Local Farmer Hopes Hemp Will Grow Profits

Local Farmer Hopes Hemp Will Grow Profits

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Could an agricultural experiment in Ellisburg lead to a hemp industry in the north country?

It's just an empty field right now, but it will be a field of hemp in a few months.
Marc Privitera's business, PreProcess, Inc, now has a research permit that allows Privitera to grow hemp in New York state.

"I'm excited to be one of the first ones,” the Ellisburg man said. “I'm going to have fun with it."

The goal is to see if hemp can be a new cash crop for local farmers.

Growing hemp was illegal in the United States for more than 75 years. A common misconception was that hemp is marijuana, but hemp actually has less than .3 percent THC, the substance in marijuana that makes people high. By contrast, medical marijuana has THC levels between 5 and 20 percent.

Before now, universities in New York state were the only ones to have research permits. 

Privitera is one of six private farms and businesses that will be experimenting.

"We want to build the processing and manufacturing hub because you have to have products,” Privitera said, “because if you can't sell the products, there is no sense planting the hemp."

Hemp seed and stalks can be made into a number of goods, including building materials, clothing, fuel and medicine. 

Jefferson County agricultural coordinator Jay Matteson says having a hemp industry pioneer in the county is a big deal.

"Having Mark with that license allows our ag industry to be on the forefront of not only growing hemp,” Matteson said, “but also manufacturing it into value-added products and that's where you have the most benefit for your local economy." 

Matteson says this could eventually create jobs and bring revenue into the local economy, but growing hemp has its challenges.

"The states are finding ways to make it all legal and give these opportunities,” Privitera said, “but it's tough to get seeds."

Seeds have to be imported from Canada, Europe or Asia – and they're expensive.

"They're $20 a pound, $30 a pound," Privitera said.

That'll be Privitera's next step: importing the seed so he can start planting.

Privitera hopes to be planting hemp seed on June 15 and, by this time next year, he wants to have the processing and manufacturing plant up and running. 

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