By Rob McCarthy, Special to the Acorn | September 26, 2019
Lima beans, walnuts, sugar beets, citrus, bell peppers and strawberries. The list goes on of the different crops that have been planted and reaped over the past century and a half on fertile farmland throughout Ventura County.
Various forces, both natural and man-made, have shaped when, what and where farmers have planted over the years. So, too, have politics and public taste.
This year, those two forces have led residents from Camarillo to Moorpark and beyond to notice a new crop springing up on farms big and small.
It’s caused heads to turn and noses to be pinched. The large swaths of hemp in the county are a sign that the commercial demand of the ancient plant is changing the landscape, despite the fact that it’s long been taboo due to its similarity to marijuana.
Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Ed Williams estimates that between 2,500 and 3,000 acres of industrial hemp are being grown locally.
Due to the passage of 2018’s federal Farm Bill—which separated hemp from other cannabis plants, namely marijuana, and made it an agricultural commodity versus a scheduled drug—this is the first year that hemp can be grown legally by any farmer willing to apply for a license and pay the $900 fee.
Growers must apply for a license, pay the fee and have their crop tested before harvest to ensure it has less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive chemical in traditional cannabis. Any crops that don’t pass the test are required to be destroyed under state law.
“Hemp doesn’t have enough of that (THC) to raise your spirits,” Williams said. “It does the opposite (and) has a calming effect.”