| The Hutchinson News
The industrial hemp industry has introduced many non-farmers to farming. For Terrie Rogers and Tim Beauchamp of Pretty Prairie, neither of whom grew up on a farm, the prospect of growing this versatile crop was intriguing.
Last year, they applied for a Kansas Industrial Hemp Research License, obtained the proper background checks and proceeded to build a farm on some of their 18 acres of land in Reno County.
On Jan. 8, when commercial industrial hemp licenses become available for the first time in Kansas, they will apply again.
Beauchamp and Rogers built the infrastructure and researched the basics. The two found discarded materials — old barn doors, out-of-date store fixtures and old chicken coops. They cleaned and repurposed the items, put in electricity, dug a well, fitted specially-designed lights and administered lots of insulation. Within a few months, they had the beginnings of their dream farm — TNT Pharms.
“We didn’t want to spend any money building something if we weren’t going to get our license,” Rogers said. “We’ve done everything by ourselves.”
What makes this farm different from many other research industrial hemp farms in Kansas is the couple’s desire — and ability — to grow this product exclusively indoors. To learn the basics of growing the crop, Beauchamp worked for a few months on a hemp farm in Oklahoma.
But being indoors changes the type of insects the plants face. By introducing ladybugs, praying mantises and worm castings, TNT Pharms has kept down insect infestation. In addition, the worm castings, which they buy from Hutchinson-based FednHappy, has helped the plants thrive.
“The worm castings are awesome,” Rogers said. “I’ve noticed less of the bugs and exceeding buds.”
TNT has three rooms in which to grow plants. The couple starts out the seeds hydroponically, then they switch to dirt. Their lights are set to simulate the sun, giving plants a prescribed amount of resting time, dependent upon their stage of growth.
Beauchamp and Rogers are currently running approximately 50 plants on a monthly cycle. The couple set up a drying room on the premises as well.
Because hemp with more than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) cannot be grown in Kansas, the FDA must test each crop directly before harvest. THC is the primary compound in cannabis that is psychoactive, or responsible for creating an altered state.
TNT’s first crop of CBD (cannabidiol) hemp went well. But the next two crops had slightly more than the allocated amount of THC and had to be destroyed. Rogers said she was told this elevation was due to the genetics of their seeds.
“I’m thankful that it wasn’t an entire year’s worth,” she said.
Beauchamp and Rogers remain hopeful and plan to obtain new seeds for their next crop.
Commercial hemp applications available
In 2021, Kansas is switching from research to commercial industrial hemp production. Applications to grow hemp commercially become available on Jan. 8 on the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s website.
“We should be releasing licenses around the first part of February,” said Braden Hoch, industrial hemp specialist for KDA.
All licenses will expire each year on Dec. 31. Each license costs $1,200.
TNT will apply for the commercial license and continue to grow commercial hemp on a rotational basis — hoping to have a small crop to harvest each month. Last year, 11 other Reno County growers were granted a research license. Reno, along with Butler and Gray counties, had 10 or more licenses issued last year. The other 200 or so applications were distributed throughout the state, with each other county having fewer than 10 applications.
According to Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam, in 2020, more than 3,000 acres of the 10,000 that were licensed were planted, but only 950 acres were harvested.
“KDA’s lab failed 33 of the lab tests because the THC level exceeded 0.3%,” he said at a recent KDA meeting.
In addition, Beam said, the drought in western Kansas caused much of this loss.
Beauchamp and Rogers are thankful they produce smaller batches and will continue to develop and learn.
“We’ve come a long way in less than a year,” Rogers said. “It’s so much work, but it’s fun.”
2020 Industrial Hemp Licenses by County
Sample counties, number of hemp growers