PORT REPUBLIC – Glenn Rodes is one of two hemp farmers in the state.
It may seem a little out of place to have hemp on Rodes’s farm. He comes from a family of Mennonites and the surrounding farms have signs quoting scripture – common in most Mennonite farming operations. And Rodes has always been interested in new crops — except hemp isn’t new.
Port Republic was a port town and listed hemp as one of its exports, he said. Hemp farming in the area like started as early as the 1600s and stopped in the 1930s. It’s very possible that his own land was previously used to grow hemp.
In Virginia’s early days, hemp was grown to be used for the Navy to make sails.
“Among the first settlers in Virginia, one of the conditions for them to be colonists here was that they were required to grow hemp,” said Dr. Michael Renfroe, JMU professor of biology who is doing the research with the farmers. “Hemp has been in Virginia as long as Europeans have been in Virginia.”