A lush field of cannabis growing on a secluded hilltop in central New York may look and smell like marijuana, but its myriad uses don’t include getting high.
New York’s first legal hemp farm in decades has taken root under a pilot program that’s part of a national resurgence of a plant that’s prized for making food, clothing and shelter but long banned along with its smokable cousin.
“The versatility of this crop is amazing,” said JD Farms co-owner Mark Justh, who left an international finance career to grow organic hay and pastured beef cattle and pigs on farmland 170 miles northwest of New York City. He added organic hemp to the mix this summer under a research partnership with Morrisville State College.
Because of its resemblance to marijuana, the hemp field at JD Farms had a prominent “No Trespassing” sign that advises “No THC.” Even if marijuana plants were hidden among the hemp, cross-pollination would render the pot impotent.
Hemp has been used for millennia as a source of oil, protein and fiber used in clothing, rope and paper. Modern uses include cosmetics, nutritional supplements, biofuels, building materials and pharmaceuticals.