The Illinois Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for this year’s hemp growing season. Hemp has many uses. Some include the production of cannabidiol or CBD oil, hemp oil and industrial purposes. The season started out slow for one northern Illinois farmer.
Rachel Berry is the founder and CEO of the Illinois Hemp Growers Association. She harvests seeds for hemp fiber on her family farm -- it’s called Prairie Renaissance Farm -- located in Princeton, Illinois. She said the pandemic has hindered the growing season.
“We personally did have a delay with our seeds. We ordered ours from overseas, from the Ukraine, and it was delayed,” she said. “So, we actually got a later start planting our hemp fiber.”
Berry also said there’s not a lot of new hemp farmers coming into the market. She suggested the cancellation of local events, which educate people, could be one reason for the slow increase.
“A lot of this industry is face-to-face like events and meeting other farmers and sharing information,” she said. “It’s almost eliminated this world of hemp-related news.”
She said it’s hard to forecast for 2020 but the pandemic shined a light on the need for a strong local economy and supply chain.
“Hemp is a crop that can be grown and processed and manufactured into all sorts of things. From clothing, you know, snack food, building materials -- all of this can be done locally,” Berry said.
She is hoping to sell her hemp fiber for textiles.
Berry said she has a backup plan if her fiber doesn’t sell as expected.
“You can use this material from the fiber to build a home with. It’s called hempcrete or hemp line construction. My real plan is to build a farm stand,” she said.
Berry said the association is still there for the public regardless of event cancellations.
“We’re farmers for the general community who are interested in hemp and what it could do for them. Please use us as a resource,” she said.
Prairie Renaissance Farm also produces heirloom vegetables and harvests chickens.
The IDOA issued 651 hemp growers’ licenses last year. A new IDOA policy is allowing hemp and its derivatives to be used as an ingredient in medical and adult-use cannabis products.