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Joel Bedard, Hemp Farmer, Vermont

"This movement requires thoughtful individuals that can transcend emotion in the interest of developing best-use practices and policies towards the rebirth of hemp in America."

HHW: What led you to choose hemp as a crop?

JB: I see this as a confluence of a lifetime of experience. I have been an advocate and activist towards the end of Prohibition of Cannabis for 30 years. Combined with my academic and professional backgrounds in natural resources and agricultural sciences, I identified an opportunity to combine my knowledgebase with the shift in policy towards hemp cultivation. There is a tremendous opportunity to rebuild an agricultural economy based upon hemp, and this movement requires thoughtful individuals that can transcend emotion in the interest of developing best-use practices and policies towards the rebirth of hemp in America. I am focused upon solving these problems and developing a responsible approach towards this new economy.

HHW: What varieties and how many acres of hemp did you grow in 2015?

JB: I have been experimenting with a local nativized cultivar which is in the process of being registered under the name ‘Champ’. I also worked with an oilseed cultivar from Europe. Total research plots in 2015 were limited to several acres.

HHW: What soil and environmental conditions did you grow in?

JB: Part of the research involves agronomic profiles of multiple varieties and edaphic conditions. Vermont has a varied landscape, and as such, we are pursuing a variety of environments, from floodplain to Lake Champlain Basin to island and upland locations.

HHW: Did you grow in conjunction with an institution of higher learning? Which one?

JB: My efforts are in affiliation with researchers at my alma mater, The University of Vermont.

HHW: As this was a pilot crop, what qualities were you testing?

JB: Without revealing specific research goals and IP considerations, let’s just say ‘variety trials’ and ‘seasonality trials’ for now.

HHW: Were you able to utilize your 2015 crop? How? 

JB: The individual pieces parts have been distributed to makers for product testing. Some great beers, some seed retention, some delicious foodstuffs and even some artworks.

HHW: What varieties and how many acres of hemp will you grow in 2016? 

JB: Even with only a couple of months to go, the plan is rounding into shape. I have been negotiating relationships with a number of entities that will determine the specific cultivars, but initial expectations are that we will have collectively, over 12 cultivars at as many as 6 different collaboration sites.

HHW: Are the soil and environmental conditions expected to be the same?

JB: No—there will be variations in conditions, all over the state—Vermont has a tremendously varied topography, and we hope to learn quickly what can grow where most effectively.

HHW: Will you grow in conjunction with an institution of higher learning?

JB: The University of Vermont.

HHW: Will this be a pilot crop? What qualities will you test?

JB: Vermont does not have a State-sponsored Pilot Program, ergo, for federal compliance of the 2014 AAB, only research affiliated with an institute of higher-education qualifies. As such, this qualifies as a research pilot program.

HHW: What is the planned use for your 2016 crop? 

JB: Varied. Seed retention, certainly…

HHW: What has been your biggest success(es) in farming hemp to date? 

JB: For me, the concept of success lies in being part of the conversation and to be moving the needle in the proper direction. Vermont may not be a leader in terms of acreage or media coverage, but we are looking at real questions and considerations for what a hemp agricultural economy should look like. We are known for our agricultural products, Farm to Table, Slow Food, Farm to Tap, Local Food Hub Management, Sustainability and the general “Made in Vermont” moniker. Applying this passion and expertise to hemp is the goal.