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George Knarich can easily recall the time police officers busted him for growing illegal pot in his backyard.

Fast forward four years, and Knarich now has the government’s blessing to grow as much hemp as he can plant on his 20-acre farm in Mount Vision, N.Y.

The Knarich Family Farm, which is among more than 400 hemp producers in New York authorized to grow low-THC cannabis crops by the federal 2018 Farm Bill, played host in October to the 22nd annual New York Harvest Festival and Freedom Fair.

This three-day festival featured more than 30 bands, DJs and speakers, as well as family activities such as a bounce house for kids attending with their parents. Vendor booths ranged in products from organic vegetables and artisan crafts to glass blown marijuana pipes and recreational weed.

Led by festival director and 30-year marijuana activist Rob Robinson, dozens of attendees paraded up the road to Knarich’s hemp field and hand harvested the crop at “high noon” on the festival’s second day.

For many among the estimated 1,200 in attendance, gathering on a legal hemp farm for the first time in the festival’s two decades represented progress in the movement to destigmatize cannabis.

“We’re getting high in New York,” Robinson told the enthusiastic crowd when announcing a 4:20 p.m. cannabis cup for the next day, during which judges would choose the top cannabis products.

Robinson said there was a time he wouldn’t openly advertise the recreational marijuana competition, but that this year he wasn’t scared.

“The government and the media used to call us the counter culture,” he said. “There’s nothing counter of this culture.

“This culture is the American culture – as American as apple pie.”

Rob Robinson is an advocate for marijuana legalization around CNY and he organized the festival to be held on George’s farm.
Harvest festival organizer Rob Robinson is a CNY marijuana legalization activist interested in social justice and environmental reform. Some of his advocacy is inspired by the mantras of the gay rights movement: “We’re here, we’re high, get used to it,” he says.
Farm owner George Knarich (center in black) answers questions about his first year of growing hemp after festival organizer Rob Robinson’s speech welcoming everyone to the harvest. “You guys are beautiful — let’s harvest some hemp,” said Robinson (right in colorful jacket) to the crowd from his pickup truck pulpit.

A vendor at the Hemp Festival cleans a dab rig used for vaporizing cannabis concentrates .

Sprout and her son, Chainsaw, hang out while she creates art for people attending the festival to purchase.

Buffy smokes a bowl following the harvest.
Buffy smokes a bowl while wearing a crown of hemp taken from the farm field.
George Knarich discusses the plants with Zach Howard, a regular marijuana user.

Festivalgoers pile George Knarich’s truck high with harvested hemp that the farmer and his team will process into CBD salves, oils and other products.

John Kimberly, a festival attendee from New Jersey, smells a hemp flower, then cradles it in his hands. “Is this how you look at a child for the first time?” he says.

Kurt and Nolan hanging out following the harvest.
Back on the festival grounds, Kurt and Nolan eat lunch near one of many hemp “Christmas trees” following the harvest.
A festivalgoer thanks George Knarich for growing hemp on his 20-acre farm and allowing them to help him harvest.