Since the Farm Bill passed in the U.S. in 2019, farmers are increasingly interested in growing hemp. Industrial hemp is one of the oldest industrial plants, as societies have used it for over 10,000 years. From textile and clothing to food and medicine, hemp crops can be processed into thousands of products. And although the said “miracle crop” has a myriad of advantages and uses, there are some mistakes you should avoid. Many avid farmers go blind into this business, turning fields of hemp into fields of loss and debt.
Yes, one can make big money from fields of hemp, but it’s not that simple. Harvesting a hemp crop requires thorough planning and lots of research. Hemp may be simpler than other commodities to grow, but the processing is complex and can be expensive. Before diving into this business, make sure to follow these lessons to cover each part of the process.
Lesson #1: Understand your local laws
Although the Farm Bill made industrial hemp legal in all the states, the regulations and requirements are different in each state. In the U.S., you can grow hemp legally, but you must follow the local legislation of your state. The legislation and requirements to get a hemp growing license can be different. So, the first step would be to do your research, talk to local farmers, and, if needed, hire an attorney to help you with the paperwork. Also, bear in mind that not all states currently offer hemp crop insurance.
Lesson #2: Prepare your soil
Like any other crop, the first and foremost action a farmer should do is preparing the soil. The first stage is to perform a soil profile test with a reputable laboratory. The soil profile will reveal all the chemicals present in your landscape. With these results in hand, you’ll be able to understand if your land needs correction, which nutrients are lacking, or if there are any toxic chemicals present.
Specialists recommend that the right soil for hemp should be rich in organic matter and have a pH from 6.0 to 7.5. Pay attention to the weather in your region, because fields of hemp do not grow well in wet soil. These types of soil can impact the growth, the fiber, and the plant heights negatively. The testing process must be done several months before starting to plant so you can have time to obtain optimal yield. If needed, apply fertilizers and lime during the Fall and Winter.
Lesson #3: Plan your harvest and do a lot of research
Farming is not always a straightforward business. Even if you’re an experienced farmer, but never invested in hemp fields, you will need to do your rounds of research. The number of variables involved in investing in a different crop can make things incredibly difficult. Months before starting to plant your hemp field, you should start planning.
Your plan should include:
- Testing and preparing the soil,
- Purchasing hemp seeds suitable for your local climate and from a reputable source,
- Planning pest, weeds, and humidity control,
- Understanding what you’ll need for the harvesting process (labor and equipment),
- Planning the harvest to happen during the right stage of the plant,
- Storing the harvested plant and the drying process,
- Having buyers for the harvested product.
Each step of the plan requires thorough research and planning. One of the most challenging aspects of hemp crops is finding labor, as harvesting hemp is a laborious task. Processing the harvested plant requires a significant amount of labor, and the drying can be expensive. To ensure the safety of your investment, make sure to cover all stages.
Lesson #4: Sell before you grow
Nowadays, one of the biggest challenges that hemp farmers are facing include the lack of market to sell it. Yes, the hemp crop value per acre can be up to $40,000, but it also requires hefty investments. The risks can be tremendous if you don’t find a market to sell your product.
So, when you’re investing tens of thousands of dollars in your hemp field, make sure to get in touch with potential buyers for your product. Because this is a new industry, it may not be an easy task. Trying to find a way when you’re already harvesting can be a costly mistake. The most important aspect is to have a process facility and buyers ready for when you harvest the crop.
Lesson #5: Do not dabble
Whether you’re planning to harvest hemp exclusively or use hemp crop rotation with other commodities, do not dabble. Many farmers were attracted to grow hemp thinking only about the money that they could make and had their dreams crushed. Hemp is a promising crop, but it still is farming and can have numerous variables. You should get appropriately prepared because it is a complex process.
The crazy amount of people interested in hemp fields in the U.S. is amazing, but it also shows that there is a lot of competition. If you’re planning to start growing it at a smaller scale or as a hobby, you must know that it may not be profitable right away.
Although we are hemp enthusiasts, our focus is always to guide you to make smart decisions. We believe in the immense potential hemp has as a crop and as an industry.