(Photo: Bryan Hanson/NDSU Langdon Resear)

Last fall, Governor Walker signed SB 119 into law after it passed unanimously in the assembly and senate. The bill allows for the growing of industrial hemp, with proper licensing, in the state of Wisconsin after it had been outlawed for the last 60 years. This represents an exciting development for our state, and one that Milwaukee communities, in particular, must capitalize on.

State Sen. Lena Taylor

Hemp could be a catalyst in further expanding our state’s already impressive urban agriculture output. Milwaukee has the highest number of community gardens, urban farms, and farmers’ markets per person in the country. However, the implementation of hemp production can further improve this vibrant scene, bringing along exciting economic opportunities as well as agricultural and environmental benefits. If you’re not already involved in the urban agriculture scene, now is a great time to get started.

Why now? Well for starters, the legalization of hemp provides licensed farmers with a diverse and useful crop with a high market value. Every part of the plant can be used for some type of product, whether it be for food, fuel, fiber or lotion. It is also an incredibly efficient crop, generating 250 percent more fiber than cotton and six times more fiber than flax with the same land area.

Beyond its market value, it can be used as a cover crop to improve the health of the soil and thus the output of other crops. Additionally, hemp does not require significant water usage, helping to keep input costs relatively low for farmers. Both of these benefits are particularly important for urban farming, as their small size relies on productivity through crop rotation and minimizing water input. By planting hemp, urban farmers can generate more profit while simultaneously improving the quality of their already stellar produce.

Just because you do not have prior experience working on a farm does not mean you should shy away from engaging in urban farming and hemp production. There are already a lot of agriculture centers in Milwaukee where experienced urban farmers can show you the basics, and develop your farming skills. If you have the time and dedication, urban farming can be a viable and profitable career. It can also be a side-time hobby filled with economic and social benefits. Either way, it is a growing industry with intriguing opportunities and a passionate Milwaukee community ready to show you the way.

Urban agriculture is helping bring communities closer, increase access to food, and provide compelling business opportunities. With the legalization of hemp, these positive developments are just getting started. The time is now to make a big leap in improving Milwaukee, and urban farming is a great place for you to start.

Written by State Sen. Lena Taylor

State Sen. Lena Taylor

Wisconsin State Sen. Lena Taylor represents the 4th State Senate District in Milwaukee.