Bob Yoder, a Purdue Extension educator for Marshall County, inspects hemp plants at a farm in Warsaw. These plants have been cultivated for their CBD content. Staff photo by Robert Franklin
Bob Yoder, a Purdue Extension educator for Marshall County, inspects hemp plants at a farm in Warsaw. These plants have been cultivated for their CBD content. Staff photo by Robert Franklin
If Don Zolman were a quitter, he might have given up on the hemp crop that he’s begun harvesting just east of downtown Warsaw.

A chilly and rainy spring either washed out some crops or delayed planting for many farmers in the Midwest, including those who were trying to legally grow hemp for the first time since it was cultivated during World War II to produce everything from parachute chords to rope.

Following hemp’s decriminalization in the 2018 Farm Bill, permits were taken out to grow thousands of acres of hemp for its fiber, seed and cannabidiol or CBD content in both Indiana and Michigan.

Like many farmers, Zolman didn’t want to take too big a gamble on hemp, setting aside about 25 acres for plants developed for seed production and another 20 acres for plants capable of producing high levels of CBD — a compound that is now being used to provide relief from pain, anxiety, sleep problems, epilepsy and other issues.

Mark Boyer, who grew 50 acres for seed production last year as part of a research project sanctioned by Purdue University, planted the same amount this year on his farm in Converse, Ind., with the intent of cold-pressing the seeds into high-quality food oil and using the leftovers for high-protein animal feed.

Though no one is sure yet whether the first legal harvest in both states will end up being profitable — after the price for seeds, plants, labor and other inputs are factored in — a lot was learned about the plant, which could offer many hundreds of uses and provide an additional crop for farmers.

“The late planting date caused challenges,” Boyer said, referring to the wet conditions this year. “Because the plants didn’t get as tall, they never canopied and that created weed problems.”
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