LAURINBURG — Harvey Edge Farms has grown tobacco, cotton, soybeans, tomatoes and more over the years — decades, really — but now the farm is trying its hand at something else. Hemp.
Despite what many people may believe, the Laurinburg farm is not growing marijuana. Hemp is different. Hemp is the industrial, non-drug variant of cannabis that is cultivated for its fiber, seeds and other parts.
Both hemp and marijuana are part of the cannabis family but hemp is under a .03 percent THC and is used for everything from body care to clothing to food. It’s the first year the local farm has begun growing the plant and currently has around 3 acres.
“We were trying to find something to maybe take the place of tobacco,” said owner Harvey Edge. “Now this seems to be a pretty good crop to get started.”
The farm is contracted to a processor that will take the hemp and use it to create different items. The state of North Carolina mandates the hemp so, before its sold, someone from the state will come out and test the crop to make sure it is under the .03 percent THC.
For the crop to stay under the THC levels, Edge said the male plants have to be removed. The male plants could pollinate the female plants and raise the THC levels. If the state finds that the plant is over the 0.3 percent THC, the plant cannot be sold.
Edge said that they had to remove about 30 male plants out of the field once they began growing.
While he isn’t sure if they will continue with the crop into next year — because they haven’t sold any yet — he says it is likely they’ll continue. But in case the hemp doesn’t do well the farm is still growing soybeans. One thing about hemp is that the farmers are able to use tobacco equipment to harvest it, according to Edge.
“It could be very popular,” Edge said. “We’ve enjoyed working with it and we’ve learned a lot about it. The only problem we’ve had this year is with picking.”
People have come into the field and have raided the crop for themselves though Edge hopes that they’ve gotten them stopped at this point. In the field, there are several plants that have been cut by people likely thinking they could smoke it and get a high from it.
But unlike its cannabis family member, you can’t get high from hemp which is why it is legal to grow in North Carolina. It was in 2016 that Senate Bill 313 that legalized industrial hemp but placed limitations on its production began its pilot program.
North Carolina is one of 38 states that allows the crop and as of May, there were more than 250 farmers in the state who were licensed to grow the crop.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171 or at [email protected]