Hemp becoming budding Pennsylvania industry

"It’s a chance to literally develop a new industry from an old plant,” said Steve Groff, owner of Wyndridge Farms and founder of Groff North America.

An old plant— that some say could create a world of opportunity for Pennsylvania farmers.

Ever since it became legal to grow hemp in the United States at the end of last year, many farmers have jumped on the opportunity.

Groff is no exception.

“It’s quite an honor and it’s also daunting, but also something I feel like we’re up to the task for,” said Groff.

Hemp is a plant that is in the same family as marijuana…but hemp has less than .3 percent THC, which is the component that produces a high.

The Department of Agriculture says hemp is also different, because all parts of the plant can be used in a variety of ways.

“It’s good for fiber. It’s good for animal feed, it’s good for human food. The oil in the seeds can be pressed for culinary purposes, so food again. And the flowers are made into CBD oil,” said Shannon Powers, press secretary for the Department of Agriculture.

Powers explains hemp was illegal in the United States for nearly 80 years.

In 2014, it was legalized for research purposes only, but at the end of last year, it became legal to grow.

Powers says it’s important to have places where it can be processed to meet all the needs she just listed.

She says there are currently three places in Pennsylvania that process the plant in some form, but Groff North America is about to take processing to the next level.

Groff says in the fall, they will be installing a machine called a HempTrain to their new location in Red Lion, that will be able to utilize every part of the plant.

He says it will be the first one in the United States.

“That will be a site where people will bring bales of hemp or smaller bags of what’s called biomass, and we’ll be able to process it through the hemp train and also be able to perform other procedures known as extractions to isolate the different cannabinoids,” said Powers.

And with Pennsylvania quickly jumping on board this budding industry, Powers has high hopes for the future.

“We’re hoping that it can be a viable crop that will earn income for Pennsylvania farmers and make us competitive on the world stage,” said Powers.

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