Sierra Valley drivers might come across a peculiar crop on their way through the valley on A-24. In a few months, over 160 acres of property adjacent to the Roberti Ranch will be covered in a canopy of cannabis plants, However, unlike the typical marijuana plant, this crop has little to no psychoactive effects.
A-24 Farming, a company started by brothers Dave, Rick and Jim Roberti, is paving the way for the growth of hemp as a viable agriculture crop. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that has very little THC, which is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s effects. To compare, hemp has a THC level of 0.3 percent, while a marijuana plant has a THC level between 15 to 30 percent. The lack of THC makes hemp more useful for its fibrous makeup and CBD oil.
The Robertis will be cultivating hemp and selling it to a manufacturing company who will refine the product to be used in clothing, plastics, oils and skin care products.
On June 11, the Robertis invited members of the media to tour the new developments in an effort to raise awareness about the crop. During a tour around the ranch via a shuttle bus, Dave Roberti explained the strategy behind the new crop.
Roberti said that previously their ranch grew alfalfa in the fields where the hemp will now reside. However, the dairy market, which is the ranch’s main purchaser of its alfalfa, is seeing a steady decline.
“Dairy is collapsing,” said Roberti. “We are very limited in what else we can grow up here.”
Upon seeing the lack in a viable future with alfalfa, the Robertis had to come up with a new crop to grow that could withstand the harsh conditions in Sierra Valley. Not only is the valley at a high altitude, there are also only 40 to 50 frost-free days throughout the year. Roberti said hemp is a very hardy crop that does well at high altitudes and can withstand cold temperatures.
The hemp endeavor is not just meant to make money for the Robertis. It also offers a chance for more research to be done on the cultivation of the plant. The A-24 Farm has teamed up with University of Nevada, Reno’s Natural Resources and Environmental Science program to help expand the college’s research on the plant.
Dr. Glenn Miller, a professor in UNR’s Environmental Science program, said the goals of the research will be to see the effects of large-scale hemp production. The Robertis will be planting at least triple the normal amount of hemp found in a typical hemp plot. Because of that, Miller will be regulating and experimenting on effective spacing for the plant, and theorizes it will use about half the water than an alfalfa field of similar size.
Because hemp is in the cannabis family, it is classified as a Schedule One Controlled Substance. However, the Robertis said that cultivation of hemp is allowed if it is done in partnership with an institution research facility.
After the product is harvested, the Robertis will send the harvest to their partner in Reno, Kevin Moast of Harvest Tek, where it will be refined and sold for product. Some benefits of the plant may be seen locally. Roberti said part of the product may also be used to help add fiber to the diets of the Robertis’ livestock, and the fibrous plant is very effective for biomass energy at the co-gen plant in Loyalton.
“We are very interested in what this crop can do to help others, and want to share what we have learned about industrial hemp with our community,” said Roberti. “We encourage people to ask questions and learn more.”
People interested in learning more about the Robertis hemp project should visit A24farming.com.