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New hemp farm opens opportunities for Tri-State farmers and students

There’s a new hemp farm in Rushville, Illinois.

The owners said although the crop is new, it has the potential to change the future of farming.

At Stoney Branch Ag Ventures, they’re gearing up to harvest three acres of hemp, for the first time ever. Hemp was approved in the farm bill last year. It’s something they said could open up new opportunities for farmers and students.

“This is where our CBD will be located at and that’s what we’ll be extracting,” Chief Operating Officer Justin Ward said.

Employees at Stoney Branch Ag Ventures said they’re taking farming to the next level.

“Hemp is an opportunity for farmers to add a new crop into their rotation,” Ward said.

Hemp, which is the fiber of the cannabis plant, extracted from the stem, is now planted on a fifth generation family farm in Rushville.

Ward said right now, their focus is on CBD production.

“CBD is very popular right now,” Ward said. “It’s definitely a popular thing and people are producing hemp for it.”

He said after they harvest the hemp, it goes to an extractor that processes it. Then, it ends up in CBD-based products on the shelves.

Stoney Branch Ag Ventures CEO Jack Martin said as a farmer, he understands the struggle with crops, which is why he allowed Ward to plant hemp on his farm.

“I’ve always looked and said to myself, what is that other crop that an Illinois farmer can plant and help support his family in the industry,” Martin said.

Ward isn’t limiting the opportunities to farmers, as he’s also expanding them to students by partnering with Western Illinois University to conduct research trials.

It’s a partnership he hopes drives more younger people into farming.

“For young people, hemp is exciting, because there’s a lot of young people from the farm that aren’t interested in farming,” Ward said. “They’ve grown up around corn and soybeans and hemp is new, something different. Cannabis-based medicine and therapy is a popular thing right now.”

It’s a company he hopes will continue to grow.

“We hope to be able to scale this up and keep it a family operation,” Ward said.

Stoney Branch Ag Ventures will be holding an open house-field day on September 20 and 21, where the public will be able to ask questions they have, along with a tour of the facility.

Ward said they plan to grow hemp year-round when the 7,500 square foot greenhouse is finished.

He said aside from selling it, they also are working to help Illinois farmers plant hemp, as it takes different methods and machinery.

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