First Time Hemp Farmers Grow As Crop Demand Increases

Hemp is a new crop for most of the farmers growing it. As the industry gains traction, producers are working to find the best production methods and build strong partnerships.

In Sparta, Tennessee, Andy and Terra Davis farm 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat. This year they are first-time hemp farmers.

The term we keep hearing is Its the Wild Wild West right now. This thing sort of exploded overnight and there are so many avenues you can go with this thing. I think that’s going to be one of the challenges for all hemp growers, is finding a reputable buyer. I’m hoping in the future that’s something we can see some help from TDA with, just keeping those fly by night guys out of here, but there have been some companies some processors offer contracts, so we will see how that pans out. There are just so many unknowns right now. The only thing we know for sure is the demand for this thing is ramping up very fast.

Like any new crop, there are challenges including finding the best management practices,

So we planted our hemp on plastic, and we did that to cut down on the labor from trying to keep it weeded. The plastic will keep the weeds from around the hemp itself and of course we have to keep our row middles clean, but we also ran drip tape under the plastic so we can control the amount of water the hemp is getting and spoon feed it nutrients throughout the growing season.

Andy says the state has played a critical role in supporting farmers,

Well the message we are getting from the TDA and Commissioner Hatcher is...they want this to succeed in Tennessee and I can’t be happier about that. As you know there have been challenges in the tobacco industry and I think they see this as something that can come in and take the place of the guys that have had their contracts cut back in tobacco, and I think what is most exciting to that it can make the small farm more viable again. If Terra didn’t have a job off the farm, there’s no way we could make a living off the farm. Tobacco was that for a long time, and I think there’s hope hemp can become that for a lot of people.

According to the latest U.S. hemp license report, farmers have permits to grow 511 thousand acres of hemp this year; 4 times the amount grown in 2018, and processing licenses are also growing to meet market demand.

Report by RFD-TV’s John Jenkinson