Some tobacco farmers turning to hemp for stability

Posted at 3:45 PM, Aug 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-02 20:30:27-04

CEDAR HILL, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some Tennessee tobacco farmers are turning to hemp for financial stability.

An estimated 38,000 acres of hemp will be farmed in Tennessee in 2019. In 2018, 4,700 acres were farmed.

Tobacco farmer Lee Bagwell of Triple J Farms said he considered growing hemp after researching the crop.

"We're not looking, as far as the hemp, to replace our tobacco. We're really blessed with this being a good center of tobacco in the state. That's what our county is really known for is dark fire tobacco," he said.

Instead, the hemp crop is intended to diversify the crop grown on the farm. Bagwell grow 30 acres of tobacco, row crops, such as corn, in addition to his six acres of hemp.

"Our farm has always been diverse," said Bagwell. "The hemp gives us some sense of safety. But it's because we're more diversified and we have a crop failure on one side, we have something to kind of make up for it. That's something we really try to do."

This is Bagwell's first year. He's not sure what type of a profit he will make, but hopes to break even.

He said picking hemp up was easier as it shares some similarities with growing tobacco.

"It really fit our production methods with what we're doing with the tobacco and stuff, right. It was a good fit for us," he said.