Ocala, Florida — The College of Central Florida has been approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry to produce industrial hemp at its Vintage Farm Campus in Ocala. It is the first license of its kind approved for a state college in Florida.
The cultivating of hemp will be utilized as an educational tool by the college’s Agribusiness program to complement its existing fruit and vegetable production, greenhouse and nursery production, as well as livestock production facilities. Hemp production will focus on seed germination, soil, water, nutrient, and light requirements, proper pruning techniques, pest management, harvesting, and curing of the crop.
Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and has many uses, including food and feed intended for animal consumption, paper fiber, clothing, and many industrial applications. It contains very low trace amounts of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant, and varying amounts of Cannabinoid compounds, most notably CBD and CBG, which may have therapeutic properties, according to federal regulations.
Hemp was federally legalized in 2018 and has posed enormous legal battles for those who sell and or use CBD oil because the roadside presumptive test kits used by law enforcement cannot differentiate between marijuana and hemp. In fact, a study was completed in 2019 in a Washington State forensic lab that showed not only are the roadside tests faulty, but more than 100 police officers surveyed could not even tell the difference between legal hemp and marijuana.
“Due to statewide and local interest in the burgeoning hemp industry in Florida, and the uniqueness of the college’s Vintage Farm Campus facilities and areas of study, it was a natural fit to add to the curriculum of the Agribusiness program at CF,” said Tavis Douglass, Agribusiness program manager. “Because hemp is a relatively unknown crop in our climate, not much is known of how it will perform. Therefore, we will be testing and growing plants under various growing conditions. Additionally, our program will focus on hemp products that may have used in agricultural sectors such as our local livestock and equine industries.”
The curriculum will be designed not just on cultural practices, but also on navigating compliance, and marketing raw hemp harvested materials.
CF offers an Associate in Science degree in Agribusiness Management, Bachelor of Applied Science in Business and Organizational Management Agribusiness Specialization — both unique to the Florida State College System — as well as Certificate programs in Nursery and Landscape and Livestock Production Management. There will be a short-term noncredit course or lecture for the community as an introduction of industrial hemp in fall 2021 or spring 2022, though no specific details are in place yet.