Hemp helper

Central Texas Hemp farmer Cass Keeler, of Keeler Family Farms from Deming, New Mexico, starts the conversation about growing hemp by detailing his experience with the plant during a hemp-growing workshop at the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

Farmers from across East Texas convened at the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce to learn about growing hemp on Friday morning.

Central Texas Hemp LLC is a small corporation out of Comanche that is connecting farmers to education about the potential benefits of growing hemp.

“What we want to see happen, we’re spreading it across Texas, but for our community is to grow farmers,” co-owner Lisa Martinez said. “We had peanut farmers, that went away. I’m a seventh-generation peanut farmer and my son will never be able to do that.”

The business saw hemp as a way to revitalize their farms in Comanche, but realized they should bring it to East Texas because they have family and friends in the area, she said.

“What we’re bringing here is our knowledge of farming, educating,” she said. “Hemp is a great plant. It can solve a lot of problems going on in the world. But if we start small, we can grow, and we’re getting in on the ground floor.”

Martinez believes that hemp growing is a bit of the Wild West because there aren’t a lot of rules and regulations.

Currently, state law allows the production, manufacture, retail sale and inspection of industrial hemp crops and products in Texas. However, the Texas Department of Agriculture still needs the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of its rules before it’s legal to grow in the state, according to the TDA website.

The TDA submitted the hemp plan to the USDA for approval on Dec. 2, 2019, and are waiting for USDA approval. The department believes the hemp-growing permit process will begin in the state in 2020.

Central Texas Hemp has farmers in New Mexico and Colorado, Martinez said. One of those farmers, Cass Keeler, of Keeler Family Farms from Deming, New Mexico, started the conversation about growing hemp by detailing his experience with the plant.

His partner, Travis Knoop, who is an agronomist and master grower, broke the process down for attendees more scientifically to give a closer look into what would be required of growers.

Workshop organizers also had a representative from Ana-Lab out of Kilgore to explain hemp testing and certification in the state based on state rules that are currently being considered by the USDA. And Martinez’s team explained marketing and selling hemp, legal updates and broke down their Farmer’s Choice Program for attendees.

Jess Huff’s email address is jess.huff@lufkindailynews.com.

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