US (NC): Farmers of color have to carefully weigh the potential risks and rewards of growing hemp

The challenges of navigating a developing market, emerging loan practices, and startup costs can compound existing barriers, especially for newer growers.  For North Carolina farmer Patrick Brown, hemp’s appeal lies in its ability to nourish the more than 175 acres his family has farmed since his great-grandfather, Byron, acquired land after the Civil War in 1865.

Brown’s father, Arthur, planted row crops—tobacco, soybeans, and corn, among others—for more than 60 years in Henderson, a town about 40 miles from Raleigh. As pesticide and herbicide use grew nationwide, the Browns and farmers like them relied more on chemical use to reap bountiful harvests.

“Now is my time as the fourth generation to change that. My father farmed to survive. Now, I have the ability to farm to create alternatives, to create processes, to create relief. And that’s what my goal is,” said the 38-year-old.

While hemp presents a lucrative global market projected to top $26 billion by 2025, getting started can be a particular challenge for Black farmers, whose spotty access to loans and technical education are compounded by hemp’s labor costs, regulatory hurdles, and high risk due to upfront investment and unpredictable plant genetics. 


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