A retired local judge has embarked on a new endeavor, one in which the courtroom has been replaced by work on his family farm.
However, Andy Cromer is not growing corn, tobacco or even grapes, as so many others have. Instead, he has become involved in a blossoming agricultural enterprise in North Carolina: the production of industrial hemp, according to a release from the Mount Airy Rotary Club.
Cromer attended a meeting of the group last week at Cross Creek Country Club to speak about his new journey.
He is the former senior resident Superior Court judge for Surry and Stokes counties, whose position was targeted for elimination by the N.C. General Assembly last year as a result of judicial redistricting.
Another door opened when Cromer began working with officials of the state Industrial Hemp Commission to have the family farm become a certified producer of that commodity.
The growing of industrial hemp was banned for many decades until 2014, when its cultivation for research purposes was legalized in the U.S. Farm Bill.
This has led North Carolina and other states to launch pilot programs aimed at widespread production of a crop that has a number of market applications, including hemp oil containing cannabidiol, also known as CBD.
CBD oil is used to relieve pain associated with chronic conditions such as arthritis, and has been studied for its potential role in remedying anxiety, depression, acne and heart disease.
Production of industrial hemp must meet strict federal and state guidelines, Cromer told Rotary Club members in sharing information about his venture.
For one, the amount of THC, a chemical produced by the plant which produces the high associated with marijuana, a hemp relative, cannot exceed 0.3%, and this measurement must be gauged by a certified lab.
If the plants on an industrial hemp farm exceed the 0.3% level, the entire crop must be destroyed.
Cromer‚Äôs nephew, Nick Hammond, also attended the Rotary Club meeting to share information about the hemp enterprise.
Hammond will be working in Surry County with Cromer this summer to explore business and farming connections in North Carolina to his business in Arizona.
Several guests with properties that might have potential as hemp farms also were in attendance at the meeting.
It was suggested that those interested should start small and learn the ‚Äúropes‚ÄĚ (made from industrial hemp), while recognizing the potential to grow into a big business.
As of late April, about 10 people had registered with the N.C. Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp in Surry County as part of a pilot research program that began in 2017.
Urban areas with small acreage sites may be included in the research process.
Involvement by colleges and universities also was discussed at the meeting.
Cromer‚Äôs presentation reflected the present Rotary Club theme: ‚ÄúBe the inspiration.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúAndy Cromer is an inspiration to all Rotarians who heard his talk,‚ÄĚ a member of the group reported.