Rockingham County farmer Glenn Rodes removes industrial hemp stalks jammed in his family’s conventional combine while harvesting a 5-acre field in September 2016. Virginia Cooperative Extension and James Madison University will host an event Friday for those interested in growing industrial hemp.

Those with an interest in growing industrial hemp can learn what it takes to be a hemp producer during Friday’s Industrial Hemp Production Program.

The first program of its kind is being put together by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and James Madison University to allow producers to review growing and plant recommendations, legal aspects and grower perspectives.

A full day of programming will include speakers from Virginia Tech, JMU and the University of Virginia, along with a legislative update, a grower panel and various informational sessions.

Doug Horn, an extension agent for the Virginia Cooperative Extension, said that due to the 2018 Farm Bill, many people planted hemp in 2019, primarily for CBD oil.

“There was a steep learning curve for hemp growers targeting the CBD market,” Horn said. “The program this Friday will focus on the challenges growing hemp.”

Topics to be discussed include weed, disease and insect issues, plant nutrition and harvesting considerations.

Economics, processing considerations and regulatory updates will also be reviewed, Horn said.

The collaboration with JMU and Virginia Tech is beneficial due to both universities being allowed to conduct hemp research programs since 2015.

“Each institution held their own field days and outreach programs in the past,” Horn said. “A hemp collaboration working group was formed last fall to provide interaction among the four institutions conducting hemp research.”

Horn said the goal of the working group is to identify research needs, avoid duplication of effort and identify educational needs to support the emerging hemp industry.

As of Tuesday, there were 20 people signed up to attend Friday’s event at JMU, but Horn said organizers were targeting 50 participants.

“This program has a lot of technical expertise,” he said. “It is geared toward people who grew hemp last year and are planning to continue with production or folks who are seriously considering growing a hemp crop.”

Registration for the program will be accepted until Thursday and will cost $25. Those interested can contact the Rockingham County Extension Office at 564-3080.

The event will last from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and take place at the Festival Conference and Student Center.

Contact Jessica Wetzler at 574-6279 or jwetzler@dnronline.com. Follow Jessica on Twitter @wetzler_jessica

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