How the Hemp Harvest Works
One might think that the hemp harvest is the same as any other agricultural product; you plant it, grow it, and harvest it. Due to the tangled legal history of hemp and its many uses, the hemp harvest is not so straightforward.
The History of Growing Hemp
In North America, the first hemp harvest was in 1606, after it was planted by French botanist Louis Hebert in Port Royal, Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia). It was an important crop for both food and textiles as North America developed, and the Declaration of Independence was actually written on hemp-paper.
After World War II ended, the demand for hemp waned. Then, in 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention and Control Act was put in place, with a zero-tolerance for THC. This effectively abolished any remaining hemp industry. It wasn’t until 1998 that the hemp harvest became legal again (in Canada), and the industry was reborn.
The United States followed Canada’s lead with the Farm Bill of 2014, which defined hemp as a separate crop than cannabis, finally allowing research and pilot programs to begin. In 2018, an amendment was made, which removed hemp from the controlled substances act, finally legalizing hemp farming in the United States.
The Hemp Harvest Today
As a diverse agricultural product, hemp is a renewable source of raw materials that can literally be used in thousands of ways. As early as 1938, the magazine Popular Mechanics estimated that there were over 25,000 uses for hemp! Today, paper, textiles, food, fuel, and even beauty products are common products made out of hemp. Here at Paradise Purities, we are most interested in its wellness properties, in the form of CBD.
The exact method of farming hemp will depend both on the plants’ final destination, and how quickly local CBD laws and farming knowledge keep up with one another. As life-long farmer Joseph Sisk says, “Everybody wants to know how to farm hemp, but they don’t realize that everyone already growing hemp does it differently.”
The Hemp Growing Cycle
Hemp is very well-suited for most North-American locations, other than “extreme desert conditions and high mountain areas”. It likes warm weather, well-drained soil, and nutrient-dense soil – like so many other traditional crops.
Hemp is generally an easy-to-grow crop since it likes to be directly sown towards the end of Spring. There is no replanting or crop-covering needed. While hemp is usually drought-tolerant, the late-spring planting usually ensures there is enough rainfall during the first six weeks of growth.
Depending on the type of plant, hemp is ready to harvest 100 to 120 days after the seeds were planted; this is usually late September to early October. Harvesting is then generally done by a combine.
Growing Hemp for Seed
Hemp seed is nutrient-dense and can be found in any natural health food store. It is becoming more mainstream, due to its many health benefits. It is a complete plant-protein (contains all 10 essential amino-acid), and is also high in omega-3, omega-6, and is easy to digest.
When growing hemp for seed, farmers need to be careful in handling and transportation, as these plants tend to be thin-walled, and can be fragile.
Growing Hemp for Fiber
Hemp fiber is extremely versatile and may be the easiest to farm. “However, since fiber varieties are typically grown for industrial uses, farmers need an infrastructure to support the development process, large scale harvesting, and transportation.” This type of hemp produces a LOT of product, so proximity to processing will be a determining factor in a farmer’s success.
Growing Hemp for CBD
The exploding interest in CBD products might suggest that growing hemp for CBD is the smart choice. While CBD is the “most lucrative of the varieties, (it) can present regulatory challenges depending on the end-use products being produced from the raw hemp crop.” It is also the most labor-intensive of the three.
Only female plants can be grown, their planting density must be lower, and no chemicals can be used once the plants start to grow. This is in addition to the knowledge needed to maximize CBD without exceeding legal THC levels. CBD hemp crops take an immense amount of knowledge and care. It can be a gamble, especially when the market is still developing.
A Farmer’s Intuition
Hemp may have been around for centuries, but there were fifty-or-so years that it wasn’t allowed to be farmed in North America. During that time, farming methods and the markets for hemp have changed, and laws are still catching up. A successful hemp harvest requires a knowledgeable farmer. On top of that, to profit from hemp farming requires a smart farmer. Without a doubt, there is a world of opportunity available in hemp farming for the right person.