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US (MO): Local growers bet on hemp

Tasha Mueller has watched the vista around her family’s century farm in Wentzville, Missouri, turn from rolling fields to subdivided neighborhoods, altering the landscape and lifestyle surrounding the memories of her youth. Mueller’s grandfather Raymond and his brother Ralph tended this land, now known as R&R Farms, for all of their lives – something their ancestors have done since 1904. Today, the farm continues a pared-down version of its row crop legacy, and in recent years has welcomed a new specialty crop: hemp.

Centuries before its prohibition in the 1930s and well before the whisper of “cannabis” furrowed the brows of concerned parents across the nation, the cultivation of agricultural cannabis was often a family affair. Now, with the rise of CBD use, legalization of recreational cannabis in 18 states, and medical cannabis in 37 states (including Missouri), hemp is rejuvenating the soil and diversifying the livelihoods of family farms large and small.

As many farm kids do, Mueller ventured away from agrarian living after high school, but following the birth of her first daughter, she felt called to care for the earth again. Serendipitously, a friend had recently planted a seed of an idea: introducing hemp on her family’s farm. At the time, the crop promised a hefty profit. “Two years ago, you were going to be a millionaire if you grew hemp,” she says. “So originally, it was, ‘Let’s do this to save the farm.’” Though it has not garnished the millions in profit they hoped for – a reality for hemp growers nationwide – it’s saved the farm in another way. “I think in the process, what we got that we didn’t really plan on is the super deep connection with our family,” she says. “My cousin does all the other farming, and I saw him a couple of times a year. Now we’re in weekly conversations, sitting in the field together drinking beer and trying to problem-solve.” Seeking diversification, not an overhaul, R&R Farms has just six acres of hemp, a small parcel on more than 100 acres of land. But the thumbprint has already had a large impact. “With corn and soybeans, my cousin’s working very hard, but there’s nobody else who’s gonna step up,” she says. Now, you’ll often find Mueller’s whole extended family walking rows or helping during hemp harvest.


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