The valley's next cash crop? Farmers learn about growing hemp
Farmers attended an informational session on Wednesday evening to learn about the economics and potential of growing hemp in the Shenandoah Valley.
Sam Grant, a managing partner at Virginia Hemp Company, spoke about a processing plant for the crop which is planned to open in August 2019.
"This will be our first," he said. "We believe that there's a capacity in Virginia for 30 to 50 of these plants and the market for the fiber looks immeasurable."
Grant said the plant would alone employ nearly 40 workers.
Lawmakers in Richmond relaxed rules on growing hemp in the commonwealth during their 2018 session. The federal farm bill, awaiting approval in Congress, would remove it as a designated controlled substance.
Glenn Rodes and his family have an 800 acre hemp farm in Rockingham County used for research by James Madison University.
"The valley is a very good area to grow hemp," Rodes said. "Traditionally, it's been grown here a lot of years before it became illegal, so now we're trying to bring this crop back to the valley."
While hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, the THC level in hemp is drastically lower than in the drug used for recreational and medical purposes.