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First Industrial Hemp Crop Planted in Broome County

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For the first time in nearly 80 years, the first industrial hemp crop is being planted in Broome County at Nanticoke Gardens in Endicott.

"I've been working on this for several years since the Federal Government allowed us to begin to do research on industrial hemp," said Donna Lupardo, Assemblywoman (D-Endwell).

As a result of that pilot research project, the laws changed to allow for processing, transporting, manufacturing, and selling of hemp and hemp-related goods.

"What you have here is a type of industrial hemp that is specifically bred for its CBD or cannabidiol applications," said Lupardo. CBD oil is derived from the plant and can be used for medicinal and nutritional purposes.

On Wednesday, July 12, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will provide up to $10 million in grant funding to advance research, provide business resources, and legally clarify the status of industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity in New York State.

"He committed substantial resources to building this industry in our state by acknowledging it as a legitimate and important agricultural commodity," said Lupardo.

All of the crops that were planted in Broome County came from a mother plant in Kentucky. None of them were grown from their own seeds, which was done on purpose.

"This process is used to ensure consistency over and over again in the quality of the plant produced," said Pete Shafer, Nanticoke Gardens Co-Owner.

In addition to announcing the new crop, Lupardo worked to bring together three partners to streamline the growing, research, and production of hemp in Broome.

"You want to have a partnership that starts off with a strong grower, Nanticoke Gardens, a strong research component, Binghamton University School of Pharmacy, and a processor, Southern Tier Hemp," said Lupardo.

All three organizations, Nanticoke Gardens (planting), Binghamton University (research), and Southern Tier Hemp (production) will play a vital role in the hemp industry in the area.

Shafer says he and his brother have been trying to get hemp planted on his property for over a year.

"Our hope in this pilot program is to bring another option to New York farmers who are looking for another commodity that they can produce here in New York State," said Shafer. "We're hoping that opportunity for other farmers will parlay into other opportunities locally to process and market this crop in New York State," said Shafer.

Last week they officially planted five acres of the crop, which will then be sent to two different places as part of this partnership that Lupardo announced. The Binghamton University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will begin research on the medicinal benefits of hemp and Southern Tier Hemp will turn the plant and its oils into products to be sold in stores.

Dr. Glorida Meredith, the BU School of Pharmacy Dean, says most of the hemp research will be conducted at the school's new location in Johnson City. They will be specifically looking at how they can use the oils in new therapy treatments.

"The therapeutic uses can help with a variety of diseases, diseases that have inflammation involved, that involve degeneration," said Meredith. "This partnership is extremely important to us."

She hopes the research will lead to some new scientific findings on how they can cure a variety of diseases.

"With the hope that we discover some new medications and new therapeutic applications," said Meredith.

She called BU's new partnership with the County, Nanticoke Gardens, and Southern Tier Hemp a "win-win," and added that her research team is ready to go.

"We will start the research as soon as they have flowers that they feel they can start the process," said Meredith.

Southern Tier Hemp is a small company, with around five employees out of Syracuse. They take hemp oils and turn them into products that have medicinal and nutritional value. 

"As a company with deep roots in the industrial hemp business, we are fully committed to developing products, sourced locally, that provide a range of health benefits," said Michael Falcone, Southern Tier Hemp Co-Founder.

The company is working on plans to move part of their business more locally to the County where the hemp is being grown.

Shafer says the end goal is to extract the oil from the flowers, which bloom from the hemp plant. Each plant is placed within plastic mulch to keep it in the ground and prevent weeds. Each row has approximately 300 plants in it, each plant is spaced about 36 inches away from the next one, with a total of around 15,000 plants in the garden.

"This allows us to get the most out of every plant," said Shafer.

They expect the bushes to start flowering around August and employees will harvest them in mid-October. Due to the weather in Binghamton, the hemp will need to be replanted each year. 

Lupardo wouldn't say what, but she did hint at some bigger announcements regarding the regional economics of Broome County to come in the near future if everything goes as planned with the hemp plants.