Standing between two rows of thigh-high hemp crops close to the Tennessee-Kentucky border, the retired owner of a New Hampshire convenience store cheerfully recalled why he chose to grow his first hemp crop this year.
Barry Paterno, 67, is a gardener, not a farmer — he likes to grow tomatoes and corn. But he saw on the local TV news that an acre of hemp could bring in as much as $50,000 a year. Paterno, who now lives in Tennessee, was inspired to begin his farming career.
Stories like his have been repeated across the country: Farmers are rushing to plant newly legalized hemp in hopes of striking it rich, or at least making a good chunk of change in a period of low commodity prices. Hemp is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis.
But as growers across 34 states start to harvest as much as half a million acres of hemp this fall, many newcomers have no idea who will buy their crop or even who will prepare it for sale. Paterno, speaking during a tour of a farm owned by an organic farmer with experience growing marijuana, said he doesn't know what kind of return he’ll get on his $8,000 investment.