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One of the first hemp farms in Nebraska pushes towards research and mass production

Posted at 2:34 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 21:18:30-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Midwest Hop Producers are one of the first of 10 farms in Nebraska to start growing industrial hemp. This comes three weeks after they got licensed by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture following a long and detailed application.

The farm in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, called Nebraska Hop Yards, is working with the University of Nebraska Lincoln to do research and learn how to breed the hemp. The hemp seeds came from Denver, and are now sitting in a greenhouse getting 20 hours of sunlight a day. Their end goal is to produce CBD oil derived from hemp.

The farm began with growing hop and selling beer, but when they found out the state is accepting applications for industrial hemp farming, they teamed up with Ismail Dweikat, a Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture at UNL, to start doing their research on CBD extraction and production.

According to Nebraska Hop Yards, the highest concentration of the CBD oil is in the bud of the plant, and buds only start to develop after two months of growth. That's when the plant will be taken back to the University's lab for research.

Dweikat has been researching hemp since 2014, and said the hemp will grow in the greenhouse for six months to see how it reacts to Nebraska's climate. The greenhouse holds 72 plants per breed, with four breeds being tested out. The four breeds are called #5, Early Pearly, Hybrid #9, and Cherry 2.0. He said that most hemp plants can grow to the size of a Christmas tree in just three months.

One of Nebraska Hop Yards owner, Annette Wiles, said hemp farming is the way of the future, and there is less opportunity and money farming corn and soy beans. "There is just not a lot of money in it today and especially with kids coming out of college, and getting in and learning about some of these crops." She said, "It's another opportunity they may not have ever had with corn and beans."

Both the university and farm owners believe the pay off for growing hemp will be high, although the cost to grow is also high. Dweikat said "there is a huge potential for the farmers in Nebraska here, to live and to start growing hemp for CBD." One hemp plant can run you about $5, but buying a female seed that can breed could be about $1 each. That can equal up to $25,000 a pound, and depending on the quality of the plant grown, the farm can sell their hemp product for about $200,000 an acre.

The hop farm is encouraging farmers to try growing hemp now, and use it as a rotational crop, because it is seasonal.

Hemp is so high in demand because of its versatility. "Hemp can be used in so many different products, so its going to open the market for processing the market and economy to grow, because you could use it for oil, food, feed, clothing, medicine," said Dweikat.