Ever since the Farm Bill legalized the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp and its extracts, the hemp industry has been on a roll. Already worth millions of dollars in sales, the industry is expected to hit $20 billion by 2024. While hemp seems like the prime cash crop to grow this year, the line between success and failure is a very thin one.
Hemp had been outlawed for decades, and even though it’s legal at the federal level, there’s a lot that’s still shrouded in mystery, especially concerning genetics. And this can make it really hard to thrive as a hemp farmer. Here are five mistakes new hemp farmers looking to succeed in this new industry should avoid.
Not lining up buyers beforehand. The first thing you ought to do is to find buyers, even before you start planting, then work backward. “Start at the very end of the process and imagine yourself getting paid for having delivered the product. What does the product look like? How was it harvested? How was it handled?” says Kevin Nowell, head of farmer relations at Hilco Seed Co. in Sacramento.
This will give you a blueprint to follow, from plant spacing, irrigation and fertilization to the kind of genetics to use.
Researching online. Admittedly, there’s little accurate data about hemp. And while the internet seems like the best option for sourcing information, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and relying on the internet for information could mess up your bottom line.
According to Jeff Kostiuk, Director of Operations for Hemp Genetics International’s Central Region, it’s impossible to find solid hemp intelligence online, and the only way to learn is to do it firsthand.
Not having a water plan. Weather can be fickle, and if you’re planning on irrigating your crops, you’ll need a proper water plan. “If you go to plant and you’re halfway through your season and you realize that you don’t have enough water on your property or your water rights only allow you to use X amount of gallons per year, you’re going to be in trouble,” says Kayla Haddix, a Colorado-based hemp consultant.
Trusting seed vendors. Always be suspicious, especially in an industry filled with players willing to take short cuts for profit. Chris Boucher, CEO of Farmtiva, a seed breeder in San Diego, advises farmers to be distrustful. “Don’t look at one lab report. Ask them for three lab reports. If you’re going to be investing a lot of money, you need as much information as you can get,” he says.
Not testing their seeds. Yes, it’s expensive and it can reduce profits, but according to Jay Noller, head of Oregon State University’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, multiple lab reports and vigorous vetting of a variety’s origins can be insufficient.
“Once you acquire the seeds, run them through a lab yourself. Then once the plant has come up, take that plant and test it again. It is expensive, but it’s going to give you an indication of whether it’s likely to become hot,” he advises.
These mistakes have already cost many farmers their crops, and experts believe industry actors like No Borders Inc. (OTC: NBDR) would want all farmers to avoid making those same mistakes so that cultivators can get a profit from their investment.
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