Tennessee farmers seeing mixed results with industrial hemp pilot


HARROGATE (WATE) – Some farmers have seen mixed results with the state’s industrial hemp pilot program. According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, this is the first time in more than 70 years that farmers can grow hemp legally.

Elias Rasmussen is one of 50 farmers involved in the pilot program. He’s not your average farmer and says there were moments he thought he was going to lose everything.

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“I was very emotional because it rained here several days consecutively and part of my driveway washed out even part of the field had standing water and I thought ‘oh no, this is the end,’” said Rasmussen.

He planted about 50 pounds of hemp seeds and has been pretty successful. He’s in the middle of harvesting thousands of seeds from his hemp plants.

Elias Rasmussen
Elias Rasmussen

Other farmers didn’t have as much luck. Another hemp farmer from Athens said he planted about the same amount of hemp seeds and only ended up with about an ounce worth.

Farmers started receiving their seeds in June, which was a bit later than the Tennessee Department of Agriculture anticipated.

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The plant is in the cannabis family, but isn’t the same as marijuana. Hemp can be used for all sorts of different things including oil, soap, and clothing. Farmers have to inform the Tennessee Department of Agriculture what they plan to do with their crop as part of the pilot program.

“I’ve learned so much about the plant, about how it grows, and that’s what this is about as a pilot program is getting the information for others to use so that next year we’ll have even more participants in the pilot program,” said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen plans on participating in the program again next year. Statewide, the Department of Agriculture says they’ve seen different levels of success.

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“Of course, weather is always a challenge with any crop. Some areas were very wet this growing season. Other areas were very dry. We are still gathering data to get a better idea of yield,” said Corinne Gould with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Gould also said the state isn’t sure if industrial hemp is a “viable money-making crop” yet. They’re putting together data from this project to get a better idea.