Hemp seeds to be planted at farm in Berks County

MAXATAWNY TWP., Pa. - It's used in many organic foods and body care products and very soon it will be planted right here in Berks County.

You've probably heard of it, but have likely never seen it in our area because it's hasn't been grown here in 80 years--it's hemp.

"There was this connotation that well all these hippies are nothing but a bunch of potheads and not really farmers," said Jeff Moyer, the executive director of the Rodale Institute.

It was outlawed under the Controlled Substance Act in the 1970s.

With support from hemp activists, like the folks at the Rodale Institute in Maxatawny Township, the state passed a bill in 2014 that will allow the crop to be grown strictly for research purposes.

Hemp seeds will be planted at Rodale in a few short days.

"We spent a lot of time in the organic industry trying to put solid science behind what we're doing so that we can reach out to conventional agriculture and help transition them from where they are using poisons and salt-based fertilizers into an organic model," said Moyer.

Dozens of people took a tractor ride around Rodale's over 300 acres of farmland to learn more about the crop that can be used for fuel, fiber, food and can even stop weeds from destroying crops.

The three to four different varieties of the hemp seeds will be planted in a large field on the property which is just over an acre.

"Hemp had been a crop that has been on the radar of research scientists for a very long time," said Dr. Kris Nichols, Rodale Institute's chief scientist.

Researchers say they hope after the trial period, hemp will become a farming staple in our area.

The Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council will host a free celebration of the industrial hemp crop on Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Michael the Archangel School in Bethlehem at 4121 Old Bethlehem Pike.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Reading, State Senators Schwank and Folmer, and 14 of Pennsylvania’s hemp farmers will be on hand along with displays and workshops.

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