Hemp is a variety of cannabis. It’s a versatile agricultural product that provides oil from its leaves, protein from its seeds, and natural fibers from its stems. Hemp fibers have been used for thousands of years as a natural fiber for use in woven ropes, paper, and clothing. The Greeks and Romans used hemp fibers as well, and they also utilized its seeds and leaves for medicinal purposes. These days, the most well-known use for hemp is as a source of cannabidiol (CBD).
Being a close relative of marijuana, hemp contains some of the same properties of its cannabis relative, such as the presence of CBD oil in its leaves. However, hemp has much lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive agent in marijuana.
How to Farm Hemp
The agricultural production of hemp has been legal since the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. If you’re looking to begin farming hemp, you need to begin by finding the ideal location for planting. Hemp plants prefer flat fields, good percolation, hot days, cool nights, a good supply of water and nutrients, and short summers. The soil itself doesn’t need to be especially high-quality, but having the right climate is important.
The equipment needed to farm hemp isn’t significantly specialized. The machinery is fairly easy to acquire from well-equipped farm suppliers. It’s also worth considering that hemp farming doesn’t require high labor costs. If you’re able to get the proper equipment, most of the planting, cultivation, and harvesting can be done by machines.
It’s also important to consider who will buy the crop once it’s grown and harvested. Hemp is usually purchased under contracts with manufacturing labs that use it to extract CBD. However, there are other options available for established hemp farmers. All in all, hemp is an ideal crop for small farmers or new entrants to the agricultural industry because of the low labor costs and open buyer market for hemp.
Is Hemp Farming Profitable?
Farming hemp can be profitable if you’ve financed properly and know the market well. There was something of a bust in the hemp farming industry in 2019 because of an explosion in the supply caused by the high profits of the initial 2018 harvest. Because of high selling prices for the crop the previous year, many farmers switched crops and began growing hemp. Along with new entrants to the agricultural industry who used hemp as an entry crop, this flooded the market and created falling crop prices. This was especially damaging because of the high cost of buying the hemp seeds for planting. However, the market has stabilized since then, though the COVID-19 crisis has created another hurdle for this burgeoning industry.
If you’re going to be growing hemp, a good tip is to ensure you have buyers lined before investing in expensive seeds. Even better, vertically integrate by investing in in-house hemp-processing facilities to extract and process CBD oil, fibers, and seeds yourself. The CBD market is the main source of market growth for hemp at the moment, but other uses may prove to be as profitable and perhaps more stable in the long-term. Currently, the market for hemp is expected to achieve stable growth through 2024 after weathering the growing pains of the 2019-2020 harvests, and investing in this market now may well pay dividends in the future.
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