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Big Bend area farmers submit applications for hemp farm cultivation

Posted at 7:17 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 19:17:10-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Big Bend area farmers are one step closer to finding out if hemp really is Florida’s new cash crop.

Florida Agriculture Commission office has begun accepted applications for hemp cultivation this week. So far, more than two dozen farmers have already been approved.

It could be a domino effect of green for a couple different businesses.

Farmers are excited to try out something new, and CBD shops like Natural Life are looking forward to a new group to pick up stock from.

Farmers have had a lot to deal with. From bad yields to hurricanes.

Now, they have a fresh start with a new plant.

"Farming has been on a downhill lately, said Clinton Keen, who runs Buckeye Nursery in Perry. "So we're hoping this could be a new cash crop."

Keen grows close to 350 acres of citrus and peanuts. But, it hasn't been easy.

"Market here in Florida was off, so we didn't really get good market on the citrus," said Keen.

So, he's dipping into the budding business.

Keen is among 165 people who have applied for the hemp cultivation certification.

Cautiously optimistic, Keen says cultivation is pricey,

"You're probably spending about $2,500 an acre," Keen said.

It also comes with growing pains.

"There's no herbicide label for it," said Keen. "No insecticide label for it, so if you get bugs on it you have pick it off by hand.

In Tallahassee, CBD shops have a different reason to celebrate.

Gabriel Suarez owns seven different Natural Life CBD stores across the state.

Right now, Gabe Suarez says he has to buy out of state. That can cost a pretty penny.

"Every product we sell, we're essentially sending that product to a farmer outside of Florida," said Suarez. "So all the money our stores are bringing in is going out of Florida, to another state, to help their economy."

He's applied for a license too, but for smaller-scale operations. Suarez says the more hemp farmers, the better.

"It's hard to say what the exact price difference would be, but I'd imagine having more farmers closer, in state, will bring, if anything, shipping prices down, which will bring down overall prices," said Suarez.

Hemp can grow in about three months, so after processing you could our first Florida hemp approved hemp products by September.

"It's all new so it might not work this year," Keen said. "But we'll be on the forefront on the knowledge, so maybe next year things will pick up and we'll do real good next year."

Roughly 700 people are going through the application process, which includes a full background check like fingerprinting, and 165 people have applied for licenses.