BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) — North Carolina's pilot program for industrial hemp started about this time last year and now hundreds of people are farming what was once an illegal crop.
The hemp industry is growing like the weed that drives it, and folks here in the mountains are leading the charge.
Franny Tacy is not your garden variety grower.
"I am the ambassador for all things possible," she said.
Farmer Franny's the first women to plant a pilot-program crop in this state. Last year by scattering seed, this season she and her crew in Leicester are prepping a half-acre for 1,200 clones, started indoors, now ready to go.
“The soil temperatures are right, Mother Nature is favorable, they already have a head start with some good root systems on them," says Franny.
Tacy also preaches what she practices, as during the recent Mother Earth News Fair at the WNC Ag Center. "We need to revitalize our farms here, is this a viable crop, and the answer is yes," says Franny,
"We went through that field, and harvested it with machetes."
She shares experience with people thinking about or already growing hemp, some moving away from what they've always done. Take, for instance, Darrell Isley.
"I've been farming tobacco and grain all my life, and, this here, I'm willing to take a try," Isley said. " We gonna grow an acre of the clone seedling plants, and I'm gonna go for the oils".
The oils, is CBD, or cannabidiol. It is what can deliver the medicinal and therapeutic effects of cannabis, without the high.
"People are quickly understanding for themselves the differences between hemp and its party cousin," says Carolina Hemp Company’s Brian Bullman.
From CBD oils, to creams, to foods, ando clothing, Bullman says you can get it all from the Woodfin company.
“It goes far beyond Carolina Hemp Company, or Franny's, or any individual company. The industry has completely done a 180-degree shift in awareness, demand, of course the growing and agricultural end of things, people are flocking to the potential behind this crop."
"I think there are so many beneficial properties that maybe we haven't even tapped into," says Jillian Kelly of Asheville Bee Charmer.
From bees to CBD, Asheville Bee Charmer co-founder Jillian Kelly says the sweet product is all homegrown. "This just seems like the perfect marriage of being able to work with local people, being able to add another healthy item here in our city."
Last year, Tacey grew her seed crop, and this season's clones will yield oil for CBD.
“There's a great medical benefit, but this is the only crop that can feed, clothe and shelter us," she said. "It's amazing, because it can reinvigorate these rural communities that really need it most. We're at the right place at the right time. There is a lot of opportunity for so many people to get involved, on so many different levels."
Farmer Franny will tell you she likes the label of pioneer, and her role as parent of this plant she nurtures with a passion,
"It's a traditional role in a non-traditional setting, in a non-traditional industry, and it's awesome."
Tacey plants her clones this week, and will harvest and dry the mature plants in September, just in time for Hemp X Asheville.