'We had a better than average yield': Local farm finds success growing hemp

2019 is first time hemp could be legally grown in Virginia since 1930s

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – At True Harvest Farms in Christiansburg, there are just a handful of the 85 acres of hemp planted that still needed to be harvested Monday.

"The prospect looks pretty good. We had a better than average yield," True Harvest Farms general manager John Straw said.

On Sept. 30, someone cut a hole in the fence around the fields and stole about 40 hemp plants.

Straw said it's "just a big waste."

"It cost us money on our end and they're not going to get anything out of it, except maybe they'll get some health benefits out of it. But other than that, they're not going to get anything on their end, not what they're expecting or anticipating anyway," Straw said.

The hemp does not produce a high like marijuana, as many people think it does.

According to the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, the case was still under investigation Monday.

"The suspect did lose their cellphone. We found it laying in the grass," Straw said.

A search warrant has been filed for the cellphone, but the warrant does not say if anything was gleaned from the phone.

Montgomery County Extension Agent Kelli Scott said the problem is widespread.

"We have seen a lot of hemp thefts on many farms across the Commonwealth of Virginia," Scott said.

She said farmers are very excited about hemp and she doesn't anticipate the thefts deterring farmers from growing the crop.

"I think what farmers have really learned a lot about this year is not only the types of hemp to grow, the varieties that are most suitable to the different regions of Virginia, not just here in New River Valley but all across the Commonwealth. I think folks are really working on their spacing options, how far apart do you place plants, and then seeing how we can get a staggered variety," Scott said.

For True Harvest Farms, hemp's revenue potential makes the headaches of theft and learning to grow it worthwhile.

"We do plan on probably increasing acreage next year," Straw said.