit of space.”
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