Several area farmers are closely eyeing the possibility into growing hemp, a first cousin to marijuana, but which is legal.
Hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species, but are genetically different, according to David Schmitt, chief operating officer of Hemp, Inc. University, located in Spring Hope.
Schmitt hopes to entice enough Eastern North Carolina farmers to start growing it to make his company one of the largest hemp producers in the world.
“Hemp, also known as industrial hemp, is a non-intoxicating cousin of marijuana that can be used to produce many products,” said Schmitt. “In addition to being used in the manufacture of rope, industrial hemp is used in the manufacture of over 25,000 products including auto parts, textiles, medicines, cosmetics and food.”
Hemp Inc. University will be holding an instructional seminar this coming Saturday, called “Farming Hemp for Profit” designed to teach farmers and landowners what the industry is all about and how they can be a player on a both a national and worldwide scale, according to Schmitt.
However, there has been so much area interest that the meeting on Saturday is sold out.
“We had hoped to have about 50 people sign up for the session but we sold out completely and had to stop selling tickets at 65 because we wouldn’t have been able to accommodate that many with around 50 speakers planning to attend in addition to our company employees.”
Schmitt said Saturday’s event will be the first of several with another one set for April 29.
“This event will be about real business-building tactics and principles and a step-by-step blueprint to growing and selling industrial hemp,” said Schmitt. “Our mission will be to help landowners and farmers add a new viable and profitable income stream by maximizing their per-acre crop revenue.”
“We’ll be covering all areas of the hemp-growing process including hemp farming and harvesting, rules and regulations and selling,” he said. “It will be an opportunity for farmers and landowners to learn and work within a professional team atmosphere and become part of a growing national company.
“This plant is different from marijuana,” said Schmitt. “Industrial hemp contains three-tenths of a percent or less of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, and that is not enough to have any narcotic effect.”
The facility where the seminar will be held on Saturday and where the hemp will be processed is a 70,000 square foot commercial building formerly used as a sweet potato packing operation and is situated on 9-acres.
“It will be the largest industrial hemp processing plant in North America,” said Schmitt. “Hemp, Inc. has the infrastructure in place to process millions of pounds of hemp fibers and stalks a year on a commercial level.”
“With projections of hemp generating more than a billion dollars in the United States over the next couple of years, Hemp Inc. is passionate about rejuvenating American farmers who so deserve it, for their never-ending work and dedication,” said Schmitt.
“We have already signed letters of intent with several farmers in the area to purchase over 3,000 acres of industrial hemp in 2017 and we have set our sights on an additional 30,000 acres in the near future,” said Schmitt. “Currently the demand for US-grown hemp is much greater than the supply because there are not enough farmers growing industrial hemp.”
One Johnston County farmer said he and several of his friends are investigating but are not willing to make a public commitment to growing hemp.