In East Troy, Wisconsin, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) is continuing its commitment to sustainable agriculture. Since 1984 the MFAI has supported research, education, outreach, and networking programs in this important field. Now they are jumping in to help local farmers get a handle on hemp.
Industrial hemp fits into the institution’s mission, according to Leah Sandler, education director and research agronomist for MFAI. “On the research side, we’re doing cultivar trials of different cannabidiol (CBD) hemp cultivars from across the country to figure out which ones grow best in this region and climate,” Leah told Shepherd Express.
The MFAI is partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). The agency is in charge of the state’s hemp pilot program.
“Hemp hasn’t been grown here for many years, so there’s very little information. We’re trying to reach farmers and get as much hemp production and agronomic knowledge as we can out to them, along with information about harvesting and the legal framework,” said Sandler. “We facilitate as much networking as we can between growers, buyers, and processors.”
As a non-profit, the MFAI doesn’t endorse any specific company or product. They are releasing everything they learn for free, including a series of webinars about industrial hemp. The information covered includes things like government regulations, hemp production methods, the specifics of grain and fiber hemp, and more.
The MFAI is also hosting field trips where farmers can go see actual hemp being grown to learn more about the crop. These Farmer Field Day events are meant to inform farmers about what they are getting into and close any gaps in knowledge they have about the crop.
“In lots of cases, farmers are successful in growing the plant, but then they’re not able to harvest it, or they have nobody to sell their products to, especially with the CBD boom. The markets are starting to saturate, and some farmers are unaware of how much work harvesting is going to be or the space required to dry the plants.”