(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A conference for farmers sprouted a new workshop on industrial hemp this year.
The 24th Great Plains Growers Conference is a three-day program held at Missouri Western offering updates on research, technology, safety, and production in commercial fruit and vegetable production.
The conference kicked off with a full day of workshops for growers interested in honeybees, drip irrigation, industrial hemp and more basic advice in farming operations.
Tom Fowler, a horticulturist, and organizer with the conference said they added a workshop on industrial hemp production this year because there was a high level of interest.
“All four states that are involved in the conference are doing some kind of research with industrial hemp and in all those states there are growers looking at that crop,” Fowler said.
The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill reclassified hemp, a crop that was illegal to grow during the last 70 years because it derives from the same plant species as marijuana.
Proponents of hemp say it can be used for a variety of products including clothes, cannabidiol or CBD oil, and topical beauty products.
Although the bill added a new crop option for farmers, it was left up to states to legalize and regulate the specialty crop. In 2018, then-Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a bill allowing the state’s Department of Agriculture (KDA) to implement a hemp pilot program.
Farmers in Missouri can produce hemp for the 2020 growing season.
The new specialty crop is uncharted fields for many and with each state providing its own regulatory framework we wanted to provide breakout sessions for all four states, Fowler said.
Nearly 300 people participated in the workshops Thursday and another 100 are registered to join the attendees for the rest of the conference.
In addition to the workshop, the conference offers sessions on marketing, new growing techniques, financing, and a trade show with more than 50 vendors.
Charlotte Smith, an Oregon farmer, and marketing strategist will open Friday’s program as the keynote speaker at 9 a.m. Smith is slated to give growers tips on how to up their marketing skills and boost business.