Hemp might help save the Rogers family farm.
The next generation — Sarah Murphy, 30, and Iris Rogers, 24 — have just gotten approval to grow and sell hemp as part of a state pilot program. They will grow it at the family farm in Salem, dubbed The Old Homestead.
For the first two years, beginning this summer, they will grow hemp from seeds provided by Castetter, a consulting company out of Binghamton. They will do research on how the seeds perform in Salem’s climate and elevation.
The company wants to see if the seeds can be successful in the Northeast.
“For the first two years we’re going to take data and send the product back. It’ll be their responsibility to process and sell it,” Murphy said.
After the two years are up, the sisters hope to sell retail hemp products, including hemp oil and hemp flour, an alternative to gluten-based flours.
Restaurants also want hemp seeds, she said. It’s a popular ingredient in some foods.
“We’re very excited to be bringing this to New York,” Murphy said, but stressed that it isn’t like growing marijuana.
“It can’t produce enough THC to get anyone high,” she said. “Education seems to be helping the public really understand the difference between hemp and marijuana.”
But she still contacted state police about the pilot program before she went public.
“We didn’t want them knocking on the door, saying, ‘This is illegal,’” she said.
Murphy believes hemp will be legalized soon.
“This seemed like the right time to enter the market,” she said. “Just this week, (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell introduced a bill asking for hemp to be legalized. We’re confident in this.”
Murphy still has a day job. She’s a behavioral therapist. But she has put her master’s degree efforts on hold while she focuses on hemp.
But her goal is to live on the farm and turn it back into a “working” farm. In two years, they’ll need to buy processing equipment so they can sell hemp products.
“Hemp is pretty profitable right now. We should be able to afford those expenses,” she said.
The farm is 5 acres.
“It’s been a non-working farm since the ‘60s. I grew up with it as a hobby farm,” Murphy said. “My sister and I were looking for ways to revitalize the farm.”
She’s certain this will be the way.
“Hemp actually has a lot of nutrients in it,” she said. “It could become the next kale, once it gets legalized.”