Legalized by a bill signed by Governor Brian Kemp in 2019, hemp agriculture brings to Georgia an industry projected to reach $1.9 billion in U.S. product sales by next year, whereas, previously, hemp-derived products had to be imported from surrounding states, Georgia can now grow and process its own. In the early 1900s, the United States was home to nearly a million Black farmers; in 2017, there were fewer than 46,000.
As a young Black grower, Sedrick Rowe represents a tradition lost over the course of the 20th century, one that now finds itself in need of nurturing, too: In the early 1900s, the United States was home to nearly a million Black farmers; in 2017, there were fewer than 46,000. Rowe, who turned 30 this year, wants to empower Black people to thrive in the farming industry, recognizing in it the possibility of economic self-sufficiency and even generational wealth. And he hopes hemp will be part of that. In 2020, Rowe made history as one of the first farmers in South Georgia to raise a crop of organic hemp.
Rowe spent four months last summer tending his new crop, minding THC levels, battling Southern Blight and other encroachments to his small acreage of land. He and Wilson harvested the crop twice—in September and December—and shipped it to a processor, which extracted the plants’ cannabidiol (CBD) oil and packaged it in one-ounce bottles that Rowe will sell on his website for $105. All in all, Rowe made $30,000 as a first-time hemp farmer. This summer, armed with hands-on knowledge from his first growing cycle, he’s getting ready to do it all over again.
Despite the industry historically being an uphill battle of land access and federal assistance, Rowe is determined to succeed. He’s been farming on his own since 2017, producing and selling organic peanuts, watermelons, and collard greens in Albany and other small plots of land throughout the state. Now, he wants others to join him. When his hands aren’t in the soil, he’s seeking out young Black farmers to connect with. “I wanted to give a whole ’nother perspective of farming,” he says. “I wanted to prove it doesn’t look like a struggle anymore.”
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