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Hemp farmers educate, inform public during history event

Zach Vance • Jun 15, 2018 at 12:06 AM

Continuing a crusade to destigmatize hemp, D.W. Cooper, Ryan Rowlett and other hemp advocates from across the region convened Thursday evening at the Jonesborough Visitors Center for an event billed as “Hemp History Day.”

Dozens of people, some eager to learn more about the ins and outs of growing hemp and others interested in the reported healing capabilities of the cannabis-derived CBD oil, attended the event to learn how intertwined hemp was in early American history.

For example, the first American flag was woven using hemp. In the 1940s, Henry Ford constructed the first Model-T vehicle to run on hemp gasoline, not to mention the car itself was constructed from hemp.

“I’m glad I was able to host this event in Jonesborough, Tennesseee, where we’re based out of,” Cooper, who owns the East Tennessee Hemp Company, said.

“Bringing back some history, this plant has been around for thousands of years. If you go into the Jonesborough museum ... they have a hemp rope twister in there. I’m trying my best to erase the stigma that was put on this plant over a hundred years ago. This plant has so many benefits and the major thing about this is we have to educate, educate, educate.”

The informal event started with Rowlett explaining how residents can apply for a license to grow hemp through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

“I liked the turnout. There were a lot of people interested in getting involved in the (hemp growing) program next year. Enrollment opens in November so by January 2019, they could be a hemp farmer,” Rowlett said.

The process requires applicants to submit an aerial photograph of the planned growing area; Rowlett said most people just submit Google Maps images. The license also requires a $250 fee, plus $2 per acre.

According to the state’s website, every crop grown and every variety of hemp plant is inspected and sampled by the state inspector before harvest, and the farmer must contact the Department of Agriculture 30 days before harvest for inspection.

Fees related to the inspection include paying $35 an hour and $175 for the testing of each sample, which must remain under the state’s 0.3 percent THC threshold. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main mind-altering ingredient in the cannabis plant.

Rowlett, Cooper and other hemp farmers from around the region have united to form the East Tennessee Hemp Farmers Co-Op to increase their leverage and lower costs associated with distributing and growing their products.

“It’s mainly about farmers signing up to grow in this area and showing these larger companies that there is a reason to come here and develop infrastructure. If we can produce a product, they will come and that’s what I’m hoping all this will be a part of,” Rowlett said.

“It happened in Kentucky with multi-million dollar companies. I see it happening here closer to Nashville, but there is no reason this region can’t prosper in it, as well. We’re known for our agricultural way of life.”

When asked what type of hemp-industry investment he’d like to see, Rowlett said he’d like to see a fiber or grain processor locate near the region.

Terry Layne with C-Vue Chromatography traveled from Greenville, South Carolina, to the Hemp Day History event to display the high performance chromatography device he created, that precisely measures the amount of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids in any given cannabis plant matter.

Cooper’s East Tennessee Hemp Company table had a large display of hemp-infused products, ranging from oils, creams and butters to scrubs, lotions and vapor products.

Visitors could also purchase hemp-infused dog treats sold by Sean and Betty Jo Bailey’s Sticky Paws Bakery.

Cooper said the East Tennessee Hemp Company plans to open a brick-and-mortar store in the coming months along West Walnut Street. His products can also be found at the Jonesborough Farmers Market and online at https://eastthc.com.

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