Greg Moring, right, interviewing Jeff Steiner of OSU’s Global Hemp Initiative Center for his film “Hemp Is Back: The Road To Riches?” photo provided
Greg Moring, right, interviewing Jeff Steiner of OSU’s Global Hemp Initiative Center for his film “Hemp Is Back: The Road To Riches?” photo provided

Hemp. It’s everywhere in Central Oregon. The crop that many Founding Fathers grew more than 200 years ago is suddenly a booming agricultural industry in Sisters Country.

Greg Moring, a filmmaker who moved to Sisters about a year ago, is creating a film titled “Hemp Is Back: The Road To Riches?” which explores the hemp boom. He has launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to raise $20,000 for the completion of the film.

The film focuses on a cooperative consisting of a retired fire captain with Parkinson’s Disease, a grocery commodity broker, two freight truckers, a gas station owner, and one farmer; the co-op is in their first year growing hemp in Central Oregon.

“When the retired fire chief bought 50 hemp plants and grew them to process into CBD oil to help his Parkinson’s symptoms, his results amazed himself and his friends, prompting (their) banding together to grow over 100 acres of fields in the Sisters, Redmond, Terrebonne area,” Moring wrote in his Kickstarter project synopsis.

Moring has a deep background in documentary and feature film work, and though he is currently working as a massage therapist, he continues to produce documentary work.

“That’s the part of the industry that I really love,” he told The Nugget.

Moving to Sisters last February, he was intrigued by how much acreage was planted in hemp. He came across the story of the retired fire chief and knew he had a documentary subject.

“It’s kind of an interesting mix of people who got together to do this,” he said.

He hopes through his film to educate viewers about what hemp is — the same plant that produces marijuana but producing the chemical compound CBD, which is purported to have many benefits, from sleep enhancement to pain relief, without the psychoactive compound THC that creates the “high” associated with marijuana. In fact, testing for THC is one of the unexpectedly complicated aspects of hemp production.

Documenting the “bumps in the road” to riches in the hemp industry is another focus of the film.

“Our film will examine the bumps in the road to wealth or ruin, including scarcity of seed and starts, refusal of banks to allow hemp business banking, state, federal, and county fees and regulations, mother nature, and the economic boom for fertilizer suppliers, testing labs, processors, farm equipment suppliers, and available labor pool,” Moring notes. “With a 50 percent failure rate for new farmers, how the grow and harvest ends will tell the story of Oregon’s hemp pioneers and their success and failures.”

Like most boom economies, high hopes lead pioneers into uncharted territory. Crops can be devastated by a hailstorm or harsh weather. And producing too much product without enough processing capacity can spell trouble even for a successful crop.

“Everybody had stars in their eyes,” Moring said. “‘We’re gonna be rich!’ — but there’s just so much product. It’s been a real education in the process, the economics of it. I haven’t been around agriculture that much but — especially with this product — it’s gambling.”

And any gamble is full of inherent drama, which gives the educational aspect of the documentary film additional punch.

Moring’s filming is about 75 percent complete. He plans to use the funds raised through the Kickstarter campaign for editing, audio sweetening and bringing the production to the finish line and into theaters.

The Kickstarter campaign, which runs until February 5, can be accessed at www.kickstarter.com/projects/hempisback/hemp-is-back-in-central-oregon.