WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) -- Kansas farmers are harvesting hemp fields for the first time in nearly 80 years. The state selected farmers across the state for a hemp research program earlier in 2019. Now, farmers are ready to harvest.
Richard Gash plans to harvest at sunrise Thursday morning. He says it has not been easy getting to this point. Gash says even though he hasn't harvested yet, he's already looking forward to doing things differently next year.
Gash says environmental factors impacted his hemp fields. "We had about 40 inches of rain in May and June so that set our planting off until July," he says.
The hemp fields are heavily regulated under Kansas' research program. Gash couldn't use insecticides on his plants. He says he lost a lot of plants to bugs and worms. Every day, Gash picked bugs and worms off each plant by hand.
He originally planted five acres, expecting around 100,000 plants. Thursday morning, he has about 400 plants to harvest.
One look at Gash's hemp fields may appear that hemp doesn't grow well in Kansas, but Gash disagrees. He believes less rain, using a insect-resistant agent and planting a different variety of hemp will bring more success next year.
"If these would have been planted 30 day previous to when they were, you would see right now bushes," he says.
This year, he planted a variety used for CBD. Thursday, he will cut each plant at the stalk, then send each plant through a machine that pulls off the flowers. The flowers are then pressed to extract the CBD.
The research program monitored the THC levels in the hemp plants. THC is the component in cannabis plants that makes you high. Hemp has low THC levels. The federal legal limits is .3% THC in hemp. The state tested Gash's field last week and it was .1% THC. After the test, Gash had 10 days to harvest.