SRJC agriculture department to develop hemp program

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Santa Rosa Junior College said Monday its agriculture department is developing a hemp agriculture certificate and degree program — the first such program among community colleges in the state.

The program is expected to launch in fall 2020, but hemp-focused classes within SRJC’s existing agriculture programs will be offered beginning in the spring, said Benjamin Goldstein, dean of agriculture, natural resources and culinary arts. Any courses taken in the spring will count toward the degree once it’s launched.

Goldstein said the college won’t need to create any new courses for the new program.

“Because we have a robust agriculture department with existing programs, we have all of the courses,” he said. “We can now take them and focus them partially on hemp to teach students those skills.”

Courses in the new hemp agriculture certificate and degree program include introduction to plant science, soil and plant nutrition, integrated pest management, organic crop planning and production, and more.

SRJC also will be the first community college in the state to have its own hemp-farming operation, according to the college.

SRJC Shone Farm is growing a 0.8-acre test plot of hemp plants for educational purposes. The cultivation site is registered with the Sonoma County Ag Commissioners Office and follows all federal, state and county legal and regulatory requirements, according to the college.

Hemp is a genetically distinct biotype of Cannabis sativa that is grown for fiber, seed or oil, according to SRJC. It is used in the production of products such as food, beverages, cosmetics, nutritional supplements, fabrics, textiles, construction materials and other manufactured goods.

Unlike marijuana, hemp is legal at both the federal and state levels and does not contain significant levels of THC, the compound in marijuana known for its psychoactive effects, according to the college. Hemp is used to produce nonpsychoactive cannabidiol (CBD), which SRJC states has shown “enormous promise” in medical applications.

Hemp cultivation was legalized at the federal level in December 2018, paving the way for SRJC to begin developing its hemp program, Goldstein said. Students who graduate with a hemp degree can choose to work in the cannabis industry if they wish. SRJC takes no stance on those decisions, Goldstein said.

“One of our top priorities is ensuring our career education programs align with current industry trends,” Goldstein said. “Hemp (is) a versatile plant at the center of a multibillion-dollar legal industry for medicine, fiber, oil, seeds, textiles and more. We are preparing our students with the knowledge and skills to be competitive in the workplace.”

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