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The Paper of Montgomery County on 8/2/2019 by Joe LaRue
This summer and spring have been by all accounts the worst summer and spring for farming in quite a while, and not just here in the county.
Corn and soybean farmers across Indiana, Ohio and Illinois suffered delayed planting caused by record-setting spring rains. Hoping for the wet to recede but not vanish, some farmers have been equally disappointed by the summer weather, as high temps and no rain enveloped large regions of North America for days and weeks at a time.
And while many have seen this spring and summer as a dangerous time for many farmers in both the county and the entire Midwest, some farmers have managed to use it as an opportunity to expand their capabilities. In particular, Mark Davidson has done just that with his hemp growing operation.
Originally approached by fellow county councilman Don Mills about starting a hemp operation, Davidson and Mills initially agreed to plant five acres to limit the potential loss, Davidson explained. But then one day, he says, a new party changed the face of the operation. “We originally only wanted to do five acres because of some of the risks. But the consultant who I had been working with brought this guy in from Australia, and he wanted to invest in hemp and hemp growing because it’s not legal there, and he liked what he saw and upped our acreage to 20 acres.”
In Australia, regulations mandate that farmers interested in growing hemp acquire a government-issued license, Davidson said. On top of that, he explained that Australian hemp farmers must also get government approval for their planting sight and submit to strict government oversight, including inspections and monitoring.
Back in Indiana, Davidson says the growth rate has completely outdone his expectations. His optimism “totally has increased. Getting started was really stressful and now it’s turned into a labor of love . . . and it’s just unbelievable.”
And for hemp, the weather hasn’t hurt.
“If there’s two things hemp loves, it’s heat and humidity,” Davidson said. “So far, the weather has been perfect for hemp. When the seed suppliers out in Colorado see pictures of our plants, they’re astonished at the growth. They ask us, ‘how are you guys doing that?’ ”
Davidson also explained that hemp and marijuana are two separate plants, both belonging to the same species, cannabis sativa, but with significant differences.
“The cannabinoid profile of a plant is the make-up of the cannabinoids in the plant, and that’s your THC, your CBD, CBN, CBG,” Davidson said. “The cannabinoid profile of hemp is the absolute opposite of marijuana.”
Cannabinoids are a broad range of compounds found in cannabis sativa plants, with a wide range of psychoactive effects and potential health benefits. In total, there are currently 112 known cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids, THC and CBD, make up the primary ingredients in hemp and marijuana both.
But the difference between marijuana and hemp comes in how prevalent the THC and CBD are in the plant. For hemp farmers like Davidson, state and federal regulations set a limit on the amount of THC allowed in their hemp plants at 0.3 percent. Go even a little bit over, says Davidson, and he will have to destroy all the crops above that threshold.
Davidson went on to explain that, despite the risks, he and Mills hope to help other Montgomery County farmers grow the hemp industry and get involved. The area is almost perfect. Davidson said that the Midwest, in particular Illinois, Indiana, and parts of western Ohio, represent some of the most promising hemp-growing land on the planet.
“We’re hoping to do 50 to 60 acres ourselves and my hope is that we can help other people start farming hemp and have 200 acres total growing around the county. As of now we’ve had 10 serious offers to get involved and I think we’ll get more as time goes on,” he said.