IMPERIAL — With the emerging hemp industry, Imperial Valley College Superintendent and President Dr. Martha Garcia saw an opportunity to partner with local growers to implement a hemp research project at IVC.
After being approached by a local grower, Garcia conducted her own research on hemp, the hemp industry, and how the Imperial County could be impacted by entering into an agreement that would allow IVC to be involved in hemp research.
Garcia said she worried about the response she and the school would get, leading her to hold a public forum and several workshops for community members to attend, ask questions, learn about the school’s involvement and the future benefits to the community.
“Initially, in the forum, there were questions and concerns, but we cleared that up. There has been tremendous support and gratefulness expressed because we were willing to support our local community, especially our local growers,” said Garcia.
After several board meetings and discussions, receiving a positive response from the community, and meeting with experts, Garcia took her idea to the County Board of Supervisors. They signed a memorandum of understanding, stating that they were in support of the proposed plan.
IVC has since entered into an agronomic agreement with Primordia LLC out of Brawley. According to Garcia, the project is moving quickly and Primordia has already received a list of students to interview for internship opportunities tied to the hemp research project.
Garcia explained that several students were interested in the internship. Research for the project includes the type of climate best suited for hemp, irrigation, practices, and several other details.
“There’s so many areas that hemp could lead to. Knowing the types of skills that are required for those types of positions … that will be paying greater than minimum wage,” said Garcia.
With Primordia, students can get up to 200 hours each month at $15 an hour in support of the research agreement.
According to Garcia, the school is not growing hemp, but rather working with local growers who meet state standards and requirements. After determining a local grower meets the requirements, the growers can enter into an agreement allowing them to legally obtain water and IVC students will be able to observe, conduct research, and collect data.
Local growers can only legally obtain water for their hemp fields through this research project due to the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills. Because of this, IVC has received several requests from other companies and growers to participate in this research project.
“We must be responsive to the community in regards to emerging industries. I truly believe, based on my research, this will lead to social and economic development for our community,” said Garcia.