New Hemp Production Class To Teach Students About Cannabis Industry, Economics, & More
A new class, Introduction to Hemp Production, will be introduced to Penn State this fall. The course, PLANT 297, will provide students with an overview of the cannabis industry, including its history, laws, and production.
The idea for the class started more than a year and a half ago. The rules of growing hemp have changed in the last five years, and many farmers around Pennsylvania started using it as a crop.
Naturally, the university’s Department of Plant Science began to study how to align themselves to help farmers and train students. After an extended discussion with Penn State’s administration, the class was approved.
“It took some time to approve this class, and other universities like Cornell and Maryland already have classes about hemp production,” professor John Kaminski of the Department of Plant Science said. “We felt like we were a little bit behind, but once we had approval from the university, we hired a faculty member that would be able to teach the class. Dr. Bengyella has a background in the past five years working for the hemp industry on the west coast, so he is developing the class and will be teaching it.”
Cameroon native Louis Bengyella has a Ph.D. in plant biotechnology and structured the class into 12 core modules. The course will start with the history and civics of hemp, which is a cannabinoid plant that is not psychoactive. Then, the course will dive into the federal and state ramifications that encompass hemp’s growth, production, marketing, processing, and distribution within the United States.
“The most important lesson is how to maximize every training opportunity that is hidden in each module and see how you can join the hemp industry at whatever level you want,” Bengyella said. “It is about how you can vertically integrate the business with what already exists in the hemp economy.”
Each module in the class has an economic implication in it. Bengyella explained that, for example, with just the knowledge of the first module on legal ramifications, students can give advice to farmers who might not be ready to read the whole legal document. Think of it like consulting.
“Considering this is the first class about the topic at Penn State, I would like to demystify the plant and bring out the economic values hidden in the crop, as well as make Penn State the leader in hemp production education in the near future,” Bengyella said.
In the class, students can expect to learn about the everyday use of hemp, including fiber, oil, seed, and grains. For example, hemp products can be found in the fiber of clothes or cars due to their strong cellulose. Students will also learn in detail the best agronomic practices.
“We’re not teaching how to grow marijuana. This isn’t a pot-growing class,” Kaminski said. “It is about hemp and its uses. Some of those things you are starting to see in every store from grocery to gas station. We’re looking for students to come in with an open mind and understand that this is a science-based class.”
The class will also have a field component. Students will be able to go and see how the crop is grown in the field and greenhouse. That way, they can understand the science behind growing the crops.
“The idea was to have a class that was at the same time fun and science-based,” Kaminski said. “We wanted to make it a general education class so people can use it for credit in the general sciences and also explore what our department has to offer.”
The class is open to anyone who’s completed the prerequisites, HORT 101 or PLANT 200. The department is opening the class to a small group of around 50 students this fall. Kaminski said the final class will teach 75 to 100 students in the future and still feature hands-on experiences.
“This course explains everything, demystifies everything, and explores this world,” Bengyella said. “Hemp is an emerging crop that is still not well understood. This particular generation of students has a unique opportunity to benefit from this training that we are establishing.”
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