After the 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for farmers with state permits to grow hemp, more and more local growers are exploring their options.
And educational forums sponsored by the state cooperative extension are packed with potential growers asking questions about how this new crop might fit into their farm plans.
According to Kaelan Castetter, chief executive officer of Castetter Sustainability Group Inc., Washington County is a good place for growing hemp.
“They’ve got a long history of growing cannabis,” he said.
CSG, based in Binghamton, helps hemp growers get established and guides them through the season. They currently assist 20 New York hemp farmers, including Old Homestead Hemp farm in Hebron.
For the Hebron hemp farm, CSG’s assistance meant they could begin their growing season a year earlier than initially planned.
“They are farm-first,” said Iris Rogers, who owns Old Homestead Hemp with her sister, Sarah Murphy. “Nobody gets paid unless the crop is good. They are honest and supportive, and they are always there.”
Castetter said that in addition to Old Homestead Hemp, they have five new Washington County farms on board to start growing hemp in the spring.
“We want to quadruple hemp farms in Washington County,” said Castetter. “We can make Washington County a hemp brand in itself.”
There’s been a bit of confusion about CBD products, including what to buy and what is safe and effective.
According to hemp expert Castetter of CSG, the full-spectrum cannabidiol, better known as CBD, that a growing number of people take for joint pain, fibromyalgia and anxiety, contains a trace amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
But depending on the type of drug screen, it could still test positive for marijuana.
The difference between being legal or illegal is in the amount of THC present in the plant; legal hemp must be less than 0.3 percent THC. Over this threshold, it is classified as marijuana.
“They could fail a drug test,” Castetter said, referring to the full-spectrum CBD. “The CBD isolates that are in salves and balms are THC-free.”
The way Castetter explained it, there are two methods to extract the THC.
Nonetheless, there is controversy among researchers regarding the efficacy of THC-free CBD.
Castetter shared anecdotal evidence that the THC products work, but the jury is still out, as some scientists say it is the combination of the THC and CBD that creates the healing effect.
Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli covers Washington County government and other county news and events.