In Bartow, Florida, hemp is on its way. Scott Burgett, along with Green Earth Cannaceuticals, is growing 40,000 hemp plants on 30 acres. The crop is being tested out to in Polk county as a possible alternative to citrus.
Citrus was traditionally the crop of choice on the 200-acre farm and Polk county as a whole. In a state known for its oranges, the county grows more citrus than anywhere else in Florida. Unfortunately for local farmers, citrus greening has decimated their trees. They are producing 70% less fruit than they did a decade ago, losing over 15,000 acres of citrus farms.
This is the reason for Hook-R-Farms’ experiment into the possibilities of hemp. This crop is a test for the Florida Department of Agriculture to give Floridian farmers the tools and information they need to grow the crop successfully.
“There’s a lot of incredibly conservative people that wouldn’t have talked to me two years ago, that are now talking and looking at [hemp] as a viable industry,” Burgett said to the press. “So a farmer, if you kept your costs to $15,000, you’re making $10,000 an acre. That’s a substantial crop for a farmer. You don’t get that growing corn or beans or cotton or tobacco.”
To bring the project together, they recruited help from local farmers like Jeff Joyce. Joyce is a retired farmer who spent 40 years growing strawberries, vegetables, and cantaloupes. Joyce decided to give the new crop a try and came out of retirement to help them do it.
“And we kind of thought that might be a good thing,” Joyce said. “So we’re giving it a try and see what happens.”
With the knowledge, they learn from their experiments, along with other scientists in the state, the hope is for farmers to have a better handle on what to expect as the Florida Department of Agriculture released its final rules.