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As milk prices remain low, many dairy farmers are now turning to hemp in a bid to boost profits.

The hemp boom is taking hold across the country, but many of the applications to grow it are coming from dairy farmers. Wisconsin has a hemp pilot program in place since 2017 and applications for growing hemp continue to soar. The state is evaluating 1,400 applications for licenses to grow hemp, compared to 250 in 2018. Applications for hemp processing licenses jumped from 100 to 700 in that same time frame. Wisconsin Representative Tony Kurtz believes adding hemp crops to daily farms could create side income that tobacco crops once did.

“It was… very lucrative. Dairy farmers would have an acre or two for extra money,” Kurtz said to Civil Eats. “And I do think hemp could have that potential.”

Using side crops on dairy farms is not a new trend. Farmers in Vermont experiment with sunflowers for oil and milkweed for fiber. However, farmers in other states are also trying to join the hemp trend. Potato farmers in Maine and sugar beet farmers in Wyoming are eyeing hemp for extra income. Kentucky also looks to set itself up for significant hemp growth in a bid to replace tobacco.

Potential Drawbacks

Hemp isn’t a guaranteed cash gain, though. Start-up costs such as the plants themselves can be quite expensive and the process is labor-intensive. If you’re looking to plant acres of hemp, consider it another full-time job. The trial and error in a first season of hemp growing can also result in many plants not making it to harvest.

For those looking to get into cultivating hemp, starting small is usually the best option. Consider also using clones instead of seeds in order to get a better guarantee of plant quality.

Lazarus Naturals and Hemp

Lazarus Naturals is proud to grow its own hemp on our farm in Central Oregon. Click here to read more from Evan Skandalis, our VP of Farm Operations, about all of the happenings on our farm.

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