Kami Gechter stands in the greenhouse at Conrad Weiser High School, where she is learning skills she could apply in a future hemp career.

Kami Gechter wants to get hands-on training with hemp, and she doesn’t want to wait until she graduates from high school.

So Gechter, a junior at Conrad Weiser High School in Robesonia, Pennsylvania, is suggesting that schools be eligible for hemp growing and processing permits from the state.

With parental support and permission, Gechter has been researching colleges that offer cannabis programs, but she thinks secondary students should also be able to learn about a plant with industrial and reputed medicinal uses that the U.S. is just beginning to explore.

“Hemp is a growing business. There are new job opportunities, and they’re going to need help in it,” Gechter said.

Gechter floated the idea for high school-based hemp research during her talk for this spring’s FFA senior prepared speaking contest, though at this point, it’s really just an idea.

Ag teacher Adam Serfass said that with current regulations, the school can’t grow hemp or do research on extracts like CBD.

But Conrad Weiser has prepared Gechter in other ways. She has learned aseptic techniques, the basics of single-cell plant breeding and some plant genetics. In a biotechnology class, Gechter has been doing plant tissue cultures of chrysanthemums.

“Those skills are transferable from plant to plant,” Serfass said.

Gechter participates in Conrad Weiser’s Science Research Institute, in which students design and conduct experiments of their choosing outside of their normal class time.

Weiser has produced champions in the national agri-science fair and students who have competed in an international science fair.

“While we have a responsibility to comply with all rules, laws and regulations and things like that, we continue to encourage our students to ask questions that beg answers, and I think Kami is doing that,” said district Superintendent Ryan Giffing, who grew up on a farm in Lancaster County.

As hemp gains acceptance, Serfass wonders if there could eventually be a way for classrooms to research hemp fiber, which has emerging manufacturing uses and little connection to CBD.

Gechter has also discussed hemp fabric with her sewing and textiles teacher, who seemed interested in what her student had to say.

“Hemp doesn’t just have to stay in the ag wing,” Gechter said.


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