Organization helps Reno County lead the race to hemp grower's licenses

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One of the surviving plants on Thayne Edigers two acres of hemp. One of the surviving plants on Thayne Edigers two acres of hemp.
Thayne Ediger stands at the entrance gate to his two acres of hemp.  A sign warning the field is not marijuana is posted right by the entrance. Thayne Ediger stands at the entrance gate to his two acres of hemp. A sign warning the field is not marijuana is posted right by the entrance.
From the fence it's not immediately obvious this is a hemp field as the plants blend into the cover crop and about half the plants died in flooding and hail storms earlier this year. From the fence it's not immediately obvious this is a hemp field as the plants blend into the cover crop and about half the plants died in flooding and hail storms earlier this year.
A four foot tall barbed wire fence and security cameras provide additional security around Ediger's hemp field. A four foot tall barbed wire fence and security cameras provide additional security around Ediger's hemp field.
A Eurasian Hemp Borer Ediger pulled from one of his plants Thursday, just the latest hurdle he's faced on the way to harvest. A Eurasian Hemp Borer Ediger pulled from one of his plants Thursday, just the latest hurdle he's faced on the way to harvest.
RENO COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) -

“There's a lot of hurdles that we've been through so far,” said Thayne Ediger, one of the licensed hemp farmers in Kansas.

In one Kansas county. hemp farmers are working together to jump those hurdles. Reno County is leading the charge in Kansas’ hemp producing experiment, even though things haven’t exactly gone according to plan so far.

“Required to post a sign, um, letting people know that basically this is not marijuana, this is hemp,” Ediger explains pointing to a large sign by the gate to a 2 acre field that reads, “This is not marijuana.  This field is part of the Kansas Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Research Program…. NO TRESPASSING.”

Ediger says he’s glad they let him post the sign at the entrance gate to his two acre hemp field rather than out by the road, it’s less visible and easier to hide.  Then there’s the barbed wire fencing and the security cameras hidden around the field.  It’s all to prevent the hemp from being misused.

“(The Department of Agriculture) requires you to have your growers license and your drivers license with you at all times when you're in the field,” he said.  “There's a lot of hurdles that we've been through so far.”

Those hurdles began long before Ediger put a single plant in the ground.

“Fingerprinted, background checks, all that stuff,” he said, listing off just some of the stuff he had to do to get his grower’s license.  “I mean it just took a lot of time.”

He says he never would have made it without help.

“P.J. Sneed is kind of the organizer in our area,” he explained.

Thanks to that organization, Reno County farmers now hold more grower, producer and distributor licenses than farmers in any other county in Kansas.

The informal co-op Sneed set-up continues to work together, sharing the specialized equipment needed to harvest, dry and process the hemp for sale. 

They’ve also continued to rely on each other as they’ve struggled through what one might call the bad news trifecta of farming.

“We got started late because of all the rain.  Since my crops have been in the ground I've had 9.5 inches of rain on it, two hail storms,” Ediger counted off.

Then there’s the recent addition of pests.

“I don't know if you can see that hole down in there” Ediger said, displaying a Eurasian borer stuck into the stem of one of his hemp plants.  “They just bore down in there and feed off of the internal part of the plant.”

But, they’re not letting these problems get them down, instead looking ahead to what it all may lead to: a crop that has the potential to pay $30 - $40,000 an acre.

“If it does make it, then I think it could be good in future years,” Ediger said.  “I mean if you can get in on the ground level of it, that would be the time to get in.”

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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