Hemp applications reopen; two men share what they’ve learned

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 5:19 PM CDT
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CULLMAN, Ala. (WAFF) - If you’ve been wanting to break into the hemp market, you can sign up to become a grower now.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries opened up the application process Tuesday.

The online application opened October 12 and is live until November 29.
The online application opened October 12 and is live until November 29.(WAFF)

We’ve learned you can make money growing hemp in Alabama, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The process of turning this plant into a hemp product is an expensive one.

“It took about $25,000 to get us off the ground. And that had us to build our drying building. We built everything ourselves, so our expense on that was a lot lower. Your site fee for the state of Alabama is $1,000 and then your license is between $150 and $200,” Chris Johnson said.

Chris Johnson is the president of Alabama Hemp Company LLC. They started growing hemp in Cullman in 2019, and they are just starting to break even.

“Our first year, we didn’t make anything. Because of the investment that we made into it with the drying building and getting the infrastructure set up, we didn’t make anything. This year we’re hoping to break even and by year three we should be profitable,” he explained.

Johnson says growing hemp is not an easy process.

“We’ll start the seeds in the greenhouse and when they’re about 30 days old we’ll transplant them to the field out here behind me and then it’s about 90 days to 120 days, depending on when you plant and then you’re ready for harvest,” Johnson said.

But he believes it is a process that is worthwhile

“Five years ago I looked at hemp as the same way as cannabis, as the same way as marijuana, that it was a drug. Through education, research, knowledge and personal experience, I have understood the ability cannabis has to be able to help people,” Johnson said.

His biggest advice, have a plan.

“You’ve got to have multiple different stages to work through. And if you don’t understand or have not talked to a farmer, don’t jump into it until you are ready and prepared.”

Johnson grows and processes the hemp, but his neighbor in Cullman County is focusing on processing.

“This machine handles roughly 2,000 pounds per hour in drying. This is a machine we built especially for farmers that do not have the capacity to hang dry all their material,” Robertson said.

Joey Robertson with Wagon Trail Hemp Farms says they receive crops from all over the state and other parts of the country, but lately, there’s too much of it available.

“Basically for the entire United States, 40,000 or fewer aces of hemp to be grown and processed into CBD for everyone to have enough oil to feed their supply personally. But last year alone there were between 100,000 and 110,000 acres grown. The great majority of farmers in Alabama have struggled to sell their crops, honestly,” he explained.

Their main motivation at Wagon Trial; helping fellow farmers.

“Farmers buy at retail and the sell at wholesale, so it’s never been fair to the farmers. And the whole reason that we built the facility was to be able to aide this state, aide the farmers with a product and hopefully edge out some kind of a profit in the end,” he said.

Growers, processors and handlers of hemp in Alabama will need to complete the ADAI application process. Applications will only be accepted online.

Processing begins at 8 a.m. on October 12. The final day to apply is November 29.

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