Over the past few years, hemp has become an up-and-coming commodity in agriculture. Here in Utah, farmers are just starting to grow industrialized hemp. Industrial hemp is a cannabis plant with below .3% THC. Anything above this .3% threshold is considered to be a marijuana plant and would be destroyed.
At the 2019 Utah Farm Bureau Convention, there was a panel of farmers in the hemp industry, including Kenny McFarland. McFarland, a farmer in Weber County who primarily grows sweet corn, pumpkin, onion and winter squash, grew hemp for the first time this year. He put eight acres aside to grow industrial hemp.
“It’s hard for a farmer to think about growing one acre or two acres of a crop. You know most farmers with the type of equipment we have now, in their eyes, you’re really not growing that,” McFarland said. “You know, you have to be a hundred acres or more to even talk about growing something but with this in particular, I think to start small and only do what you can afford to lose because that’s a very real possibility that you’re going to lose for the first year or two.“
If you are thinking about getting into the hemp industry, McFarland says that its important to have an idea where you are going to sell the crop before you plant it.
“This is not a crop where you can take it into the grain silo and it’s sold, or you can stick it in the hay barn and sell it during the winter, or the calves always have a market so you don’t need to worry about it,” McFarland said. “You have to start with the end in mind with this kind of crop.“
Updated regulations have been released for growing hemp in 2020 and can be found on the Utah Department of Agriculture and Foods website.