A generation of America’s newest farmers have turned to the age-old craft with high hopes for an unexpected and dynamic new cash crop.
Industrial hemp, which recently saw its first legal harvest this fall, has become a huge draw for young and interested new agriculturalists. Amid booming growth numbers in the cannabis industry, they see the crop as a sure venue for profit.
According to a Vice profile on the newfound hemp farming industry, some farmers who had previously made $300 per acre on more common crops like corn and soybeans have been able to increase their profits to $2,000 per acre. 
What fewer know is how intensive and difficult the hemp farming process can be.
“It’s harder to grow than most people think,” Shawn Lucas, assistant professor of organic agriculture and industrial hemp specialist at Kentucky State University told Civil Eats. “You have to understand the life cycle of the crop, understand your soil, and how to feed the crop…” 
Civil Eats said the cultivation of hemp has become a sort of “gateway crop” in an industry with an aging population of practitioners. According to that site, the average farmer is over 59 years old. 
Hemp is useful for its prominent extraction of cannabidiol, or CBD, oil and products. People use these for their everyday maladies, like chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia. It has also been manufactured in an FDA-approved treatment for epilepsy.
But that’s not where the possibilities for hemp end. It’s also been the basis of textiles for centuries, was used for ages as a key ingredient in rope making and ship-building, and it’s been adapted into bioplastics and concrete substitutes.
The Capital Press reports that artist Blu Fortner recently became a farmer for the first time during this year’s harvest in Oregon. 
“I wanted to learn about non-cannabis medicinal plants, and he wanted to learn about hemp,” Fortner said. 
According to advocacy group Vote Hemp, the 78,176 acres of hemp planted in 2018 expanded to more than 230,000 acres this year. 
Many of the new farmers have expounded on the benefits of hemp’s growth, with minimal need for water in the soil or pesticides. There is a reason the plant has been called “weed” for so long, though it isn’t marijuana itself.
“A lot of the newer farmers lack generational knowledge and experience, and unlike conventional crops, there is not an extensive amount of research and information available to newer farmers,” Mike Lewis, a farmer from Kentucky told Civil Eats. “There is a lot of trial and error still going on. We see just as much failure as we do success.”