A local community college in Santa Rosa, California is about to become the first in the state to offer a degree in hemp cultivation. Beginning next year, students at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) will be able to take courses toward a certificate and degree in growing hemp. And the college’s Shone Farm is already growing a 0.8-acre test plot of hemp plants to use in the new curriculum. The new courses represent a hemp-focused twist on SRJC’s existing certificate and degree programs in Environmental Horticulture. Taking its cue from current trends in the rapidly growing, billion-dollar hemp industry, the new courses aim to prepare students for careers in cultivation.
Hemp-Focused Courses Offered in Sustainable Agriculture Programs
Preparing students for fulfilling careers in the legal cannabis industry isn’t the only benefit to offering courses in hemp cultivation. It turns out that hemp plants also make great teachers for understanding plants of all varieties. “It is ideal for teaching plant science and plant propagation techniques in indoor and outdoor environments,” said George Sellu, a teacher at SRJC who’ll helm some of the new courses on hemp.
Hemp also challenges students to learn about agricultural and ecological sustainability. That will be key as regulators, especially in water-stressed California, put pressure on businesses to shrink their environmental footprint.
But the skills students will obtain through SJRC’s new degree in hemp cultivation won’t just be useful for the hemp industry. Students will also be preparing themselves for careers in the broader cannabis industry and could easily apply their knowledge to cultivating commercial strains of weed. For its part, SRJC is staying agnostic about which industry students actually pursue for careers. But based on market projections for the hemp and hemp-derived CBD industries, hemp cultivation might not be a bad gig.
Cannabis Courses Prepare Students for Careers in Billion-Dollar Industry
Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is now legal at the federal level. All states need to do to begin their own hemp cultivation programs is apply through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under federal law, hemp has a very strict definition: any cannabis plant with under 0.3 percent THC is technically hemp and legal everywhere.
And the same is true for hemp-derived CBD and CBD products. So long as there’s less than 0.3 percent THC, CBD products are also legal everywhere. The market for CBD is exploding right now, especially as word gets around about its significant medical and therapeutic potential. But that’s not the only market for legal hemp. “Hemp is a dynamic crop with myriad uses,” says Sellu, with applications in the food and beverage industries, cosmetics, nutrition, fabrics, textiles, construction materials and more.
So students who enroll in SJRC’s Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture Program‘s new hemp degree will have plenty of options when they graduate. “One of our top priorities is ensuring our career education programs align with current industry trends,” said SRJC’s Dean of Agriculture, Benjamin Goldstein.
Students who have already completed SJRC horticulture courses can also transfer their credits toward the new hemp-focused degree. That will make is easy for new and returning students to take advantage of the hemp cultivation degree opportunity.