Lessons from the 2019 Harvest
What to do to protect your investment in 2020
2020 is gearing up to be another big year for growing hemp. There are 16 new states coming online as well as a host of growers who are continuing on from last season. In 2019, Oregon saw an astounding 62 thousand acres of licensed Hemp grows. That is a 427% growth from 2018.
While many farmers survived despite a wet fall, others lost their investment due to circumstances they may have been able to control if they had known their options. Hard lessons were learned by farmers and processors who did not completely understand what was required to produce a saleable hemp product. Examples include knowing when to test for pesticides; testing for THC levels early and often; where and how to dry the material once it is harvested; have a path to market; know what certifications were needed in the market; and most important, who to trust.
FSOil is third-party verified cGMP, certified USDA Organic, Hemp Authority, and Kosher extraction facility located on a 1500-acre, 3rd generation family farm specializing in full spectrum, distillate, broad spectrum and powder CBD, CBG, and CBDa cannabinoid solutions. In 2019, we grew 550 acres of industrial hemp and extracted over 1 million pounds of biomass which included local and national sources.
The purpose of this article is to share the lessons from the 2019 harvest so that you can plan effectively and avoid the mistakes we witnessed last year.
Plan Your Season
It all starts with the seed. At an average cost of $1.00/seed, hemp seed is a serious investment in comparison to other crops. To protect your investment, be sure to request both COAs (certificate of analysis) and the specific state’s Department of Agriculture hemp registration license. If either of these items is unavailable, dig a little deeper and ask more questions, or simply walk away; it’s not worth the risk.
Scheduling your harvest in conjunction with state and federal testing is important to ensure your harvest comes out legally compliant. As plants mature, the amount of THC increases. The THC levels are also due in large part to the genetics of the seed. The COAs that you receive from your seed company will reflect the average THC harvest level for the variety. At our farm, we begin weekly testing as soon as the plants start to flower – generally 12-14 weeks after the seeds are planted depending on the variety. This allows us to track the THC percentage to determine the best harvest date for maximum potency without going over the legal limit.
Photo-period and auto-flower genetics are both available and can be used for a succession harvest or a la carte based on your growing conditions. Some genetics are designed for late flowering and are appropriate for longer grow seasons whereas others are bred to mature earlier in the season. Consult your seed provider about your goals.
Each state has its own compliance procedures, so it is very important that you are up to date with all the rules and regulations set forth by your local agricultural department and the department from any state in which you are doing business.
There is a wealth of current information at the US Hemp Roundtable website: https://hempsupporter.com/
Importance of Post-Harvest Handling
An expertly grown hemp field is only as good as its post-harvest plan. You will want to consider techniques to stabilize and dry your biomass immediately after harvest for best results. There are a variety of techniques and innovations to accomplish this based on what your plans are for your final product. These include:
- Field drying
- Hang drying
- Kiln drying
- Wet bailing
While field drying is a possibility for those in drier climates, for most grows, it will be best to incorporate one of the other solutions to avoid the potential of mold destroying your plants.
Once dried, you will want to consider how you will prep the material for extraction. This includes milling, brushing, and storing your dried material.
At FSOil, we converted an existing hop drying facility and retrofitted it to cGMP and USDA Organic certifications. We have prepped each of the above types of dried material, and have the capability to accommodate multiple extraction techniques, including the ability for custom requests.
The primary growth sector for CBD through 2024 is assumed to be in the retail market. How you process your biomass will affect your ability to sell your product into this marketplace. Quality certifications are the primary factor as retail stores will allow only products with vetted quality manufacturing standards into their spaces. Quality standards include cGMP, ISO, NSF; each will require a separate third-party verification.
If you are growing organically and your goal is to have a certified organic finished product, your processor will be required to be certified by the USDA for both handling and extraction. To find a list of Organic processors, click this link to the USDA Organic Integrity Database: https://organic.ams.usda.gov/integrity/
Know Your Market
The most unfortunate situation for any farmer or processor is to discover too late that the hype is not always reality. The market is unpredictable, and you must know who will purchase (or at least be interested) your product before you spend the dollars to move forward.
Over the years, we’ve found many brokers who were willing to “cut a deal” only to find that the deal was to their benefit. We advise you to stay away from unknown brokers and spend the time and money learning how and when to sell your product. If you go with an outside sales team or broker, trust but verify.
When in doubt, seek out advice from the experienced. Talk with those in the industry in Oregon, Colorado, and Kentucky; they will have considerable experience in growing and extracting hemp.
At FSOil, we are always willing to help our fellow farmers, processors and others in the hemp community. We believe there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to share in the benefits of this new and expanding industry.