Middlebury, Vt. - According to the Department of Agriculture, there are nearly 560 acres of hemp farm registered in Vermont.
When the congressional farm bill passed in 2014, Vermont added its own twist to support a different kind of crop: hemp. This made the state marketable to the CEO and Founder of Vermont Hemp Company, Joel Bedard.
"We have a very good name for the Vermont agricultural label and the branding is what attracted me to develop this in Vermont," Bedard said.
The company focuses on advanced agricultural research and its goal to create an economic model that benefits Vermont farmers.
"Basically what I saw here was a white space opportunity to be able to take my experience and become a leader in a way to return that equity back to farmers," Bedard said.
Vermont Hemp Company Operations Manager, Rye Matthews, said farmers interested in growing hemp were running into problems getting certified seed to the Green Mountain State. He explained how Vermont Hemp Company is serving as a link.
"We're providing seed that's certified and you can grow under our permit...and we're guaranteeing them through contract to sell whatever they harvest back to us at a fair market value," Matthews said.
Matthews explained that the United States is behind the rest of the world. The plant is widely popular as it can be used in over 25,000 ways. Here in Vermont, Matthews said it's being researched to serve a medicinal purpose.
"Treatments for epilepsy that are going through that process right now that look promising," Matthews said. "Along with other diseases."
Though it's safe to say Vermont is well ahead in the U.S. hemp farming industry, farmers are still facing challenges when it comes to the stigma of cannabis.
"If we were talking about soy beans this wouldn't even be a conversation that would be happening," Bedard said.
Though both classified as cannabis, marijuana and hemp are actually two different plants.
"I like to use the metaphor of dogs," Matthews said. "I mean there is so many different breeds. Comparing a Great Dane to Chihuahua or a Terrier– they're just not the same thing."
Matthews said the goal is to have thousands of acres of hemp farm across Vermont. He said it would serve as a major economic boost to farmers and added it would reap more money than legalizing marijuana alone. Matthews said that's because hemp would affect sales in all sorts of markets.
Good news for shoppers.
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