Farmers have started planting Vermont’s third hemp crop. Though their numbers are few, the acreage devoted to hemp has significantly increased this year, as has the direction of the state’s fledgling hemp industry.
A survey conducted by this reporter of hemp growers registered with the Agency of Agriculture indicates that around 60 acres of industrial hemp are being planted this year, dwarfing the acreage previously cultivated in Vermont – but still tiny compared to states such as Kentucky and Colorado, where thousands of acres are being grown.
This year, hemp is being farmed in more than a dozen locations around Vermont, from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts state line.
In Hardwick, a company called Green Mountain CBD is planting 5 acres of hemp that will be used to manufacture a dietary supplement rich in CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is thought to be effective in preventing epileptic seizures and pain from arthritis.
Alejandro Bergad, the CEO of Green Mountain CBD, served as chief agricultural officer at a Colorado hemp farm and has been breeding hemp seeds in Hardwick.
“There seems to be some kind of gold rush around CBD oil,” Bergad says. “It actually does help people and I think a lot of people are trying as hard as they can to capitalize on that. We see ourselves as a small business. Our genetics and our breeding program allow us to sort of sell the picks and the shovels for the gold rush.”
“Our genetics and our breeding program allow us to sort of sell the picks and the shovels for the [cannabidiol] gold rush.” – Alejandro Bergad, Green Mountain CBD
Morgan Laurent, a former construction worker from Montreal, owns a farm in Holland near the Canadian border. He bought hemp seed from Green Mountain CBD and says he’s planting 10 or more acres of hemp, also with the intent of making CBD oil. (CBD has no psychoactive effect and will not get you high.)
Four other Vermont growers are raising hemp with an eye on the CBD market, which had sales of $65 million last year, according to the Hemp Industries Association. The FDA forbids companies from making health claims about CBD dietary supplements – but GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, has reported encouraging results of clinical trials of Epidolex, an epilepsy drug made from CBD. GW Pharmaceuticals will apply for FDA approval for Epidolex next year.
But not all Vermont hemp growers are focused on CBD. Some have hopes of selling food for humans and animals.
The University of Vermont agronomist Heather Darby will plant 2 acres of hemp at the Borderview research farm in Alburgh later this month. The farm is aptly named: It’s located across a dirt road from the Quebec border. UVM is the first university in the Northeast to do hemp research.
“If hemp grows as well as it should, we have the opportunity to grow a feed crop that’s probably better than growing corn.” – Charlotte Rosendahl, Sterling College
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