John and Melissa Williamson, owners of Stateline Farm in Shaftsbury, VT., understand just how hard it is to adapt to the ever evolving agricultural industry in the Northeast, according to an article in American Agriculturist. As they watched their profit margin from dairy sales dwindle, they added additional crops, just to stay afloat.
A few years later, they began processing oilseeds into feed and biodiesel, adding another product to their farm. Unfortunately, the price of biodiesel is in decline, falling below $2.00 per gallon, forcing them to reconsider their choices.
Adaptability is key in farming. At the time, hemp was a newly legalized crop in Vermont and the permits were fairly easy to obtain. So they decided to give it a try.
They planted hemp for oilseed and biodiesel production. Issues with harvesting the very fibrous and hemp plants, as well as multiple incidents of crop theft (people didn’t know that the hemp being grown contains only trace amounts of THC) made things difficult. The Williamsons knew that they had to figure out a way to make this a workable venture.
They partnered with a Doug Fine, along with a few local investors from Killington, VT., to form The Family Green LLC, with the goal to cultivate and market industrial hemp in a profitable way. Hemp can be used in so many ways; hempseed oil, CBD oil, hulled “hemp hearts” seeds, hemp fiber for textiles, and even the leftover hempseed meal are all marketable products.
In 2016, the Williamsons planted 22 acres of hemp, sourced locally and from a certified producer from Colorado. They planted hemp in seven fields, each with a different soil profile, taking care to vary planting dates, row widths, and seeding amounts. They noticed that hemp was a very easy and highly resistant crop to grow, no matter the conditions.
There are still many challenges facing farmers interested in growing hemp. Finding certified seed is difficult and expensive. Also, harvesting is challenging for the farming equipment that most farmers already own, as is processing and distribution.
The Family Green LLC is up to the challenge. “This thing is in its infancy,” said founding members, Ken Manfredi. “We’ll get into the markets where we see the need, and there’s a niche. We’ve put a lot of time, effort, and money into it. We can’t even think of slowing down.”