NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Prospective farmers from across the country learned about hemp production at Tennessee State University’s New Farmer Academy on Monday.
The Academy class, the only one of its kind in Tennessee, meets at the Pavilion Agricultural Research and Education Center (The Farm) near the main campus.
Participants come together the third Monday in each month over seven months and cover topics that include agricultural leadership and regulations, financial planning, hydroponics and irrigation, and organic production.
On Aug. 19, there was a special discussion about hemp, the new cash crop in Tennessee and abroad. According to recent licensing data, about 4,000 Tennessee farmers and businesses are licensed to grow hemp or cannabidiol (CBD). Collectively, that’s about 40,000 acres of hemp across the state.
Finis Stribling is the Academy’s coordinator and a TSU area extension specialist. He said some of the farmers in his class have already started producing hemp, and others are curious.
“It’s a niche crop that can be utilized for small scale farmers,” Stribling said. “A lot of farmers are growing an acre, half-acre, or quarter-acre just to gain some experience.”
Stribling said part of the discussion on Monday will involve economic data on hemp, such as, “how much money it would take to grow an acre of hemp.”
For instance, a license to grow a minimum of 1 to 5 acres of hemp costs $250.
Karla Kean is the TSU extension agent for horticulture and small farms in Montgomery County. She was one of the hemp presenters at the Academy class, which wraps up next month.
She urged those interested in growing hemp to learn as much as they can about it, and start with a small amount of acres if they haven’t farmed or gardened before.
“Make sure you’ve done your research,” she said. “There’s a lot more to learn about it, more so than a commodity crop like soybeans or corn.”
Ashley Richmond of Chicago has been traveling to Nashville each month to attend the Academy. A Nashville native, she and her family have a 10-acre farm in Cross Plains, Tennessee. They use one acre for hemp.
Richmond said one of the main reasons she’s interested in hemp is because some of the senior members of her family currently use it for medicinal purposes.
“Just seeing some aging family members around me who have issues with pain,” she said. “So I thought it was a good idea to get into the industry myself. It provides help for people who are in my life.”
Tennessee State is among the nation’s leaders in hemp research. TSU’s College of Agriculture has hosted several hemp workshops, and has charged a team of scientists to develop hemp production practices for Tennessee. The research projects include developing hemp nutritional products for human consumption and studying the economic viability of hemp production. Currently, the university is growing and evaluating 10 varieties of hemp.
For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.
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