Glenn Rodes’ family farm in Rockingham County, Virginia has harvested one of the first hemp crops for the state. It was a small crop hidden just behind several rows of corn – as well as a 10 acre plot that Rodes grew at James Madison University. Along with Rodes, there were 28 others who received licenses to grow hemp from the Virginia Department of Agriculture. In total, this first year of growing hemp saw 37 acres planted, with 16 different varieties of hemp.
“I think this is a crop that has a high potential for growth in Virginia,” Michael Renfroe, a biology professor at JMU said. “I think we will be able to find some very useful cultivar for both fiber and oil production. It could be a good crop for small-acreage farmers.”
Since the main reason for this pilot program is research, all the crops harvested throughout the United States will be going to universities in hopes that we can learn more about the plant – how and where it grows best and how we can make the most use of it, for example. In Virginia, the universities participating in the research on hemp include Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and James Madison University. The harvest from the Rhodes family farm was used to make biodiesel, which will be used to run farm equipment.
“If we are going to have an industry, our farmers need to have experience and that takes time,” Amatucci of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition said. “We are in one of the three hot zones in the world that grows hemp best.”
There are so many ways that allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp as a commercial crop would benefit our country. While it took ages for us to get back to this point, it is good to see progress on this issue after all these years. After all, it is known as the plant with hundreds of uses – and through these research programs we will hopefully learn how it can be utilized as a fuel, how it may benefit us health wise, and so much more. Virginia is definitely playing its part in ensuring that hemp becomes one of our everyday commercial crops once again.