A valley of pioneers: State legislators tour hemp farms

by DOMENIC POLI Staff Writer, Greenfield Recorder

Scott Hutkoski and Sen. Jo Comerford. Paul Franz photo

[Long Plain Farm Begins Hemp Cultivation]

WHATELY — State legislators Natalie Blais and Jo Comerford were behind schedule getting to Whately on Friday, because they got stuck behind a tractor.

It’s a fitting way to be fashionably late when you’re on a three-farm tour of new hemp operations in the Pioneer Valley.

State Rep. Blais, D-Sunderland, and state Sen. Comerford, D-Northampton, joined representatives Dan Carey, Mindy Domb, Paul Schmid and Carmine Gentile, on the journey aimed at helping them understand the challenges farmers are facing as they invest their time in hemp to diversify their crops.

After opening remarks and a bag lunch at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the caravan made its first stop at Long Plain Farm in Whately. Later stops included Joe Czajkowski Farm and Astarte Farm, both in Hadley.

Long Plain Farm co-owner Scott Hutkoski explained the learning curve presented by this new facet of the agricultural sector. His Christian Lane farm has eight acres of hemp, which looks identical to marijuana but has lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), eliminating any psychoactive effects.

Hutkoski explained the equipment needed for harvesting hemp is similar to that used to farm tobacco, a crop with a long history in the valley and that is still grown at the farm. Only the buds of the hemp plants will be used, destined to be sold to Heritage Hemp in Northampton so CBG oil can be extracted from them. He said it is difficult to anticipate how profitable the crop will be but, judging by its progress, he expects he will grow hemp again.

“It looks good,” Hutkoski said of his hemp before the guests arrived.

He told the guests it is vital for the state to lift its restriction on growing hemp on land protected by the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) program. This, he said, would help many farmers.

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Posted: to General News on Mon, Aug 12, 2019
Updated: Mon, Aug 12, 2019