Hemp has been growing extremely popular among herbal enthusiasts in Virginia, and interest in hemp farming has grown tremendously over the years. Our Publisher, a Virginia State University alumna and hemp honey lover, had been looking forward to a trip to Randolph farm to learn more about hemp; but the Commonwealth's "State of Emergency" courtesy of The Rona, has delayed those plans. She reached out to Virginia State University's Department of Agriculture with a few of her questions, and is sharing their insight below.
Virginia State University's Department of Agriculture and Hemp Farming
Under Farm Bill 2014, Virginia State University got permission to conduct research on industrial hemp. VSU started hemp research on 2016 (hemp pilot project) and expanding its research and development activities since then. There is huge interest on industrial hemp among growers due to its multiple uses. Growers are attracted to this new crop and there is rapid growth in terms of number of growers and area under cultivation every year in Virginia.
Recently, big and state-of- the-art processing facility established in Virginia. Processing hemp is difficult and requires huge economic investments. It is a major hurdle for hemp industry and especially for small farmers/grower. With this, we hope it will help farmers for processing and marketing of the produces.
Rules and regulations for importing seeds from Europe and Canada have been changed and become more realistic. It will definitely help growers and suppliers to get seeds from foreign companies in time for planting. It has provided option/choice for farmers. Several land-grant and private universities in VA started research and extension activities on hemp and trying to develop suitable/profitable technologies for hemp research. More information and resources for hemp cultivation will be available in near future. It will definitely help farmers/growers for profitable hemp cultivation.
How will COVID-19 Impact the Future Hemp Harvest?
This pandemic situation can affect hemp harvest and industry. If this situation prevails for longer time, the impact would be much bigger than we think now. Planting season is coming and there would be huge shortage of seeds and planting materials. It would definitely reduce to planting area and increase risk for harvesting and processing due to limited transportation, limited movement and lock down in several parts of US.
How has Your Hemp Already Been Impacted?
Spring season is already here and planting time is coming. We do not have enough time left for hemp planting. We already felt the impact of this situation and it may affect our research and development activities this year at Virginia State University. We are importing hemp seed mainly from Europe (Italy is one of the major supplier of hemp seed). All world is struggling with COVID-19 and seed suppliers (with whom we are in touch) are not getting seeds in time due to this situation. So, we are not sure when will we get the seeds from them and there is no seed suppliers for these varieties in US.
Starting Your Seeds
Growing a Salsa Garden:
Tips for Hemp Gardeners:
There are some important points I want to share with hemp gardeners:
Selection of good variety/clones according to your objective.
Get seed materials/clones from reliable sources.
Industrial Hemp Trainings at Virginia State University:
Virginia State University has been conducting an annual hemp field day every year. It is really
a good platform for all stakeholders involved in hemp industry. Last year it was a huge success with large number of participants (around 480). During this program, several invited speakers provided valuable information about growing and processing/analysis of hemp. We also organized field visit at VSU Randolph Farm and had discussion/interaction with participant on various aspects of hemp research and variety selection/ planting dates. We were planning for hemp field day for this year too.
Due to current situation, it is in hold for now and we are carefully evaluating the situation. If situation improves, we will organize the field day during growing season. It would be a great opportunity for growers. If the situation prevails for longer, then we will try to reach out to growers and related people through virtual field tours during growing season through social media.
Mrs. Michelle Olgers
Mr. Christopher D. Mullins
Mr. Ramesh Dhakal, PhD
VSU Department of Agriculture