Hemp Farming

John Hale/ WVPB

Most people rarely think about where food comes from. We go to the grocery store and have so much to choose from. But global experts say small and medium-sized farms are critical to future food systems. That’s what we’ve got here in Appalachia, but more and more farmers across our region are facing economic challenges.

Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

John Fuller is waiting for another farmer he’s never met before to talk about a situation he never imagined he would be in.

It’s an overcast January day on his farm in west Kentucky, where he grew 18 acres of hemp last year, investing more than $250,000 of his own cash. He’s one of nearly 1,000 licensed hemp growers in 2019 who helped grow Kentucky’s biggest hemp crop since the state reintroduced it, trying to cash in on what could be a $1 billion industry for CBD products made from hemp.

But now, Fuller is wondering how much of that investment he’ll get back.

Hemp Farmers Form Cooperatives Amid Growth And Uncertainty

Oct 14, 2019
Tony Silvernail (left) and Shawn Lucas (right) inside their high tunnel where hemp is drying.
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

Tony Silvernail swings a heavy machete at a stalk of bushy hemp and chops the plant near the root, grabbing the five-foot-tall shoot with his sun-weathered hand. 

It’s an unusually hot October day on his farm, Beyond The Bridge LLC, tucked in the hills outside of Frankfort, Kentucky. But the heat doesn’t faze Silvernail, sporting a sweat-soaked shirt, a huge smile, and a fat cigar between his teeth.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, some Ohio Valley farmers are reaping their first hemp harvest since federal law changed to legalize hemp. With some 27,000 acres under production in the region, hemp is booming. But it remains a risky crop, with uncertainty about markets, growing practices, and concern that larger players might squeeze out small growers.

The Ohio Valley ReSource’s Liam Niemeyer reports some hemp farmers are forming new cooperatives to reduce that risk and protect small farmers.

Hemp seeds
Kristen Wyatt / Associated Press

A U.S. attorney is suing a West Virginia hemp farm and others, saying they violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has sued Matthew Mallory of CAMO Hemp WV, and Gary Kale of Grassy Run Farms. Grassy Run Farms owns the land, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Saturday.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as the number of coal mining jobs continues to decline in central Appalachia, hemp is getting a lot of attention as one way to diversify eastern Kentucky’s post-coal economy. But the region’s growing hemp industry is riddled with uncertainty.

The lack of land suitable for growing hemp and its association with marijuana pose significant challenges. Rachel Cramer, from our partners at WGBH and The GroundTruth Project, has that story.

Hemp Farmers Face Rocky Road in Diversifying Eastern Kentucky’s Economy

Oct 6, 2017
David Williams, a University of Kentucky Agronomist and Director of the Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability in Quicksand, Ky., on Monday, September 25, 2017.
Brittany Greeson / The GroundTruth Project

As the number of coal mining jobs continues to decline in central Appalachia, hemp is getting a lot of attention as one way to diversify eastern Kentucky’s post-coal economy. But the region’s burgeoning hemp industry is also riddled with uncertainty. The lack of land suitable for growing hemp, and its association with marijuana pose some significant challenges.

Hemp seeds
Kristen Wyatt / Associated Press

Hemp seeds are being distributed to approved growers in West Virginia for a research project on the crop.

State officials say it took two years to create rules governing the project. Applicants must pass background checks before being licensed to participate.