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Recap on Hemp event in Greenfield

The quickest way to profit from hemp farming, in Darby’s opinion, is using the crop for hemp oil.

“If you’re looking for some way to get into the marketplace, hemp oil has all the omega-3s and all the others — an expert can probably talk about that more,” Darby said, calling hemp oil “probably the lowest hanging fruit” for commercial hemp farmers.

Hemp oil is used in foods, for fuel and for cosmetic purposes, and is made by pressing the seeds of the hemp plant. Darby suggested the M70 Agoil press as the most efficient extractor of hemp oil, which she has used at Vermont farms, like Borderview Farm in Alburg. The machine costs around $9,000 and, depending on the seed, can work 700 to 1,500 pounds every 24 hours. The machine is easy to use, and one Veri-Die nozzle for the machine can be used on all seed types.

While hemp oil was characterized as a quicker, easier way to break into the commercial hemp product marketplace, the plants yield other products as well.

That includes CBD, one of the more than 100 cannabinoids found in the plants, which has been used in the pharmaceutical industry to treat various conditions like epilepsy. CBD has also been claimed as a natural remedy for ailments like cancer symptoms, pain and depression. However, not enough research has been done to verify many of the claims.

“CBD has a lot of benefits, some studied, some not,” Darby said, adding that CBD plants take longer to be ready to harvest than recreational marijuana plants.

Hemp is also used to make fiber, which has a number of commercial applications, like paper and cloth.

In general, the plants need very fertile soil, and harvesting of the flowers is done largely by hand.

A complexity of hemp farming is that “you don’t really plant hemp depending on the calendar,” Darby said, although she suggested planting be done by the end of May to mid-June.

Hemp also “seems to prefer the drier, warmer weather, rather than the wetter, cooler weather,” Darby said, and yields can vary depending on the weather. The plants are subject to some of the same diseases as other common crops, but the diseases are not common if the crops are rotated.

However, the possibility of conflicts with other farmers — especially marijuana farmers or other hemp farmers — was apparent from several of the questions submitted and read at the end of LaScola’s talk.

“Is the state considering distancing requirements?” one question read.

Apparently, there was some nervousness about cross-pollination between marijuana and hemp farms spaced too closely, which could damage the quality of either specialized type of the Cannabis sativa plants. LaScola said although other states have adopted distancing requirements — Massachusetts has not.

“Some states do. We didn’t tackle that in the first year — notice I said, ‘Interim hemp policy,’” LaScola said. “At this point, we don’t have any restrictions.” Darby suggested in her talk a distance of 15 miles between the different crops.

LaScola said that associations have been formed in other states to serve as a communication channel for hemp farmers, marijuana farmers and the state, and that such avenues are important when policies are still developing.