JMU plans to study hemp market with GO Virginia grant
James Madison University is submitting a GO Virginia grant to study hemp in the valley, with the support of several valley communities.
Hemp has been legal for more than a year but there are still a lot of questions about the economic market for it.
"Should it be this particular variety, should it be seed, should it be fiber, should it be CBD," Samuel Morton, a professor at JMU said.
Morton has done a lot of research with hemp. He said there isn't a market for it now, but that wasn't enough of an answer for people and businesses. Morton said they wanted better answers, and that led to applying for this grant.
"We're really working to understand where in the Shenandoah this might fit," Morton said.
Jay Langston, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, said they are providing support services for JMU on the grant. He said they've been getting a lot of questions from interested businesses about hemp.
"What is the agribusiness side of things, the planning, the yields, that they can get. that's something that's important for us to know," Langston said.
Morton says they need to study the area to know what is possible for the Shenandoah Valley.
He said there is a history of growing hemp in the region.
"We want to understand if a market were to form, what is the most likely form the market would take in the valley," Morton said.
According to the grant application, there are three main goals for the project: to complete an economic landscape analysis, agricultural data collection and information dissemination and network formation.
The first goal will help them understand the possible market, the second will gather input and experience from regional growers and processors and the third will result in a network and website to make this information widely available.
"There's a number of individuals scattered all over the valley who are doing a number of different, interesting things related to hemp and other textile materials," Morton said. "And we want to bring them together, so that we can have a common conversation,"
Morton said there is a few more steps before they receive the grant. Several counties and cities in the area have committed money including Staunton, Page and Shenandoah counties.