If you smoke hemp, nothing exciting happens.
“You might be disappointed,” said hemp grower Shayne Kimball of Joseph.
That’s because although hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants, hemp contains less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive component THC — the chemical that makes you high.
The only thing “high” about Kimball’s own five-acre hemp farm on Tucker Down Road outside of Joseph is the altitude at which his plants grow.
But if you ingest or apply a hemp oil product, it may successfully treat a whole host of ailments from chronic pain to the symptoms of neurological diseases. Although the oil, known as CBD, is widely known to have this beneficial effect, the medicinal potential remains largely untapped.
The rest of the plant is equally broad spectrum; fibers can be used either pure or in combination with other materials for everything from food products to clothing to biodiesel to a form of biodegradable nontoxic plastic.
“It’s the Swiss Army knife of all plants,” Kimball said. “I think this plant has the ability to revitalize small farms in America. I think it can bring back the family farm. It’s a new cash crop for our county.”
Kimball’s farm is part of an Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Oregon Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program. He may be the first, but he’s sure that small acreage hemp farms will be sprouting up soon across the country. The time is right and the will is there.
The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2013 was introduced in the U.S. House with 28 original cosponsors. A companion bill in the Senate included the names of senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
The Hemp Farming Act recently became part of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Hemp Farming Act provision defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and removes it from the list of federally controlled substances.
Some say it’s about time. The U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in making use of hemp. Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Spain, along with more than 20 other countries, cultivate and process industrial hemp.
Like many new hemp growers in America, Kimball is laying the groundwork for broader farming applications through experimentation. He is testing hemp varieties to determine which grow the best in high altitude and was the grower producing hemp at the highest elevation in the U.S. in 2017.
He is developing the most efficient growing strategies he can and claims his off-the-grid solar powered drip irrigation process makes him “the most efficient irrigator in the water district.”
And he’s dedicated to dealing with the industry-recognized problem of pesticide restrictions by farming organic. His is the first hemp farm to be certified organic by Certified Kind.
“I would only grow the plant as if my family was going to take it,” he said. “When the guy came from Certified Kind, he told me this was absolutely the best soil you could find.”
His farm sits next to Mike and Joanie Fluit’s organic farm, and that proximity has been working in his favor.
Not only has he rented more excellent farm ground from the Fluits, but he’s learned a lot more about organic farming.
“Mike has different tidbits of knowledge I think are going to be important in the future,” Kimball said. “I know a ton about this plant, but last year was my first year to use the mulch and drip irrigation technology and he helped us.”
Kimball’s interest in efficient and profitable family farms began early. In addition to his interest in farming hemp, his education at the University of Idaho introduced him to farming for alternative energy sources because J.R. Simplot donated a million dollars a year to the university to develop biodiesel.
He became a member of the Hemp Industries Association in the early ‘90s. He is now a member of the Oregon Industrial Hemp Farmers Association, the organization that writes the language for many of the “hemp bills” approved or in process in Oregon.
“We’re the first state in the United States to have the law that allows anyone to grow four hemp plants,” Kimball said. “We also wrote the law that allows Oregon State University to work with the industrial hemp farmers and create a certified seed program.”
Soon, he will be on the board of directors for Oregon Industrial Hemp Farmers Association.
What’s next for the innovative small farmer? The same thing that’s next for every small farmer: value added products. Kimball hopes to introduce home-made tinctures and salves after harvest.