WICHITA FALLS, TX (TNN) - An industrial hemp summit was held in Wichita Falls Thursday night at The Warehouse. The purpose of the event was to inform the public about hemp farming and what a potential processing plant in Wichita Falls could do for the community.
Farmers like Esther Frerich attended the event.
She said, “Wheat was a big producer in this whole area and it's just not paying the bills anymore.”
Which is why Frerich wants to learn more about hemp farming. So, how does she feel about what she learned at Thursday night’s summit? “Well it’s a complicated deal,” she said.
Brian Farris is at the head of a project to start a hemp processing facility in Wichita Falls.
He is the CEO of Day Off Productions, an event production company that is venturing into the hemp business.
With the most recent U.S. Farm Bill legalizing and insuring hemp farming, now is the perfect time to get into the market. He said, “We don't want to do what Canada did. Canada just grew, and grew, and grew hemp, but there was no way to process it.”
Hemp itself cannot be stored and warehoused for longer than 6 months.
So, entrepreneurs like Ferris are looking to open processing facilities that will turn the plant into other materials that can be used to create batteries, and a product call graphene that can be woven to make bullet proof uniforms for the military. There are even talks to use graphene for Space X's ships.
Since hemp farming and processing is such a new market, Ferris is working to inform the community about the ins and outs.
He said, “A lot of people were telling the farmers to grow. It was people that were just ‘pie in the sky’, not talking the truth about what it actually is. So, we want to let everybody know that we have a much better, stronger, and supportive point of being able to get your product processed so that you can get paid for it.”
Although industrial hemp is the cousin of marijuana, they are not one and the same. Hemp has less than .03% THC, meaning it does not produce the 'high' found in marijuana.
Hemp is also much easier to grow, but processing it would take a lot of money, licensing, permits, approval from the FDA, and lots of equipment.
Ferris feels they could get the whole processing facility started by the summer, but Wichita Falls resident and hemp consultant Adam Byrd is skeptical about the project getting off the ground that soon.
Byrd said, “I would love to see contracts, leases that say, ‘We have this building, this facility’. I would love to see contracts say that we have, from the FDA, assurances. Or, that we have an actual outright permit. I would love to see any of that or the capability to process what their claiming. That would be a fiscal boom to the area.”
Speaking of fiscal booms, Ferris claims a hemp processing facility would provide 150 to 300 jobs in the Wichita Falls area.
Before anything can get off the ground he will need to educate the public.
As for Frerich, well she said she left with more question after the summit ended than before; questions like who will be planting the hemp, how will it be harvested, and how will it be transported?
“I’d have to find out more information, quite a bit of more information,” Frerich said.