Former dairy farmer tries hand at growing hemp

  • January 8, 2020

Jay Gordon, a former dairy farmer in Southwest Washington, is giving hemp a shot. Gordon has grown dozens of types of crops in the past, and has been trying to figure out how to grow hemp. 

“We started growing it this last summer,” Gordon said. “It just sounded like a chance to try something different, see if there was an opportunity here, diversify a little bit.”

They started by planting a small patch of hemp to figure things out and get their feet wet, Gordon said. 

The United States recently legalized hemp. The plant has to have .3% or less of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in order to classify as hemp. There are several types of cannabinoids in the plant, and the most well known is THC, which can make people high. Another popular one is CBD, which doesn’t have the high effect, but has other effects. 

“This plant, if you walked in my field, it looks, smells, grows exactly the same as a marijuana strain,” Gordon said. “There’s different varieties of hemp — tall ones, short ones, red leafed, yellow leafed, light green, dark green — but the key distinction is, it has to be under .3% THC, and that’s what defines it as hemp. Otherwise, it looks like a marijuana plant.”

Gordon said the plants have been bred to have low levels of THC and higher levels of CBD, especially after benefits of CBD were found to help children with epilepsy.

The FDA came out with a ruling saying CBD can’t be sold in food. Gordon said he thinks it changed how people were going to start marketing CBD. But, that’s why you’ll see CBD lotions and other ointment products. 

Gordon said he enjoyed growing hemp.

“This was my first time with plastic culture and drip irrigation,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. And we had pants that were 8-9 feet tall and 8-9 feet in diameter — as big as a Christmas tree. The plant itself is not called weed for no good reason, it grew like a weed.”

He said the downside to growing hemp is the market. He said he doesn’t know what the market will be like and he’s heard rumors the markets are crashing. 

The Department of Agriculture will come to hemp farmers fields and test the plants. If your plants test “hot” or higher than .3% THC, then the farmer has to destroy the crop.