TN Dept. of Agriculture: ‘we went from 79 licensed hemp growers last year to 226 this year’

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GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Just a few years into legalizing the production of industrial hemp in the state of Tennessee, officials are now saying there’s a surge in people wanting to grow it.

The state had more than 200 licensed hemp growers participate in the program this year, a number that’s more than doubled from last year.

Katy Kilbourne, a plant pathologist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, said they believe there will be even more applicants in years to come.

“From 2017 to 2018 we went from 79 licensed hemp growers last year to 226 this year…with as much interest as we get and that’s based on the number of calls, I say we’re going to have over 300 participants next year,” Kilbourne said.

We asked officials with the state department of agriculture to break down just how many licensed hemp growers there are in each Northeast Tennessee County.

Licensed hemp growers by county:

Carter- 1

Greene- 12

Hancock- 2

Hawkins- 2

Washington- 1

Johnson- 1

Sullivan- 6

Unicoi- 1

In recent weeks we made our way to Greene County, a county with the most licensed hemp growers in our region.

Richie Waddell is one of those 12 growers who has about an acre of land where he’s currently growing the industrial hemp.

“We’re growing just on the back third and we grew in several different methods just to see what’s going to be more feasible,” Waddell said.

Waddell said there are a few reasons why his family wanted to take part in this pilot program for the state.

One of the options they are looking at is to make CBD oil. 

Another option involves a machine Waddell showed us saying, “…this will press our hemp seed oil, which will be our base for our biodiesel, and we’re also going to have a cold press where we can make juices,” Waddell said.

State officials like Kilbourne said part of the purpose for this pilot program is to see if hemp will be a viable crop for the state of Tennessee.

“You can use industrial hemp for a number of things, whether it is fiber, or animal feed, we are also seeing a big increase in people using oil, CBD oil for different ailments,” Kilbourne said.  

Licensed growers like Waddell said he believes this could lead to the discovery of a whole new way for people to be able to provide for their family.

“Drive through the county, you see all of the tobacco barns, and the empty pastures that’s been cleared out, so I think that especially to boost our local economy this can give people the opportunity to start a new business, become more independent and be able to provide for their family,” Waddell said.

Waddell said this will definitely be something he re-applies to take part in again next year, hoping by that time he will be able to expand his crop.

“Hopefully we will have several different farms that are going to want to grow next year and we’re going to have a profitable product that we can market…yes we definitely plan on growing next year,” Waddell said.

The application period to grow industrial hemp again next year opens up on November 15th and runs through February 15, 2019. 

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