Over the long holiday weekend, a grower in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom held a new twist on the familiar "pick-your-own" farm trips — encouraging visitors to pick their own hemp.
At Baramu Farm in Stannard, the pick-your-own hemp offering was aimed at giving folks an up-close look at the crop that's exploded across Vermont's landscape.
"The same way you pick your own apples, [or] you pick your own blueberries," Johanna Polsenberg of Baramu Farm said of the pick-your-own hemp promotion over the three-day Indigenous Peoples' Day Weekend.
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It's the end of the season for the cannabis cousin to marijuana, which lacks pot's mind-altering THC.
"I've been drinking tea, and it has a nice little feeling — without getting high," Eric Alan, who was picking hemp at Baramu Farm Monday, said of what he plans to do with the product he was putting into a brown paper bag in a small section of field open to visitors.
In the industrial fields of the farm, Baramu's staff was also hard at work harvesting Monday. It is one of about 900 farms now growing hemp in the state.
Those growers are largely aiming to cash in on a movement that's seen consumers increasingly turning to ointments and other products containing CBD oil extracted from hemp to provide relief from problems like anxiety, arthritis or soreness.
Agriculture leaders in Vermont see hemp as a way the state better known for dairy and maple syrup can diversify its farm sector, as they said in a news story last year, when there were fewer hemp farms enrolled with the state.
Big questions linger about CBD remedies, however. Many consumers swear by them, but so far, the federal Food and Drug Administration has only approved CBD to treat rare forms of epilepsy.
That has the Vermont Agency of Agriculture cautious about predicting any windfalls.
"A lot revolves around what FDA does — whether they allow this to be a nutraceutical or pharmaceutical," Deputy Vermont Agriculture Secretary Alyson Eastman told necn affiliate NBC 5 News in an interview last month.
Asked by necn whether it is possible the CBD bubble could burst, Polsenberg acknowledged, "It's absolutely possible," then relayed a story about comments she has heard from other growers.
"When we were at a conference with other hemp growers and hemp folks in Vermont, there were jokes being made that where it used to be a fear of the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, now most hemp growers — their fear is the FDA," Polsenberg said.
However, Polsenberg is optimistic the CBD sector can continue growing, saying Baramu Farm hopes the administration will listen to promising early findings about CBD. She said she would also like federal authorities to study what Vermont has done at the state level to encourage safe and reputable farming and manufacturing practices.
As for Baramu's rare pick-your-own hemp concept? The farm is already thinking of offering more dates next fall, Polsenberg said.