Indiana Hoosiers are conservative, hard-working and true to their beliefs. Farmers have been blessed with high yields of corn and soybeans that grow well in the rich Midwest soil. The old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, represents the unwillingness of Hoosiers to consider anything new or different in crop farming.
So when the 8th annual INHIA Hemp History Week celebration was held in Monrovia, Indiana, recently, representatives were surprised and delighted to see a more positive outlook on industrial hemp growing.
Says INHIA board member Justin Swanson, “I remember a few years ago, I’d walk into a room and try to have a conversation about industrial hemp, and 95% of it was about marijuana. Now I think we’re at the point where lawmakers understand there’s a distinct difference between marijuana and hemp, and their users.”
Lack of taking a strong hold onto hemp farming does not just lie with Indiana farmers. The state legislature did not properly assign a good home for the hemp program to expand. Ending up in the state chemist department, the opportunity for growth was lost. The INHIA Hemp event, co-sponsored by the Indiana Farmers Union ignited the enthusiasm needed to look into adding an agency dedicated to promoting hemp. Leading authorities from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and Purdue University were on hand to present good cases representative of hemp growing.
Purdue University was one of the first schools to sign up for research in hemp production when the 2014 federal Farm Bill was presented. They have been very active in ‘hemp world’, as they call it, since the Indiana General Assembly adopted its Industrial Hemp Law (IC15-15-13) by then Gov. Mike Pence. Their research has expanded into seasonal issues with planting dates and developing Indiana’s own seed supply.
Even without promotion, Indiana has a strong hemp market. Swanson states, “We have Indiana companies now importing hemp, hundreds of thousands of pounds of it a week. Up in Elkhart County is a company called FlexForm that contracts with high-end car manufacturers, Mercedes and BMWs. This company is actually requesting natural fiber to be used in door panels of the cars – they don’t want fiberglass, they want natural fiber such as hemp.”
By the end of the annual INHIA Hemp History Week, Indiana Farmers Union, Indiana Hemp Industry Association and Indiana Grown had reached a participation level of nearly 800 members statewide with the Indiana Grown initiative that involves all aspects of agricultural business in regard to hemp.
With a new outlook on creating a needed agency and programs, the continued research of Purdue University and a growing number of hemp supporters around the state, Indiana could become a leader in the future of growing hemp.