So, you’ve heard American hemp is having a renaissance of sorts? Maybe you read about it here, in our report on America’s changing hemp laws, or in our in-depth look at the potential impacts of a fully commercialized domestic hemp industry. Or maybe you’ve simply heard the stories of farmers who’ve moved boldly into this new frontier; men and women who are reclaiming this lost thread of our nation’s agricultural fabric and putting it to new uses to revitalize their farms and communities.
One way or another, hemp has your attention. And now you’re looking to get into the game yourself. “But how do I get started growing hemp?,” you might ask. We at Remedy Review are here to answer all of your questions about this promising plant–and walk you through everything you’ll need to know to get your first hemp crop in the ground.
Before anything else, you’ll need to figure out if you live in a state where it’s currently legal to grow industrial hemp. As it stands, the plant remains a federally controlled substance due to its tenuous relationship with marijuana. Fortunately for you, the aspiring hemp farmer, the vast majority of states–more than forty–have recognized the industrious ethic of hard-working hemp.
These states have passed laws allowing hemp to be grown for a select range of purposes under the steady watch of pilot research programs. And, conveniently enough, Remedy Review maintains a frequently updated list of those states, making it as simple as a mouse click to find out where your state stands on industrial hemp.
Despite hemp’s ancestral ties to the American landscape and the plant’s proven worth as an industrial commodity and medicinal powerhouse, a shifting legal climate has hung a cloud of uncertainty over hemp’s future prospects: “It is not possible to predict with any degree of confidence the potential market and employment effects of relaxing current restrictions on U.S. hemp production,” the Congressional Research Service stated in a June 2018 report.
So, to succeed as a modern hemp farmer, you’ll need to adopt the faith and fearlessness of the pioneers of old. Here are a few things to consider:
Though uncertainty reigns in the hemp industry, the strong market growth for hemp-derived products like CBD, combined with the likelihood that the plant could soon be removed from the federal list of controlled substances, makes betting on hemp’s future stability an attractive option for many farmers. It’s worth noting, too, that as America’s hemp farmers gain experience and grow their institutional knowledge, they’re likely to see their profits rise as they realize new, sustainable markets for this ancient crop.
Emily Febles, program manager for North Carolina’s burgeoning Industrial Hemp Program, tells Remedy Review that, “Since it became federally legal for states to begin hemp pilot programs 4-5 years ago, there is much greater consumer awareness of hemp products and a greater opportunity for farmers to sell their crop at the end of the season… With the decline of the tobacco industry, farmers here are experimenting with using old tobacco equipment to grow hemp and it does seem like a lot of that equipment can be re-purposed for this new state crop.”
So, you’ve considered the challenges and decided you’ve got the stout heart of a hemp farmer. Next, you’ll need to determine if the land you’ve got to work with is the right fit for hemp. Here’s what to think about:
Each state with a hemp pilot program runs theirs slightly differently. Some have the help and involvement of universities or other research institutions, while others rest completely under the auspices of the state’s agriculture department. Either way, since your state’s agriculture department will have had a hand in establishing the rules of the program, they’ll be the ones to check with first.
A quick visit to your agriculture department’s website–or a quick Google search including the name of your state and the words “hemp pilot program”–should get you exactly where you need to go. After that, you’re likely to run into some combination of the following:
Actually, hold off on that just another minute. U.S. hemp markets are still unstable, so hardened hemp farmers often recommend contracting a buyer for your crop before putting plants in the ground. And since American hemp processors currently focus heavily on grain throughputs, some of those veterans also suggest that concentrating on high-grain cultivars could be the best short-term solution to ensure a potential market–and profit–for your hemp crop.
Before planting, you’d also be wise to get a sense for what has worked for other growers in your area. Your state’s pilot research program will likely give you access to local county or regional agents, or else be able to connect you with other networking resources. Depending on the state, these could range from farmer meet-ups and small educational events all the way up to direct assistance from university-associated programs and personnel.
Finally, consider the potential benefits of growing organic. Organic hemp and its products can often fetch significantly higher prices at market than conventional varieties. And since hemp is naturally pest-resistant and requires fewer pesticides and other inputs than many other crops, it’s highly suitable for the organic process.
Embracing success as a hemp farmer in these uncertain times will take nothing less than the perfect balance of ingenuity and old-fashioned work ethic. But remember this:
Realizing creative visions by way of hard work is quite literally what farmers have been doing for more than ten thousand years now–and in all that time, nothing has embodied that bold mix better than the steady hands and pioneering spirit of the American farmer.
If you’re up for the challenge, make a plan and get started.