EUSTIS, Fla. — It’s a 21st-century greenhouse, for an ancient crop. For Glenn Treadwell, of Treadwell Farms, that crop is hemp.
“I just like the idea that we can do it all year long,” he said. “It's a plant that'll capture you.”
His family has been farming in Florida for more than a century, but hemp is a more recent addition.
“It's one of the harder plants to grow,” he said. “You just have to have the right processes, and that's what we had to learn and people taught us and we're trying to teach other people just the right way to handle it.”
Jammie Treadwell is Glenn’s daughter and part of the next generation of Treadwell farmers.
“We have over 50 acres in production,” she said of the hemp crop. “We grow at the times of the year when other parts of the country can't.”
After bursting onto the farming scene around the country several years ago, hemp production declined. Yet, that’s expected to change, with the U.S. market for hemp projected to triple from $5.6 billion a year now, to $17.4 billion by 2027.
The top 10 hemp-growing states include Colorado, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Michigan, New York and Florida, along with Oregon, Illinois and North Carolina.
In Florida, where citrus is king, state agriculture officials say hemp farming is expected to grow to half the size of the state’s citrus acreage within the next four years, from 22,078 acres now to 300,000 acres by 2025.
“We've been known for growing citrus all these years, and unfortunately, with the greening and the other viruses, the production of citrus has dramatically dropped,” said Holly Bell, with the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Hemp may help fill in the gap, said Bell, who is the state agriculture department’s Director of Cannabis, which oversees the Fresh From Florida hemp program.
“You're getting something that's regulated, monitored, tested through the entire system and it's safe for consumer consumption,” said Bell of the state’s rigorous hemp testing program.
That is why, under that program, Treadwell Farms isn’t just growing hemp, but branching out into creating hemp products, too, and it’s happening inside a former citrus processing facility.
“The earrings that I'm wearing are made from hemp, my jeans are made of fifty percent hemp,” said Jammie Treadwell. “We're working with a couple of entrepreneurs that are using it for more renewable sources of animal bedding. There's so many possibilities.”
They are possibilities that the family hopes will pay off.