Beginning of fall means first hemp harvest for Butler County farmer

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 5:09 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The beginning of fall means harvest time for a crop less commonly grown by Kansas farmers, hemp.

Last month, Eyewitness News told the story of Robert Johnstone’s hemp farm. He was inspired to grow the plant after seeing how much it contributed to improving the quality of life for two Benton sisters who battled serious health issues with a rare condition known as microcephaly.

Claire and Lola Hartley died less than one year apart, Claire in December 2018 and Lola last October, but there were victories along the way. In May 2019, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed Senate Bill 28, “Claire and Lola’s Bill.” into law. The bill allows people with life-threatening medical conditions to get CBD oil with a small amount of THC. Claire and Lola’s parents lobbied for the bill because both of their daughters used CBD to help with seizures.

With the arrival of cooler temperatures and a new season, it’s time for Johnstone to start harvesting at BOK Farms in Butler County. This year’s hemp harvest is the first for Johnstone.

“It’s our first time growing anything more than a tomato,” he said.

While stepping into a new process, Johnstone said his plants look nearly perfect.

“We’re very proud of what we accomplished,” he said.

Growing and harvesting hemp is legal in Kansas, as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent of THC. Johnstone’s plants passed that test at 0.242 percent.

Once the state tests and approves the THC levels, farmers have 10 days to get the plants out of the ground. That’s all done by hand.

Johnstone starts by cutting the stems and then trimming off water leaves.

“Trim all that stuff off, then I’ll dry and cure into little, into little nugs,” he said.

It’s a time-consuming process for the boutique Butler County farm of more than 200-plus plants.

“This stuff is good for oils, we just separate it out,” Johnstone said Wednesday as he began harvesting his hemp.

He does have a few tools to help. By the end, he’ll dry the useful parts of the plants and take his crop to a local processor. There, it’ll be turned into CBD oil.

Johnstone hopes his CBD will be used to help people like the Hartleys.

“I know that Claire and Lola Hartley, ‘the Hooligans,' they’re up there right now, looking over the field, giving us all the blessings they can get,” he said.

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