Will growing hemp pay off for farmers in our region?

Published: Oct. 2, 2019 at 5:16 PM EDT
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It is harvest time for the roughly 900 farms across Vermont growing hemp this year, including the Barr Farm in South Woodstock.

Tina Tuckerman added one more crop to her portfolio this year-- hemp. She's in the process of cutting and drying her 500 plants that include 29 different varieties.

"It's been a great year. It's been a lot of fun," Tuckerman said. "We grew it in six different plots."

We first introduced you to Tuckerman back in May as she was just beginning her foray into hemp farming.

Tuckerman is using the CBD from the plants, which advocates say has medicinal uses, to make soaps and creams. It's a budding business model though she has already hit a few snags, like finding a processor that can extract the CBD oil in a timely manner.

"Before June of next year or even later because there is so many of us producing, there is not enough processors," Tuckerman said.

"The hemp industry is changing extremely rapidly," said Jane Kolodinsky, who chairs the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at the University of Vermont.

Farmers across the country are now growing hemp since it became legal under federal law. Right now, Tuckerman says she could sell one hemp plant for roughly $40.

"Simple economics would say that it's supply and demand and the more supply you have, given a specific amount of demand, the lower the price that the farmer earns," Kolodinsky said.

Kolodinsky currently has two grants under review by the USDA. One looks at the economic impact of hemp.

CBD is currently a popular byproduct but Ag officials say the demand could decrease over time.

"There are about 50,000 different products that hemp can be made into and CBD is only one of them," Kolodinsky said. "So, if the CBD is a bubble like the tech bubble was, we are going to have to find alternative outlets for the hemp that is grown."

Her advice to farmers is to do your homework and come up with a business model before putting seeds in the ground.

Tuckerman is planning to double her crop next year, but it's not her only focus.

"I've got my soap money from my goats, we've got honey, we've got maple syrup, we've got vegetables. We've got everything else that we have done on the farm," she said.

And while Tuckerman says she is already looking forward to next year, she also acknowledges that it's important that her farm remains diversified. That old saying, don't put all your eggs in one basket.