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Hemp hoopla

My wife and I were at the farm supply store the other day when a small glass cabinet caught my eye.

“Look at this!” I exclaimed as I pointed at the locked cabinet. “What will they think of next? Now they’re selling oil for citizen’s band radios!”

“You dope! That isn’t CB oil!” my wife replied tactfully. “It’s CBD oil.”

I studied the cabinet closely. “So it is,” I replied. “But what’s CBD oil good for? Do we even own a CBD? Is a CBD some newfangled device that we should buy? I’m all for owning the latest technology.”

My wife shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Look it up!” she said, pointing at my smartphone. This is the modern version of a mother saying to her child, “Go ask your father!”

According to Google, CBD is shorthand for cannabidiol. This is fortunate for me, mainly because CBD is much easier to type than “cannabidiol.”

CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, which can easily be confused with its cousin, the maryjane plant. These plants look so similar that the average person wouldn’t be able to tell one from the other in a police lineup.

Google further explained that hemp products contain little to no “Whoa, man!” compounds. Maryjane, on the other hand, has a well-earned reputation as a party girl. 

Hemp has been used as a source of fiber for thousands of years. Several of our nation’s founding fathers – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin – raised hemp. But maybe Franklin shouldn’t count due to his many strange proclivities, one of which was flying kites into thunderheads.

During WW II, America was cut off from its hemp supply in the Philippines. In response, the USDA launched its Hemp for Victory campaign, which encouraged farmers to raise hemp for cordage. Farmers were thus roped into the war effort.  

I once owned an old John Deere model B grain drill. On the underside of its lid was a chart that listed seeding rates for various crops. Among the recommended settings for such crops as flax and vetch and lespedeza was a listing for hemp.

We’ve grown hemp on our farm for as long as I can remember. We have never planted any of it. Wild hemp sprouts along fence lines and in cattle yards, a strong indication that it was seeded by helpful birds.

Hemp is a tough adversary. If you don’t whack it when it’s young and tender, by late summer you could be dealing with a plant that’s roughly the size of a giant sequoia. 

But what of the CBD oil that’s extracted from hemp? It is really all that? Will it cure your insomnia, chase your arthritis away, and fill your bald spot with a lush crop of new hair? In short, do CBD products work? 

As with many things, it depends on who you ask; you have to consider the source. For instance, a while back it was claimed that WD-40 was good for creaky joints. This rumor was debunked when it was revealed that its source was the Tinman.

Few of us – and by “few” I mean “none” – will get through life without some aches and pains. And with baby boomers rapidly aging, the demand for something, anything, that relieves discomfort will be more popular than a calamine lotion outlet situated next to a poison ivy patch.  

CBD is available in a variety of forms ranging from oils to lotions to vape fluids to gummies. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a CBD aftershave.   

I don’t know. Maybe this hemp craze will prove to be similar to the llama bubble.

Some years ago, llamas suddenly became all the rage. It was widely reported that individual llamas were selling for tens of thousands of dollars.

Several years later I was chatting with a farmer when I noticed that a brace of llamas were living with his sheep. I asked what he’d paid for the llamas.

“I bought them at a farm auction for $50,” he replied.


“Nope. For the pair.”

Hemp seems to be having a moment. That CBD products are in the farm supply store is a sign that they have gone mainstream. We will probably soon be offered CBD car air fresheners and CBD-infused pumpkin spice lattes.

It’s up to each person if they want to rub a particular plant extract on their aching joints or consume oils that taste like fermented lawn clippings. And if this enables farmers to diversify and tap into new income streams, all the better. 

Besides, Benjamin Franklin seemed to be onto something regarding that curious substance called “electricity.”



Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at

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