Source: Lancaster Farming

PORT REPUBLIC, Va. — The seed didn’t get into the ground until June 28, a week after the summer solstice.

Yet only 72 days later, most plants stood 6 to 8 feet tall — some taller — at Glenn Rodes’ farm near the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Despite missing prime planting time, Virginia’s first plots of legal industrial hemp in decades grew well and clearly showed the plant’s potential as a crop for food, fuel and fiber.

“Hemp, I believe, will be a high-value crop early on,” said Rodes, owner of Riverhill Farms, as a recent field day for James Madison University’s industrial hemp project wound down. “It should work in rotations in any cropping situation.”

Two 5-acre plots were planted at Riverhill Farms. The hemp remained in the field past the normal harvest date so officials from James Madison, Virginia Tech, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition, and others could gather to talk about the plantings.

The invitation-only field day drew about 40 people.

Most in attendance couldn’t touch the plant, though. Because the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies industrial hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance — the same classification as heroin and cocaine, even though people can’t get high off it — only those licensed to handle it could touch any part of the plant without violating federal law.

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