Ulster County organic farm wants to grow hemp

Changes at the seventh-generation Hepworth Farms, mostly in Milton but a bit over the town line into Lloyd, have started to cause a stir, prompting Gail and Amy Hepworth to visit a Lloyd Town Board meeting last week as part of a public-relations campaign. They’ve formed a cooperative called Hempire State Growers to cultivate hemp for the production of CBD, the cannibinoids which don’t create a high but are said to have numerous health benefits. It’s perfectly legal and heavily regulated, but the hemp plants in question look — and smell — a whole lot like their headier cousins. In fact, farmer Amy acknowledged that even she can’t be sure of the difference without careful testing.

A 2018 federal rule change opened the door to hemp cultivation, with the specific rules to be determined at the state level. New York was one of the first states with a full program, and the Hepworths have joined with others to form this 30-farmer cooperative to bring in a revenue stream other than selling organic vegetables. Hemp can also be grown for its strong fibers, but the Hepworths explained that the approach needed for that is better suited to the Great Plains than the Mid-Hudson Valley, which is an “exceptional growing area” for CBD cultivation specifically. As of now, they have 160 acres devoted to hemp. They will process the plants and then sell it on the wholesale market.

There are no fences around the area, but it’s monitored. Anyone sneaking in for a buzz will be sorely disappointed, as the farmers no doubt also would be should this valuable cash crop be damaged by ignorant interlopers.

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