Jackson County, OR — The hemp industry has quickly grown into a big moneymaker nationwide in the years following its legalization in 2018. The Rogue Valley is no exception, and on Saturday the Southern Oregon Hemp Co-Op's continued its attempts to expand the industry further with their second annual Golden Grow awards, going to top producers of the crop.
"Let the competition begin! It's through competition that makes us all better," said Mark Taylor, founding board member of the Southern Oregon Hemp Co-Op.
Categories include Top CBD, Top Scent, Judge's Choice and plenty more. But the awards are not just about rewarding farmers - they are part of larger strategy of economic growth.
"We believe that hemp can be a driver of economic recovery for our state, and certainly the state of Oregon has everything it needs to be a top producer," said Sophia Blanton, executive producer of the event.
Unlike its close cousin marijuana, hemp has no psychoactive properties. It can be used to make a variety of commercial products including rope, textiles, clothing, insulation and even some medicine.
"Hemp is not just a crop. It's not just a commodity. It is a revolution. It's an opportunity for us to put into practice a lot of things about sustainability that we often talk about," Blanton said.
Southern Oregon has quickly proven to be the king of hemp production in the state, as over a third of Oregon's hemp acreage is found in Jackson and Josephine Counties.
"We have a number of small businesses that are making essential oils for your skin, and soaps," Taylor said. "By creating the end product, you really do feed the commerce scale of hemp, and you don't have to so much go outside of our valley."
Like so many other industries, hemp production actually declined in 2020 in Oregon, after it seemingly reached cash crop status in 2019.
"We're there through the good times and the bad times for the grow. That's not to say we haven't had some tough times with some microclimates and overproduction.," Taylor said. "We're small but we're mighty."
For those interested in learning more, Oregon State University's Global Hemp Innovation Center is holding an online national hemp symposium on Feb. 9 and 10. More information can be found here.