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Hemp/Cannabis symposium designed to grow industry

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CARTERVILLE (WSIL) -- Hemp  growers in southern Illinois say the industry is still so new, education is necessary for the industry to grow accordingly.

"There's so many different possibilities for industrial hemp, but we have to have the farmers, the agricultural get behind us, and we (need) processing plants built," said Mary Jane Farms' co-owner Nathan Guinzy.

Guinzy and business partner Peggy Wilken envision a future where fields of hemp become as common as corn and beans in southern Illinois. They began growing hemp last year, and Wilken said the possibilities for the industry are endless.  

"What we're trying to do, is trying to find some of the best plants that we can possibly grow," said Wilken.

Mary Jane Farms hosts up to 3,000 potted plants at all stages of early growth. Working with Southern Illinois University Carbondale to help develop research, the two quickly found their phone ringing as other farmers reached out for help.

"Each time a farmer calls me, it takes about an hour," said Wilken.

As calls continued, they started talking about it and developed the Southern Illinois Hemp/Cannabis Symposium scheduled for later this month. The full-day is designed to answer questions for both new and experienced growers.

"These experts that we have coming in, these are people that have been growing it for awhile," said Wilken. "We've made this up for growers, we made this for people that are going to be in business, and processors; anybody that wants to be a part of this industry should be coming to this conference."

Hemp farming in Illinois is still building an infrastructure to support it, and the co-owners said they hope the symposium would help move it along.

"Right now, we're at the very start of this and eventually we'll get better at it, but we're learning, we're at the learning curve," said Guinzy.

The Hemp/Cannabis Symposium is scheduled for Saturday, March 28 at the SIU Student Center and includes information on research, rules and regulations, growing and a number of expert speakers.  

Joe Rehana

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