By Clint Thompson
Hemp research by Alabama Extension vegetable specialists is still in its infancy, but Joe Kemble has seen enough to not like the crop’s potential, at least for all specialty crop producers.
“Honestly, I’m not sure there’s ever going to be a good time to harvest hemp. I’d like to say this is great and that everyone should do it, there’s just way too many unknowns,” Kemble said. “I’ll tell you this, if you’re looking for something to pour money in, this is the crop to do it with.”
Kemble’s biggest concern is with the crop’s variation from plant to plant. There’s too much of it.
“My biggest issue, personally, is the genetics of some of the material. It just looks bad. It’s just inconsistent. There’s still some lack of purity in the lines that are grown,” Kemble said. “You’re getting all of this weird variation that occurs, which is never good for any crop. You don’t want variation. All the plants need to look the same. That’s just not what’s happened yet.”
This isn’t to say hemp production has no future in Alabama. Growers would need to expand their hemp production operation. Those are the only ones finding success right now, says Kemble.
“I would say it has a future for a select few. It’s hard to be small operator just to grow a couple of acres of it. Unfortunately a lot of people got into it thinking they were going to pay off their mortgage,” Kemble said. “The ones that are really making money now are the ones that are investing in processing equipment. They’re actually producing their own products. The margins are just way too tight, and the market’s a little unpredictable for wholesale. But if you’re selling a product, those are the operations, honestly, the handful of operations in Alabama that I think are the most successful and that are either at the same level of production or increasing. They’re all processing it themselves, extracting CBD or other products.”