The exclamation was P.J. Sneed’s reaction to seeing his first hemp plants go in the ground Monday.
The industrial hemp transplants at Always Sunny Hemp and Bee Farm in western Reno County are some of the first to be planted in Kansas — if not the first — under the state’s industrial hemp research program.
“It’s been a long five years coming,” Sneed said.
He’s been steadily readying his farm for hemp since the Kansas legislature authorized the creation of a research program in April 2018. A barn was erected, fields were cleared, a cover crop planted, and just last week he and his employees finished building a greenhouse while Sneed traveled to Colorado to pick up the plants.
Sneed hauled a trailer load of the cloned plants from eastern Colorado to the farm, arriving last Monday, and stored them in the greenhouse for a week.
“This is the first day we have them out, getting them a little wind-broke,” he said. “We’ll acclimate them, and if the weather holds be done planting within the week.”
Under the research program regulations, hemp growers must purchase certified seed or clones for transplant. Sneed opted to go with clones — plants that have been clipped from a “mother plant” — to be certain of the plant genetics.
“With clones the genetics are proven and you know what you’re getting,” he said. “We are going with one set of genetics this year, which was the best CBD producer to date that was on the approved list for this year.”
Next year, Sneed plans utilize the greenhouse to cultivate clones right on the farm, as well as introduce some new genetics to see how different plants grow under the same conditions.
Even though the plants are a CBD, or cannabidiol, focused plant, Sneed said the stalks will go on to be used in the hemp fiber industry.
Monday, AgriCenter General Manager Lee File and Checchi & Magli North American Territory Manager Grant Allen were on-site at the farm to walk Sneed and his team of eight employees through making adjustments to the Checchi & Magli transplanter they will be using, as well as help with some test planting.
File and Allen helped the Always Sunny crew adjust the height, shoes and more on the transplanter to get plants in the ground properly. The crew used flowers instead of hemp plants to test before switching to the real thing.
“Closure is the big thing,” Allen said. “We want the closing wheels to completely close the trench around the plant.”
Once adjustments had been made, the crew switched over to the real thing.
Sneed has been a proponent of the alternative crop for Kansas for years before he started setting up his own farm, and he said he’s not worried about finding a market once harvest begins in August.
“There are processing plants coming here in the state,” he said. “I know of two in the works as we speak that are within an hour’s drive.”
The research program will cover the plant through the growing process, collecting data on best practices, how varieties grow in different conditions, where the plants are grown and how they are grown. Once the plant becomes a product, Sneed said it can be sold, even though a commercial program has not been established in Kansas yet.
“Per the law, once it is manufactured into something, such as CBD oil, fiber, HempCrete, it can go into the market,” he said. “Once it stops being a viable plant, it is released from the research program.”
The Kansas legislature approved commercial hemp earlier this year, but it will take about a year for the Kansas Department of Agriculture to host meetings and get regulations put in place.