Charting a New Path
Trimble County’s Turner, partners
have a vision for area farmers
They see industrial hemp as the future
for struggling farms
BEDFORD, Ky. (May 2019) – While most hemp farmers are starting slow and focusing on their own farm, Trimble County, Ky., farmer Jonathan Turner is doing that and more. Turner has grown tobacco, alfalfa and grass-fed beef. Like many other local farmers, he stopped growing tobacco five years ago.
“Farmers in Trimble County are really struggling,” he said. “We need something here. That’s our goal.”
Their goal was the development of a new company, Production Hemp Agriculture Research Management LLC. Turner is one of eight co-owners and founders with Evan Ogburn, John Ogburn, Chris Yates, Michael Yates, Justin Butler, Caleb Butler and Brianne Butler. Turner brings farming expertise, land and facilities in Trimble County. The other partners bring technical expertise.
Their goal includes building a pharmaceutical quality operation to process hemp buds into high quality CBD isolate and full spectrum oil under their own brand, Pharm-CBD, and also a private label wholesale brand.
Trimble County, Ky., farmer and entrepreneur Jonathan Turner poses at his farm where he and his partners grow and process hemp.
Their vision is bigger than Turner’s current 900 acres of personal and leased ground. Their vision is to bring a new cash crop to Trimble County, teach other farmers how to grow this hemp for CBD, and then to be the buyer of the harvested crop as the raw material for their Pharm-CBD brand of products. It is a huge vision.
Although there is more interest now, contracts for 2020 will not be signed until October. Interested farmers have time to study the regulations, which are available online at www.kyagr.com.
“There are a lot of variables and hurdles. We need to take one step at a time,” said Turner. “The whole idea was to sell our own product plus build a brand. As the process grows, we will need other farmers to help grow, which will provide cash flow for them, also. Trimble County is behind other areas of Kentucky in terms of hemp farming.”
Turner said only two other farmers in Trimble County are licensed to grow hemp this year. They will each start with one to 1.5 acres. One of the farmers was considering growing hemp for fiber instead of CBD. Turner explained that hemp for fiber can contaminate the hemp fields grown for CBD. Birds can carry the hemp seeds anywhere. Those seeds will sprout, growing wild like weeds. They could also become invasive. Hemp pollen is also very prolific. A small amount could pollinate and therefore contaminate an entire field of CBD hemp plants. Plants for fiber and plants for CBD can be grown in the same county if those fields are not close together.
Plants grown for CBD are females. It is only the flower bud that is used for CBD production. The crop must be monitored closely because it is also possible for the female plants to “herm,” which means they become a hermaphrodite. That occurs when female plant converts to a male plant as a result of factors such as a change in growing conditions. Any male plants must be promptly removed from the field of female plants to avoid this type of contamination.
Turner himself started with one acre of hemp plants. He planted transplants the same way he had planted tobacco transplants. After processing the hemp by hand like tobacco, he is now ready to move to a more mechanized process to manage his 90 acres of hemp this year. Turner will also evaluate four growing methods to determine the most effective model.
One method will be the plastic mulch method, which is also used for vegetables. The second method will be a conventional tillage model, using a plow and disc to turn over the field to create bare dirt. This method is labor intensive because it requires both tractor work and manual labor to remove weeds because all hemp in Kentucky is grown without pesticides or chemicals. The third method will be a section planted in strip tillage in hay fields. The fourth method he is considering would be a “no-til” method using cover crops.
Detailed information on each method will be recorded and analyzed, including the genetics, nutrients and any other variables. “I am a numbers guy. Numbers don’t lie.”
This knowledge will help produce the highest quality raw material for their production process. As he develops the best practices, he will be able to share those ideas with fellow farmers to strengthen the entire farming community.
Kevin Perkins, Trimble County Cooperative Extension agent, explained why other Trimble County farmers are cautious about growing hemp. “There is a lot of red tape. Hemp farms are open to inspection 24-7 to prevent cultivation of marijuana.”
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