Women Leading Way As Hemp Revival Sweeps North Carolina

Of the 22 rows of hemp on Franny's Farm, NC State's trial plants occupy the center of five, each covered in different colors of plastic.

The red plastic, Coneybeer-Roberts said in May, might encourage flower set. The silver might have some utility in reducing insects. Black warms the soil, while white doesn't trap the heat as much. The green? "We don't know yet," she said, but it's something they've observed in marijuana cultivation in places where it's legal.

They won't know the impacts until later this year. The trials are double blind, and not even the growers know the identities of the hemp plant varietals, many provided by Triangle Hemp in Durham.

The results of what will be a three-year trial will eventually be compared with 20 universities across the world, including in Dubai, Barcelona and Texas. The trials will have studied hemp for fiber and food for three years at the end of this season, which will also mark the second year of CBD research.

Davis said she's not sure yet how the information will be compiled and disseminated. "But I think we're going to answer a lot of questions."

For a researcher, it's an exciting prospect to be on the forefront of the cultivation of a crop that's been illegal to grow for generations simply because of its association with a psychoactive cousin.

There's no real reason not to be optimistic. The question isn't whether or not hemp will grow here, but what kind is perfect for each region, and how to build the infrastructure to process it into an end product -- which itself is a long and complicated story. Hemp is often held up as a viable replacement for tobacco, once a booming industry and cultural influence in the state, now all but faded.

Part of the hemp narrative is the notion that the planting, growing and processing methods for tobacco can be easily transferred to hemp. But there are still so many questions left unanswered and, as Tacy will tell you, a lot of misinformation out there.

"The important thing to remember is we are still in a pilot program and still doing a lot of research, so everyone growing hemp in North Carolina has the exact length of time of experience," Coneybeer-Roberts said. "We are all equally experienced and inexperienced."

Tacy has a farmer's directness and a passion for her crop. "There is never going to be another tobacco," she said. "Tobacco has one use. Hemp is the only crop that will feed, clothe, shelter and provide medicine."

In five years, Tacy predicted, hemp prohibition will seem like nothing but a blip. "It will seem ridiculous that we ever didn't grow hemp. It will be in our food system, in our clothing system, in our building materials, our bio-fuels. Every aspect."

North Carolina has one of the strongest agricultural economies in the country, she said.

"We are farming people. We have a farm economy here, and our farmers have struggled with the loss of tobacco; they've struggled to get a foothold into something new."

Whether or not hemp will become North Carolina's agricultural calling card remains to be seen, though researchers will be one step closer to finding out after this growing season.

But on the sunny May day the clones went into the ground, Jeff Tacy addressed the volunteers gathered for the occasion, his focus on the day-to-day magic he said surrounds the plant.

"I'm in the dispensaries every day, and it's been mind-blowing the feedback we've gotten from people using CBD products," he said. "It's many miracles every day in these stores as we interact with people who are getting off opioids, and getting back to a normal lifestyle and finding relief from their inflammation."

"This is where it starts," he said, gesturing to the fields. "It's been an amazing journey."

Learn more about Franny's Farm and Franny's Farmacy at https://frannysfarmacy.com. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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