How to grow, sell hemp for CBD oil
ROUND 2: Warren County, Ill., farmer Andy Huston harvested a hemp strain called Cherry Wine last fall, building a seed supply he’ll use on expanded acreage this growing season.
Technically, 2019 won’t be the first year Illinois farmers have grown hemp.
The state issued two research permits for growing industrial hemp outside in the 2018 season — marking the first year Illinois allowed farmers to grow the crop in a row crop setting since World War II. Under the oversight of Western Illinois University, self-funded farmers in Mason and Warren counties conducted research on growing hemp for cannabidiol (CBD) oil extraction.
Win Phippen, director of WIU’s Alternative Crops Research Program, says about 80% of farmers’ interest in hemp is for CBD, which is extracted from the flower and fetches a high premium compared to corn and soybeans. CBD is one of 100-plus cannabinoids identified in Cannabis sativa varieties. Any variety certified to be less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is designated as hemp.
By growing the crop outside instead of in a building or greenhouse, where all 21 medical cannabis cultivators in the state currently produce due to security requirements, the two outdoor hemp farmers in 2018 were able to grow much bigger plants.
“When we grow CBD, we’re planting with 4 to 5 feet between plants, so now it looks more like a Christmas tree farm than anything,” Phippen says. “And they get to be about the size of a Christmas tree.” He says the spacing worsens the impact of wind, particularly at the Mason County plot, which is located on sandy, flat ground with soybeans surrounding it.
“We got a ton of rain and high wind in July at that plot. It flattened everything. We didn’t harvest a single thing off that crop,” he says. “Once it lays down in the soil, it’s essentially worthless.”
With a mid-June planting date, the hemp grew 6 to 8 feet tall by the end of September on Warren County farmer Andy Huston’s third of an acre. Since it was seeded in a valley, it was protected from high winds. Extra moisture helped stand establishment early in the season.
Huston, part owner of a Canton dispensary, plans to grow 17 acres this year by using seed he gathered from last year’s crop. He also sells the seed, sending a royalty to the Colorado cultivator that first developed the high-CBD, low-THC hemp strain known as Cherry Wine. He’s holding deposits and seed orders until permits are issued.
“For our acres, we’ll start out seedlings in a greenhouse, transplant them out into the field, and when we’re doing that, we’ll also lay down a film of plastic with an irrigation drip line for the plants,” Huston says, adding the plastic helps with weed control and retaining moisture. “We’re also drilling some of our acres and looking at planting into cereal rye.”
Since hemp has no approved chemical insecticides or herbicides, Phippen says farmers have to hand-weed every other day from roughly June 1 to August, when the canopies of the plants finally close the gaps in the rows that give sunlight to weeds.
“You’re going to hand-weed for a while. You’re going to be watering every two to three days, to get those plants well-established, keeping an eye out for insects, aphids, that sort of thing,” Phippen says.
Huston says he’ll control weeds with 4-foot tillers at first and then move up to narrower equipment as the canopy closes.
“The rest of it is done with a garden hoe, which is very labor-intensive. Just normal weeding in a big garden,” he says, adding he has full-time employees through his family’s 2,200-acre farm, as well as their earth-moving and trucking businesses.
TRIAL RUN: Hemp plants grown for CBD are given 3 to 5 feet to grow depending on variety. Andy Huston pruned and weeded by hand in the 2018 growing season.
Huston has a small-scale oil extractor on order and plans to start pressing his hemp into CBD oil starting in July. He doesn’t have a buyer yet. “You really can’t step into that market until you have the oil in hand to sell,” he explains.
Huston knows of several processors ready to buy biomass from farmers to produce oil. His eventual goal, however, is to start a profit-sharing, large-scale facility for farmers to have oil extracted from their harvest — essentially, a CBD cooperative.
“Just like any other commodity, people are going to try to get it as cheaply as they can from the farmer for processing. What I would like to do is get something set up that’s more of a co-op,” he concludes.
How to sell it
Revolution Enterprises in Delavan will be purchasing hemp biomass for CBD oil production in the fall at a fair market price, says Kevin Pilarski, chief commercial officer. His company owns a dispensary and medical marijuana cultivation facility and has been pressing CBD oil for four years.
“It seems like there’s going to be substantially more CBD on the market in the 2019 growing season,” he says, citing a statistic from Kentucky showing registered acres are up 162% from last year. When asked if there will be demand to match a surge in supply, he says, “We think there will — especially after some of the bigger investments in CBD by companies like Constellation.”
Constellation Brands, the distributor of Corona beer and Robert Mondavi wine, made an investment in Canopy Growth based on CBD. In addition, both InBev and Coca-Cola have been looking at possibly launching CBD products. And CVS and Walgreens recently announced they will be selling CBD.
Revolution Enterprises will not be contracting with farmers, because prices are still volatile in the new market and have come down dramatically from highs. But Pilarski says they hope to give farmers a place to turn to. They’re offering THC testing for farmers as well — the portable machine would cost farmers $15,000 otherwise.
“When the hemp starts to get closer to 0.2%, you probably want to think about harvesting, so testing is really important,” he says. “Our intention here really is to make sure that the hemp market in Illinois gets a decent start, and eventually, we believe the seed and fiber side will be where there’s probably going to be substantially more acres in Illinois.”
How to Grow Hemp (What You Need to Know About Growing CBD Hemp)
So, you want to grow hemp? It’s the perfect time to start learning everything you can. With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill by the federal government, it’s now legal (once again) to grow hemp in the USA. While regulations on growing hemp haven’t yet been determined, it’s only a matter of time before growing hemp could become one of the most commonly cultivated crops.
The money in hemp isn’t bad either. While the legal status of CBD varies from state to state, by some estimates, the hemp market for CBD could be worth up to $30,000 an acre. Plant hemp with a 10, 20, 50, or 100-acre hemp farm, and you’re looking at a rather lucrative crop. There seems to be no stopping for the hemp industry. For those that know how to harvest hemp and cultivate hemp, crops like hemp are helping farmers see potential growth from this industry. While many farmers are growing a small crop of hemp right along with all of their other crops. So Let’s dive right in and find out how farmers can make hundreds of thousands on this incredible cash crop.
How to Grow Hemp: The Basics
Seeing as the topic of hemp growing could encompass an entire book, here we’re simply going to cover the basics of hemp cultivation. If you’re interested in hemp farming, but don’t know much about a hemp harvest or have the slightest idea of where to start, consider this written especially for you.
What is Hemp?
Like marijuana, hemp is a member of the Cannabis sativa L. plant species. While both cannabis plants are from the same species, these cannabis plants contain a unique biological structure which makes them very different plants indeed. While marijuana plants produce thick, dense buds and grow to be relatively bushy, hemp plants are tall and thin, and they don’t produce the buds that marijuana is famous for. When you look at a hemp and marijuana plant side by side, there is no mistaking the difference between the two. One of the biggest differences between hemp and marijuana, however, is the cannabinoid content each contains. While marijuana can contain 5-30% THC (or more), hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC. Since the controlled substances act came into effect, the possession, cultivation, processing, or distribution of industrial hemp has limited purposes. Most of them fall under agricultural or academic research carried out by a state department of agriculture, and a farmer will need special licenses to grow, cultivate and farm hemp.
What is Hemp Used For?
Hemp cultivation exists for a few different reasons. Years ago, growers have been looking at hemp for industrial purposes (such as for making hemp fibers). The hemp plant is also grown for the nutritional value found in the hemp seed that can be eaten by itself or used to make hempseed oil. Hemp is a hardy plant and is mainly used for rope, textiles, paper, animal feed, and much more. Most recently, hemp has been widely cultivated for CBD. When discussing hemp farming techniques, it’s vital to determine what you’re interested in growing it for. Fiber? Seed? CBD? Currently, farmers growing hemp for CBD is making the biggest buzz and industry experts expect that new markets for CBD will continue to grow. Why? Because the CBD industry has exploded and is estimated to be worth some $22 billion by 2022. And now that it’s (almost) legal to grow in the US, there are plenty of people that want in on the action. Let’s take a deeper look at the different categories of industrial hemp. We’ll cover some topics every would-be hemp farmers should know.
For years, farmers have traditionally grown the hemp plant for its fiber. Fibrous types of hemp can be grown to produce paper, textiles, fuel, building materials, and much more. Hemp grown for fiber is typically done on a large-scale production (including harvesting, processing, and transporting).
Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritional food items that exist. Seed/grain food types of a particular hemp plant will typically contain a significantly lower cannabinoid content but are prized for their precious seeds as a nutritional food source. Farmers take great care when they plant these hemp seeds because they are extremely delicate and must be harvested, processed, and transported with extreme care. Storage is also vital to ensure the highest possible quality.
Cannabinoid-rich types of hemp are the most popular, as they contain significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) that can be used to make oil and various products. Growing CBD hemp strains requires a certain level of mastery when it comes to cultivation in order to achieve the highest CBD levels while keeping THC levels under 0.3%. Hemp grown for CBD typically only employs female plants because male and female plants grown together will increase seed production while decreasing CBD levels. The very first thing you should ask yourself when learning about hemp farming is what type of hemp you want to grow. You see, hemp grown for fiber, seeds, and CBD oil is grown much differently. CBD is extracted from female hemp. On CBD hemp farms, there are typically 1,000-1,600 plants grown per acre and all are tended to individually by the farmer. Related article: Hemp Oil and CBD Oil Compared It’s grown similarly to marijuana, with the big difference being the levels of THC contained in the plant itself. Both female and male plants are grown in a crop of hemp. There is a planting level of some 400,000 plants per acre. When compared to marijuana harvesting, hemp is reaped more like a crop of wheat.
Enjoying your read? Sign up to be a part of the CBD School community, and we’ll send you a free eBook called The Beginner’s Guide to CBD. It will get you caught up in all things CBD. Additionally, you’ll get updates on the best CBD products and discounts in the industry.
10 things you need to know before growing hemp
Hemp is a sibling to marijuana and looks exactly like marijuana. The only difference between the two is in the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which causes hallucinogenic effects.
Hemp seed can be hard to find and expensive. Buying seed from a reputable dealer is critical to prevent the crop from containing more than 0.3% THC.
Hemp growers and processors have to get a license from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture must test hemp before it is harvested to ensure the THC levels are below 0.3%. Then, the hemp must be harvested within 15 days of the test.
If farmers produce a crop of hemp that tests over the 0.3% limit for THC, the crop is considered to be marijuana and must be destroyed.
Grown for textiles or plastics, hemp has a planting rate of about 400,000 per acre. Hemp for CBD oil is grown at 1,000 to 2,000 plants per acre.
Growing hemp for CBD oil is more labor intensive and similar to growing tobacco, while cultivating hemp for fiber is more like cultivating a traditional row crop, planted much like corn or soy.
Hemp grown to produce CBD oil uses only female plants and farmers typically buy them as plants – not seeds. (The female plants focus on producing flowers, which is needed for CBD; the male plants focus on producing more seeds.)
Hemp thrives in warm weather and in soil that drains well. Hemp grown for CBD oil requires a lot of water and likely an irrigation source.
Having a signed contract with a buyer before planting is highly encouraged as current trends make the prospect of selling hemp on the open market unlikely, or at a reduced price.
(Source: OSU Extension, the outreach arm of the College Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences)