Grown Here at Home: Montgomery County farmer's take on first year growing hemp
In 2019, TruHarvest Farms in Montgomery County planted 85 acres of hemp. One of the things they learned is weather conditions have to be just right.
"It likes water, but it don't like a lot of rain. So irrigation has proven itself to be a key component. It don't like it hot, but it don't like it cold either, so it's really a middle of the road kind of crop," said John Straw, general manager of TruHarvest Farms.
Getting rid of all the weeds is labor intensive.
"So the thing that separates hemp from most crops is there is no synthetic pesticides approved for use. So, we can't just go in there and spray a herbicide like you would on corn, pumpkins or other crops," John said.
Hemp plants start in greenhouses because the soil in southwest Virginia isn't optimal for growing them from seed in the ground. The seeds need to produce feminine plants because the male ones aren't of any use. And that's where some farmers have run into problems.
"Seeds are kind of a risky business at this point in the industry. There's a lot of misrepresentation and misinformation out there," explained John.
Although this isn't an issue for TruHarvest Farms, John says some farmers are having a problem getting their harvest processed.
"The growth of hemp was far beyond the processing capacity that's available right now, so a lot of people that grew hemp this past year are looking for places to get it processed. It's hurting a lot of farmers because most crops you plant them in the spring and harvest them in the summer or fall, and when you harvest them, you get paid. You sell them and that's the end of it and you have money coming back in. But a lot of my farmers have invested a lot of money into hemp and grew it and got it harvest and are now having trouble selling it. So they made the investment, but haven't seen the return on it yet," John explained.