Area farmers, business people, and members of the community attended a Three Rivers College press conference on Wednesday, August 14, at the Three Rivers – Sikeston location to discuss the College growing industrial hemp as an educational initiative to help local farmers.
“Agriculture is a huge part of our area,” said Dr. Wesley Payne, President of Three Rivers College. “It’s exciting to be part of a project like this—one that could have such a great economic impact on our area farmers and our community. We’re excited to see what the future holds.”
The need for this education came about when Missouri Senate bill SB133 was signed into law on June 24 by Missouri Governor Mike Parson. The new law allows Missouri institutions of higher education and their research centers to “…engage in the research and study of industrial hemp as authorized under the federal Agricultural Act of 2014 or any successor law without being required to obtain a registration.” (Source: https://senate.mo.gov/19info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=20)
This new law allows Missouri universities and colleges to start growing industrial hemp sooner—because they don’t have to register—which in turn allows them to help educate area farmers before they plant their first industrial hemp cash crops next year.
Industrial hemp is a producer of CBD oil, and naturally only produces slight amounts of THC. Laws allow the plants to produce no more than 0.3% THC concentration or the crops could be destroyed.
Three Rivers College is the first institution of higher education in southeast Missouri, and only second in the state, to study the crop.
“Area farmers came to us asking if we could plant a few varieties of industrial hemp so they could see what its needs are before they’re allowed to start growing it themselves next year,” said Dr. Melissa Davis, Department Chair – Communications, Agriculture, Languages, and Fine Arts. “This crop has the opportunity to be a great economic benefit to our area, so we were happy to help them learn more about it.”
Trey Wilson, part of the group of Sikeston area farmers who have been working with Davis on the project, thanked Three Rivers, Davis, and Missy Marshall, director of TRC-Sikeston, for making it a reality. “Three Rivers has gone above and beyond on this project. Without them we wouldn’t have this hemp field to watch and study as it grows,” said Wilson. “Getting to try different methods of weed control, different plant species, and more in a real-world setting has been invaluable.”
The College is studying two varieties of industrial hemp and using different methods of planting, growing, and harvesting to see which methods work best. The crop will be harvested later this year.
Attendees had the opportunity to walk among the plots of hemp to look at the progress of the various methods.
This study of industrial hemp will also help educate TRC agriculture students this fall. “We will bring our ag students here this Fall semester to study the crop and talk about what’s working and what isn’t,” said Davis. “This project gives our students a truly unique opportunity.”
“Partnerships like this one with area farmers will help improve our educational programming,” said Payne. “The purpose of our ag program is to prepare tomorrow’s farmers to be successful. Part of that is teaching our students that you have to find new things and innovative ways to make farming sustainable and profitable long term.”
For information on agriculture areas of study at Three Rivers, contact Dr. Melissa Davis at 573-840-9618.
Three Rivers College is committed to contributing to the quality of life in Southeast Missouri with quality, affordable higher education opportunities and community services that support and encourage the economic, civic, and cultural vitality of the region. For more information about college and workforce programs and upcoming events, visit trcc.edu.