Westmoreland farmers interested in growing hemp to get help with planting, harvesting equipment
Farmers interested in growing hemp will get some help with the necessary equipment under an agreement approved by the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.
“Farms are turning now to other commodities that may bring more income to them,” said Greg Phillips, manager and chief executive officer of the Westmoreland Conservation District.
The corporation’s board recently approved a $100,000 agreement with local nonprofit Greenforge that calls for the development of a countywide cooperative group and the purchase of farming equipment necessary for hemp planting, according to Jason Rigone, corporation director. That equipment can then be rented out to farmers who are interested in growing hemp.
“Farmers are generally struggling to maintain sustainability,” Rigone said. “We recognize that there’s some challenges out there.”
Greenforge will buy two pieces of equipment — one for planting, one for harvesting, Phillips said.
Westmoreland County already has a head start in the hemp industry. Pittsburgh-based Commonwealth Alternative Medicinal Options, or CAMO, opened a hemp processing plant near New Stanton last year. Company officials hope to ramp up production of medical products containing cannabidiol, or CBD, and branch out into other hemp-based items.
The crop can be useful in medicine, food products and industrial manufacturing. Commercial hemp production was legalized by the federal government in December. Farmers must apply through the state in order to grow hemp.
A group of farmers who have expressed interest in hemp planting will meet with CAMO officials Monday, Phillips said. He expected the piece of equipment used for planting to be ordered soon so it arrives in time for the 2019 season.
Westmoreland County’s recently completed comprehensive plan called for officials to “embrace hemp” and many participants in public meetings identified the county’s farming tradition as being an asset. The agreement approved last week is a small investment the IDC can make in response to give farmers options, Rigone said.
Rigone and Phillips are board members of Greenforge.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .