Kansas hemp growers experiencing struggles, successes in first year

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The newest crop in Kansas is bringing mixed results for farmers. 2019 is the first year people in Kansas are allowed to grow hemp.

“Consistently lot of farmers having trouble getting growing to start,” said James DeWitt, co-founder of United American Hemp in Olathe.

Weather conditions and access to hemp seed have been a struggle for some growers.

Right now, the only people that are allowed to grow hemp are those that applied to perform research to the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Research varies from types of seed, soil, to water usage.

DeWitt is researching how hemp reacts to different types of light.

“For us growing indoors made it very easy to fail over and over and over again without spending tens of thousands of dollars or an entire year of harvest cycle on something that didn’t produce,” he said.

He has learned the best ways to grow plants this year and plans to grow his business in the future by selling seeds and working as a consultant for farmers.

“Getting them the seeds and the clones to plant, getting them best practices to actually grow those plants, and then providing them with a contract to actually sell the product,” said DeWitt.

Officials at the Department of Agriculture are hearing from farmers that are growing hemp.

“It’s a new crop, so it’s a learning experience for everyone,” said Heather Lansdowne, director of communications for the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

“It’s been good that this first year is a research year, it’s been very interesting, we’re learning a lot, we know the growers are learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, and we’re looking forward to compiling that information so that we have a good wealth of knowledge as we move forward into the future,” Lansdowne said.

Earlier this year the legislature passed a commercial hemp bill, now the department of agriculture is writing rules and regulations for what the next industry would look like.

The commercial program could come as early as next year, and DeWitt has advice for farmers.

“Don’t overextend yourself, figure out what you’re doing, learn how to grow it and then be poised so that when we have a full commercial program and things get loosened up federally around the country, then you’re going to be in a great position to expand or increase your acreage,” DeWitt said.

In total, Kansas had 2,400 acres of hemp planted this year.

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