Cash Crop

Hemp Inc.’s CEO Bruce Perlowin is seen here in a hemp field. The plant is a cousin of marijuana and produces very low amounts of THC. Hemp can be grown legally in Arizona and 40 other states. Hemp was removed from the list of Schedule I controlled substances when President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp.

Now that state and federal laws allow Arizona farmers to grow hemp, expect to see hemp fields sprouting in the Grand Canyon state.

In Mohave County, hemp farming has already gotten a head start with Hemp Inc.’s project near Golden Valley. CEO Bruce Perlowin said Monday that he has 4,500 acres of land north of Kingman that will contain a 500-acre community now under construction. Dubbed a “Veteran Village,” the 500 acres will contain 160 lots of 2 1/2 acre parcels. Each parcel farmed by a U.S. military veteran can yield one acre of hemp as well as support a garden, beehives, a pond and a sustainable dwelling. He expects to begin actively looking for veterans to work the land by January 2020.

Perlowin estimated the market value of one acre of hemp at $30,000 to $60,000 for a high quality CBD crop.

“We’ll grow hemp for CBD oil, not fiber. Fiber isn’t really profitable,” he said.

Perlowin’s publicly traded Hemp Inc., founded in 2008, is based in Spring Hope, North Carolina. The company has growing and processing operations in North Carolina, Oregon and now, a growing operation in Arizona.

An additional 300 acres of hemp will be grown at Hemp Inc.’s Golden Valley farm above and beyond the veterans’ acreage. If all goes as planned, Perlowin hopes to establish a hemp processing facility in Kingman.

“There’s a processing plant in Las Vegas, but really, it’s too far away,” he said, noting that the hemp buds wilt and degrade when the shipping distance is beyond 50 miles.

“We’re hoping to open a processing center in Kingman. We’ll need a warehouse that is 50,000 to 200,000 square feet on a railroad spur,” Perlowin said. He estimated a processing facility would employ 200 people full time and another 100 seasonal workers during harvests.

But first, hemp seeds must be planted. To teach others how to farm hemp, Hemp Inc. is coordinating a Hempathon. Perlowin said 20 growers have already signed up for the program at a cost of $50,000 each. Growers must provide their own seeds.

The Hempathon is a joint venture with Hemp Inc. and growers. The arrangement is a 50-50 revenue split with the company. The contest provides each participant with a five-acre parcel and includes the planting, maintaining, harvesting and processing of hemp plants. Investors in the competition hire master hemp growers to get the job done.

Winners will share up to $100,000 in prize money. Perlowin said five acres of quality hemp can net up to $300,000.

Numbers like that have the attention of Tami Ursenbach, Mohave County’s economic development director.

“I want to know how Mohave County can capitalize on the hemp industry,” she said Monday afternoon, noting that recently she has been in talks with four potential growers in addition to helping Perlowin locate industrial space in Kingman for a hemp processing facility.

“Mohave County farmers already grow grapes, nuts, hay and alfalfa, so it shouldn’t be a stretch to consider growing hemp,” Ursenbach said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Mohave County farms had $23 million in crop sales for 2017. It’s the most recent year for which the USDA could provide statistics. The report includes grain, fruit and vegetable sales for the county.

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