Kansas officials evaluate pilot year for hemp agriculture

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2019 is the first year people in Kansas are allowed to grow hemp.

It’s a new crop, so it’s a new experience for everyone,” explained agriculture consultant James Dewitt.

Consistently, lot of farmers having trouble getting growing to start.

Dewitt is the co-founder of United American Hemp in Olathe. He used to work at a wealth-management company for more than a decade before he decided to uproot his career.

Now he’s researching how hemp reacts to different types of light.

“For us, growing indoors made it very easy to fail over and over and over again and find the things that work without spending tens of thousands of dollars, or an entire year of harvest cycle on something that didn’t produce,” Dewitt continued.

He plans to grow his business in the future by selling seeds and working as a consultant to farmers.

“Getting them the seeds and the clones to plant, getting them best practices to actually grow those plants and then providing them with a contract to actually sell the end product,” said Dewitt.

Right now, the only people that are allowed to grow hemp are those that applied to perform research in the Department of Agriculture.

“It’s been good that this first year is a research year,” explained Heather Lansdowne with the department. “It’s been very interesting, we’re learning a lot, and we know the growers are learning a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.”

But, that could change as early as next year.

“Don’t over-extend yourself,” Lansdowne added. “Figure out what you’re doing, learn how to grow it, and then be poised so that when we have a full commercial program, you’re going to be in a great position to expand or increase your acreage.”

The legislature passed a commercial hemp bill this year; now the Department of Agriculture is writing rules and regulations for what the next industry would look like.

In total, Kansas had 2,400 acres of hemp planted this year.

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