Hemp farmers struggle to make profits

Local News

NASHVILLE,Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee’s hemp surge continues to rise.

The number of licensed farmers in the state now stands at more than 3,700 – that’s an 1,800-percent increase from the last year alone.

But making a profit isn’t as easy as people may think.

It’s a billion dollar industry that’s said to yield high profits.

“Don’t invest money you don’t have,” said hemp expert Joe Kirkpatrick. “Don’t borrow money you don’t have to grow this crop. Don’t use retirement savings or your children’s college fund to grow this crop because it’s a risk.”

It’s a tough lesson Kirkpatrick said a number of first-time hemp farmers are learning the hard way.

“This is a brand new industry,” he said. “This industry has only existed for five years.”

Since the launch of Tennessee’s pilot hemp program, Kirkpatrick led the Tennessee Hemp Industries Association, the largest trade association of its kind, helping farmers with the growing pains of a new industry.

“Here’s the thing,” said Kirkpatrick . “We’ve got 3,710 licensees. Only 500 are members of the TNHIA, so there’s 3,200 groups or companies or individuals that are operating without that advice.”

Kirkpatrick said without that knowledge, growers often run into a roadblock when it comes to selling their product, scrambling to market what they’ve harvested too late late in the game.

“If you didn’t know what the end result was going to be, you were taking a huge risk!” he said.

Another issue – unrealistic goals for a profit.

“We can find people buyers for their crop, it just may not be what they expected to get for it,” said Kirkpatrick.

Until hemp regulations become more clear, Kirkpatrick said first-time farmers need to tread the industry lightly.

“This whole Gold Rush mentality, everybody has got to open a CBD shop, everybody has got to be a hemp farmer, there’s only so much market for this stuff,” he said.

If you do have the means to invest, Kirkpatrick recommended starting small.

“Grow half an acre,” he said. “Learn how to do this. Don’t risk your life savings.”

Kirkpatrick recently transitioned to lead the Tennessee Grower’s Coalition to advocate to keep the state’s hemp rules “farmer-friendly.”

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