Up until now, commercial cannabis cultivators on the East Coast have grown their weed in warehouses or greenhouses, partly because of the slow pace of legalization but mostly because of the weather.
But now, after a sunny summer growing season, a field of hundreds of cannabis plants grown outdoors in Cambridge, Maryland are ready to be harvested.
Mackie Barch, owner of the Maryland-based cultivation company Culta, which launched a multimillion-dollar outdoor grow experiment, told the Washington Post that time was of the essence.
“It’s a race against the clock to get it out of the field,” Barch said.
Indoor grows better controlled but more expensive
Naturally, the effort to artificially replicate ideal growing conditions indoors can be costly – up to three times the price of growing outdoors in places with six months of hot, dry days with cool nights, which the East Coast doesn’t have.
Massachusetts also permits large-scale outdoor cultivation, but only one of the four companies approved to grow outdoors has begun operations.
And don’t forget the hemp harvest.
Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp farming, Michigan hemp growers have been hard at work. Through the hemp pilot program, 564 growers obtained licenses to farm 32,600 acres across 835 locations.
Now, these licensed growers are about to see the results of their first harvest, although it’s been a rough year for farmers in Michigan and most of the Midwest.
David Conner, a licensed hemp farmer from Paw Paw, Michigan, said Michigan has the potential to be at the forefront of the growing hemp industry.
“I think our unique growing season and climate is really going to give us a special product and a unique marketing advantage as soon as it starts getting out there and people experience it and see it,” Conner told Michigan Public Radio.
In Bristol, Vermont the industrial hemp harvest is underway.
Leaning Barn Farm has its 40-acres worth of 45,000-industrial hemp plants.
The Farm’s crew is already harvesting them by hand, with loppers, weed trimmers, and where the plants have gotten thick and knotty, chainsaws, according to the Addison County Independent.
Too much of a good thing?
The Hemp Industry Daily noted that this year’s hemp acreage up more than 300%. Advocates predict that the crop, which was meant to help the agricultural sector, could actually end up driving small farmers out of the business.
Hemp farmers, consultants and processors are seeing an oversupply of the crop that may not make it out of the fields
“My prediction is that there will be a 95% attrition rate at the farm level when these economic conditions materialize at the end of the year,” said Michael Brubeck, CEO of Centuria, a hemp processor and extraction company based in Carson City, Nevada.
Let’s hope his prediction is wrong.