Kyle Owen. a tobacco farmer in Carthage, Tennessee, is starting to focus on hemp instead. And he’s not alone. Shelley Mays, email@example.com
Tennessee‚Äôs growing hemp industry, with the purported health benefits of the plant‚Äôs CBD oil, has spread into Dickson County ‚ÄĒ more than 50 first-time permits were awarded this year by the state Department of Agriculture.¬†
One landowner, Eric Thornton, was permitted by the state to grow hemp on more than 140 acres that at one time served as the farm-to-table land for the Hermitage Hotel‚Äôs Capitol Grille.¬†
Thornton bought the land last year and named it Good Day Farm.¬†The Dickson attorney and developer has revitalized various areas of the property, including a home on the site.¬†
He said growing hemp, which can produce the cannabidiol, or CBD, fits with the vision he has for the 245-acre property.¬†
‚ÄúWhen I purchased this farm from the Hermitage Hotel, I decided it was perfectly situated to utilize the land and the surrounding grounds at Montgomery Bell State Park to develop a place that is about health and wellness,‚ÄĚ Thornton said.¬†
He said Good Day Farm is about ‚Äúenjoying the outdoors, look for ways to protect and preserve the environment around us, live a healthy and balanced life, and be fit and free enough to be able to enjoy our travels. It‚Äôs about enjoying experiences over things.‚ÄĚ
Thornton said farming hemp fit with that philosophy, saying he believes ‚Äúhemp is a great alternative to over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs without all of the negative side effects.‚ÄĚ¬†
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs an area of health and wellness that I believe has a ton of room for growth and development.
“I think it is exciting to be a part of this industry,‚ÄĚ Thornton said.¬†
He said Good Day Farm, which dwarfs Dickson County‚Äôs next largest hemp-permitted site by over 100 acres, is in the preliminary stages of developing products to be sold in Dickson and Nashville.¬†
Thornton said the farm could be opened up for events and others to participate in programs, not necessarily connected to hemp.¬†
‚ÄúWe are just having fun,‚ÄĚ Thornton said.¬†
Dr. Mark Garrison, agriculture and natural resources agent with UT-Extension Dickson County, has been with the local extension office about a year. The first three months, very little was said about hemp growth.¬†
But starting in November, about eight calls a week started coming in with questions about growing hemp and solving any issues with hemp growth, he said.¬†
‚ÄúIt came on fast and furious,‚ÄĚ Garrison said. ‚ÄúI get people who have never grown anything in their life before, not even a garden, and they are interested in growing hemp.‚ÄĚ¬†
In the spring, more than 2,600 Tennessee farmers and businesses were licensed to grow hemp or CBD ‚ÄĒ an increase of more than 1,100% in just one year.
According to the new licensing data, at least 37 Tennessee farms are now licensed to grow 100 acres or more of hemp, and five farms are licensed to grow more than 1,000 acres.
Hemp, which is similar to marijuana but does not contain the chemical that causes a high, is legal to grow in Tennessee through a government pilot program. Hemp is generally grown as a fiber to make cloth, rope and construction materials or as a flower that produces CBD, which is advertised as having broad but often-unverified health benefits.¬†
Tennessee Department of Agriculture inspectors are allowed to inspect hemp farms during normal business hours and conduct samples to ensure that the plant tests no higher than 0.3% THC on a dry mass basis. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the plant‚Äôs chemical that, typically through smoking, creates effects such as a pleasant euphoria, sense of relaxation, laughter¬†and increased appetite.
Any sample with results higher than 0.3% THC is considered by the state ‚Äúconclusive evidence‚ÄĚ that one or more cannabis plants or plant products from the area sampled contain a THC concentration in excess of the law.
Garrison said those plants are destroyed.¬†
He said the most common issue noticed by Dickson County UT-Extension staff is plant disease.¬†
Staff members said most hemp varieties now grown in Tennessee were developed in drier climates than the hot, humid conditions in Tennessee. As such, UT Extension agents have been working to diagnose problems with little background to help.¬†
Staff members said ‚Äúthe most interesting‚ÄĚ issue were termites that destroyed a hemp plant stem on a Burns hemp farm.
Garrison said tobacco farmers, particularly the dark fire-cured tobacco farmers of Middle Tennessee and Dickson County, are ‚Äúbest set up to grow hemp.‚ÄĚ¬†
‚ÄúThey have the barn space to dry it. They have the equipment to plant it,‚ÄĚ Garrison said. ‚ÄúThey have the knowledge and also have the labor on hand. It‚Äôs a very labor-intensive process. It‚Äôs a good way to keep the labor busy during down times.‚ÄĚ¬†
The dark fire-cured tobacco style involves barns filled with hanging tobacco plants and a controlled fire inside. The fire-cured leaf that results adds a unique flavor to smokeless tobacco products, pipe blends and cigars.
Tobacco has long been a cash crop in rural Tennessee. However, many farmers now say tobacco profitability has faded due to a combination of decreased demand, bad harvests and competition from overseas farmers who aren‚Äôt required to meet American labor standards.¬†
This year, as least seven of the state‚Äôs top 10 hemp farmers come from tobacco-growing backgrounds, including the state‚Äôs biggest hemp growers, brothers Zeke and Eli Green, who said their family has grown tobacco for seven generations.¬†
Tennessee‚Äôs blossoming hemp industry is largely driven by medicinal claims that have not been verified by the Food and Drug Administration. Advocates argue that CBD can be used to alleviate pain, seizures, insomnia, stress and a seemingly endless list of other ailments, but the only CBD medicinal application approved by the FDA is Epidiolex, a new medicine used to treat a rare form of epilepsy.
Regardless, CBD products are now sold widely, available in everything from specialized dispensary-like shops to simple convenience stores. Although CBD was¬†once considered taboo for its close association to marijuana, its mainstream status hit new heights in September when Coca-Cola announced it was considering a hemp-infused soda.
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