The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of cannabis plants for the production of hemp-derived products such as textiles, building materials and CBD – a naturally occurring compound that has become a popular therapeutic substance.
For Kristopher Gupton, an army veteran and native of Boone, North Carolina, and countless other farmers in Appalachia, the 2018 Farm Bill instantly created an economic lifeline. Tobacco and the other cash crops that had been cultivated in the region for over two centuries were no longer profitable.
Over the past 20-30 years farmers in the region, who had predominantly grew tobacco and other cash crops, faced falling prices, growing overhead, and diminishing demand for their products now had a crop they could grow with minimal pesticide use, that required a relatively small amount of land to be profitable and a product with a rapidly expanding market.
The hemp industry has the potential to transform the region, as countless farmers from Southern Virginia to Western Kentucky have transitioned to growing cannabis. In 2020, hemp production has become a billion-dollar industry.
At the end of 2018, Gupton bought 5 acres of discounted land 40 minutes west of Boone on the grounds of a closed boarding school and planted his first cannabis crop. In 2019 Gupton and his team harvested over 700 lbs. of cannabis, valuing over $40,000.