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Harvest New York releases manual for NYS hemp growers

A new, first-of-its-kind manual will provide guidelines and best practices for New York state growers of hemp – a crop with the potential to revitalize economies while revolutionizing industries from fiber to pharmaceuticals.

Daniela Vergara, a Cornell Cooperative Extension emerging crops specialist, helped produce a new freely available hemp-growing manual.

Daniela Vergara, a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) emerging crops specialist, and a team of Cornell researchers and students have put together the “New York State Cannabis sativa L. Production Manual,” freely available as a PDF document on the Cornell Hemp Program website.

“I think it’s the best manual out there,” said Vergara, a member of the Harvest New York economic development program, a state-funded multidisciplinary program of CCE specialists dedicated to developing New York’s farm and food economies. For the hemp growers manual, she gathered input from colleagues across CCE and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, with the assistance of a team of Cornell graduate students.

“Everyone knows the industry needs resources to grow, and this was a wonderful collaborative process,” she said.

Zachary Stansel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture contributed, as well as industry experts and researchers from Alabama A&M University. The guide was developed with support from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, and the Toward Sustainability Foundation.

While the manual is geared toward growers and producers, a thriving hemp industry would impact the entire state.

“Hemp is the material of the future,” said New York State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee. “And positioning New York to lead the way in its production is a winning strategy for removing plastics from our world and fighting the climate crisis, boosting rural economic development, and giving our small farmers a new revenue source.”

Said New York Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Agriculture: “I am proud to support the development of this comprehensive manual on hemp production. This resource will be invaluable to farmers, businesses, and policymakers alike as we work to build a successful and sustainable hemp industry in New York State. I thank the team at Harvest New York for their hard work on this project, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on our state.”

Damian Fagon, chief equity officer for New York’s Office of Cannabis Management, said that democratizing technical assistance is essential for hemp cultivation throughout the supply chain.

“The office is hopeful that this manual will guide new and experienced farmers in every corner of the state,” he said.

Unlike the standard growing guides, the manual is interactive, full-color, and fully illustrated. It includes graphs and charts to make the complicated information easier to digest for current and prospective growers.

“My goal with this manual was that if someone wanted to start growing tomorrow, they could read this and find all the information they would need to be successful,” Vergara said.

To that end, the manual includes production guidelines for selecting and growing hemp both in the field and indoors, along with considerations for grain and fiber processing, as well as relevant legal and regulatory information for New York state.

As new research emerges and state guidelines change, Vergara plans to continue updating the manual. The website will also evolve, and a Spanish-language edition is planned for 2024.

“As a land-grant university, it’s our mission and charge to make research-based information available to anyone who needs it,” said Judson Reid, Harvest New York team leader. “For years, CCE has been putting out crop guides, but this particular manual takes everything to a new level.”


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