Thirteen producers have registered to legally grow hemp in Colorado in the month since registration began, according to the state Department of Agriculture. However, those thirteen producers hold a total of twenty registrations, as several of them are registered to grow in more than one location or for more than one purpose. Ten of the registrations are for commercial purposes, while the other ten are for research and development. We spoke with three producers, who told us about their plans for planting marijuana's sober stepsister.
Veronica Carpio, the owner of Colorado Hemp Coffee and the administrator for Grow Hemp Colorado, currently holds two registrations: one for commercial growing and one for research and development. Her plots, which are located in Boulder County, are just an acre each. She hopes to use the commercial plot to grow hemp for her coffee and other products she's developing, and the R&D plot to attempt to cross-breed some seed strains.
The availability of seed is the biggest hurdle to growing hemp on a large scale, Carpio and others say. There is virtually no seed available since hemp, which is still illegal at the federal level and in most states, hasn't been widely grown in the United States since World War II. "You're lucky if you get your hands on them at this point," she says.
But Carpio is hopeful that will change after the upcoming growing season. She and other producers hope to spend the season multiplying what little seed they have. "We do have some of best growers in Colorado," she says.
Paul Lembeck, the owner of Global Heritage Seed Co., has a plot in downtown Longmont that's even tinier than Carpio's at just about thirty feet by thirty feet. Located just a few blocks from Main Street, Lembeck calls it his "little victory garden."
But the researcher, who's registered to grow hemp for research and development, doesn't have plans to start a massive hemp farm. Instead, he's focusing on helping other growers test their plants and developing seed strains that meet state regulations. Those regulations require that hemp plants grown in Colorado contain less than 0.3 percent THC, which is the ingredient in marijuana that makes a person feel high.
"Once you've got that dialed in, you can start tweaking it for whatever you want," Lembeck says. "Like dogs, cannabis is an amazing, plastic genetic wonder organism. You can go from a chihuahua to a Great Dane pretty quickly."
Ben Holmes, the horticultural wizard and entrepreneur behind Centennial Seeds in Lafayette, predicts that because of the seed shortage, this growing season will be "purely technical." If a farmer plants one pound of seed this spring, Holmes says he can expect to yield two hundred pounds of seed at the end of the season. At that rate, it will take a couple years before Colorado is producing bumper crops of hemp -- especially given that "many people have just a handful of seeds, like twenty seeds," Holmes says.
Holmes is among those who have a small amount of seed. He also has one commercial registration and plans for a couple more that he says will probably be registered for research and development purposes. Holmes plans to begin planting in mid-May.
For those interested in growing hemp, the Hemp Industries Association is hosting an event tonight in Brighton called the Colorado Industrial Hemp Farming Symposium. Admission is $15 and the topics to be discussed include how hemp is grown and processed, realistic expectations for farmers interested in cultivating it and how to do so now that Colorado has legalized it. Ron Carleton, the deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, will be in attendance, as well as farmers and other experts.
The event is scheduled to take place tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Adams County Government Center Conference Center, 4430 South Adams County Parkway in Brighton. For more information, visit the Hemp Industries Association website.
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