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Hemp farming, processing coming to Sullivan County farm

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. – An established family farm in the Tri-Cities region is taking on a new project – hemp.

Merj Family Farmlands has dealt with cattle, corn, and alfalfa. This year they are expanding to hemp.

The owners told News Channel 11’s Kristen Gallant this new crop is thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill that allowed for industrial hemp cultivation.

“The farm has been in existence for many years. We’ve had cattle here. We’ve grown corn here, but really the explosion of popularity of CBD give us the opportunity to re-purpose the farm for something that’s much in demand throughout the United States,” says CEO Howard Broadfoot.

Broadfoot said they are now planting their first round of Cannabis sativa seedlings which will be ready to harvest in late fall.

The nearly 600 acre farm is currently approved to grow 187 acres of hemp, but Broadfoot said, there three year plan doesn’t include growing that much in the plant.

He says their goal is to grow a much higher quality product.

“Most people don’t have that vertical integration. They have plants, they have, or they have extraction. So, we know what’s going into the ground. We know what’s coming out of the ground. We know how we’re processing it. So our expectation is to have a much higher quality oil than you could purchase elsewhere,” said Broadfoot.

The company also plans to process their own products along with offering extraction and testing services to other hemp farmers.

Merj has a 18,000 square-foot processing facility design to process biomass, extract CBD compounds, and test finished products for purity and potency.

“As a consumer, you really need to know what you’re putting in your body and it’s difficult to know from what I buy at the counter verses am I’m getting specific lab data on, what I’m ingesting,” said Broadfoot.

He said they are hoping to have products out by next year.