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Eastern harvests first hemp crop

Published on October 08, 2021

Eastern harvests first hemp crop

A milestone in the University’s soon-to-be-launched hemp cultivation program

A freshly trimmed hemp bud

Biology Professor Bryan Connolly trims the leaves off a hemp bud

Connolly and student Giahna Ellis

Freshly cut hemp buds hanging to dry

Students Giahna Ellis and Kate Arildsen trim the leaves off hemp buds

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs William Salka.

Eastern Connecticut State University harvested its first hemp crop on Oct. 8, as students and faculty from the Biology Department trimmed the buds off 25 cannabis plants in the University’s greenhouse. The occasion was a milestone for Eastern’s new academic minor in hemp cultivation, which is planned to be offered to students this coming spring 2022 semester.

The plants are about 14 weeks old and will yield approximately 2 pounds of hemp, according to biology professor and program coordinator Bryan Connolly. After being hung to dry, he says the buds will benefit students in a course in analytical chemistry, in which they will study the cannabidiol (CBD) properties of the crop.

“In the spring, we’ll launch a class that looks at hemp from seed to harvest,” said Connolly. “We’ll talk about nutrient, pest and light management. We’ll harvest and dry and cure but also talk about the other implications of the hemp industry — how much energy it takes, how much pollution it makes and also about the social inequities related to the industry.”

Eastern’s developing minor in hemp cultivation is one of the first of its kind in Connecticut, and follows the state’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana. Eastern is now a licensed hemp producer with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.  

“I think the new program is great,” said senior biology major Kate Arildsen. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m happy Eastern was able to shift so quick and offer something the students really want… There’s so much research yet to be done on how (cannabis) interacts with the body. It’s good to be a part of it.”

Eastern’s program is primarily focused on hemp, not marijuana, which contains a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While both are names for the cannabis plant, hemp has 0.3 percent or lower THC content.  The program is rooted in the field of plant biology and will have a practical, hands-on approach that utilizes the University’s greenhouse and laboratories.

“With the inauguration of our first hemp harvest today, we’re looking to the future,” said Patty Szczys, interim dean of arts and sciences. We’re in development of an interdisciplinary major that’s going to combine these cultivation and chemical aspects of hemp with the financial, business and policy regulations and social aspects of this new emerging market.”

For students, the program is an opportunity to get first-hand experience in a growing entrepreneurial industry across Connecticut and the nation. “It’s wonderful to not just read about it, but to see the plant in front of you, working in the greenhouse and seeing it under a microscope,” said sophomore biology major Giahna Ellis. “Hemp is used in a lot of cosmetics, medicines and other products. From the medical field to aestheticians, there are many career opportunities in cannabis.”

Speaking of his future plans for the program, Connolly added, “We hope to work with industry experts to develop strains through hybridization. I would love to create new CBD strains and work with producers and growers in the state.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Academics, Biology