No longer forbidden from growing hemp, Tennessee farmers have started receiving the highly regulated seeds to produce the state's first legal harvest of the crop in more than 70 years.
Forty-six farmers are receiving the seeds this year through a pilot program offered by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Johnson City Press reports. Officials hope to learn what varieties of hemp will grow best in which areas of the state.
Washington County farmer Wayne Smith said he expects to harvest the crop in four months and sell hemp oil at a local farmers market. Hemp oil can be used for food, lubrication, fuels and paints.
Smith said the process has been a learning experience.
"There's not a lot of reliable information out there on how to grow it," Smith said. "We've found a few old books to go by, but we're learning a lot as we go along."
Careful count is being kept of the seeds each farmer receives and will be compared with the number of plants grown. The crops will also be subject to testing for levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in its relative, marijuana.
The 2014 federal farm bill allowed industrial hemp to be grown for research purposes only. State officials hope the plant will become a cash crop for areas hurt by the falling demand for other agricultural products such as tobacco.