The promise of lucrative winnings for hemp farmers has lured many farmers into trying out the new crop. They see the numbers and the possibility of raking in $40,000 per acre can’t be ignored. Amateurs are springing into action to make themselves an overnight success.
Their enthusiasm is a good sign for the industry. More young people are choosing to farm as a career. More lucrative crops will take away the risk of getting into the business. Though there is one aspect of this endeavor that many didn’t anticipate. Farming hemp takes a lot of labor.
Farming anything is hard work, but hemp is special
No matter what you are farming, it is more labor-intensive than most comparable professions. Much of the hand labor has been mitigated by developing specialized equipment. Though long hours are still invested to put the crops in the ground and take them out. You can’t farm without some work, but hemp is special.
If you are growing hemp for fiber and seeds, then you can use some of the machines that farms already have. They can spread the seed just like any other crop. Watering is just like any other crop. Mowers can take down the tall stalks just as easily as hay, and combines can collect the grain just as easily as barley or wheat.
Hemp grown for CBD doesn’t have that luxury. These plants have to be planted by hand and spread out to have plenty of room. Planting small clones or seedlings is the best way to ensure you have female plants with the ideal properties that you need. There aren’t any machines that can put the crops in the ground. Then they need to be cultivated with careful attention all year. There are no pesticides or herbicides that are approved yet to use for hemp. So taking care of weeds and pests comes down to mechanical means.
The systems that are being used for adding water and fertilizer to these plants is closer to a tree farm than a field crop. Drip lines are used to give the exact amount of nutrition and moisture to each of these expensive plants.
When it comes time to harvest. That is manual too. Each plant needs to be cut by hand. There are a few farmers with cobbled together harvesting equipment, but most farmers have to put their backs into it. Each plant is cut by hand, then hauled into barns and greenhouses to be dried.
The intense labor is something that you don’t see in many other crops. Farmers are eager to jump in, but quickly realize how much work they have gotten themselves into. For now the price of the crops is worth their while to only grow small fields and harvest them by hand.
In the long term though, specialized equipment will be built. The economies of scale that make farming other crops profitable will be what keeps farming hemp going as well. There are many challenges to farming this new crop, and right now labor is a big one.