Black farmers group, Oregon State to give out 1 million donated hempseeds

A hemp crop science company has aligned with the National Black Farmers Association and Oregon State University to provide 1 million hempseeds to Black and Indigenous growers and farmers of color without capital investment.

The effort, led by Portland, Oregon-based Phylos Bioscience, aims to provide opportunity for communities that are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

The first recipients were selected through outreach efforts and the Hemp Equity Program at Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.

This is the second year for the hempseed program through Phylos and the National Black Farmers Association, and the partners plan to continue to work with OSU and other universities – including Alabama A&M, a member of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities community – to broaden outreach.

“It is important to us to continue efforts like our hempseed donation program to level a systemically unbalanced playing field and we encourage other companies to do the same,” Phylos CEO Ralph Risch said.

“What we are doing is just a small step to counter the disproportionate impacts of the war on drugs on underrepresented communities and the special debt the cannabis industry owes to people of color.”

Black farmers and multigenerational farms are hesitant to use hemp for medicinal or wellness purposes, let alone grow it, according to John Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

“These seeds give our community an educational opportunity and a fun way to learn how to cultivate, teaching about the different end uses, and taking away the stigma of growing cannabis,” Boyd said.

“Using seed from a vetted seed supplier reduces the risks associated with growing a new crop.”

Because Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, they’ve also been prevented from participating in the legal cannabis industry.

The hempseed program recognizes the significant barriers to entry that have further served to bar BIPOC farmers from entering the hemp market.

“With Phylos’s generosity, we make it possible for our equity partners to greatly reduce the financial risk of learning about hemp and how to grow it,” said Jeffrey Steiner, associate director of OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.