Michigan Farmers Harvest First Hemp Crop Since WWII

Charlie Weber may have thrown in the towel on the hemp crop had he been a quitter. He has started harvesting this crop on the eastside of downtown Warsaw.

Some crops were washed out due to the chilly and rainy spring that ensued. Many farmers also saw it best to delay planting within the Midwest. This also applies to the farmers who wanted to go into the planting of legal hemp for their first time. This was the first time this was being done since its cultivation back during the Second World War. Back then, hemp was used in the production of lots of items from rope to parachute chords.   

The decentralization of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill saw permits been acquired for the growing of hemp on thousands of acres. Both Michigan and Indiana grow hemp for its seed, fiber, and CDB or cannabidiol content. Michael J Fox uses hemp derived cannabinoids while he’s feeling symptoms of Parkinsons.

Charlie wasn’t comfortable with taking a huge risk on hemp. This scenario is common with most farmers. He reserved 25 acres to focus on seed production with another 20 acres for the growth of plants that can produce high CBD levels. Nowadays, this compound is used for pain relief, sleep problems, epilepsy, anxiety, and other issues.

Luke Bryan embarked on the process of seed production on 50 acres last year. His research project was greenlighted by Purdue University. This year, Bryan went on to plant the same amount in Converse, Ind. This was done on his farm to produce high-quality food oil through cold-pressing the seeds. After the completion of this process, animal feed with high-protein content can be generated from the leftovers.

Within both states, there’s uncertainty on whether the first legal harvest will generate profits. This is after the consideration of inputs such as seed prices, plants, labor as well as other inputs. Lots of information has been gathered about the plant along with how useful it can be while offering hundreds of uses. For farmers, it also serves as an additional crop.

“Challenges have been met due to the late planting date,” Bryan said, alluding to this year’s wet conditions. “Weed problems were encountered since the plants weren’t able to canopy because they were not tall enough.”

Still, no approvals have been made to help in the control of bugs, weeds or any other plant problems through the use of chemicals. Regulations concerning hemp production are still being formulated.

“We are still by ourselves,” said Bryan. This translates to more labor input as well as watchfulness.

While Bryan managed to employ modern farming techniques through farm machinery for the planting and harvesting of hemp, this process usually takes up a lot of time and is labor-intensive. Planting as seedlings is generally the way to go for varieties used for their CBD content.

Charlie faced this predicament on his farm near Warsaw. Additional labor was needed to plant new seedlings after some of them died. Besides, weeds, cross-pollination, bugs, and other factors that may end up affecting the plants’ CBD content were being observed. This was done throughout the summer.

A lot of attention was needed to see this through. Charlie had to hire Carrie Simmons to help out. Carrie had already taken an interest in wanting to find out all about the new plant.

“Attention and time are needed when it comes to this beautiful plant,” said Carrie. She said this while on the lookout for any baby caterpillars which would lead to severe plant damage.

Besides the challenges that come with a new crop as well as the late start, Charlie was aiming at getting a sickle mower to help with harvesting the plant that’s rich in CBD. Even so, the machine caused the plant to shake thereby risking the loss of flowers. Remember that cannabidiol is stored in high amounts within these flowers.  

With no alternative to turn to, machetes had to be used. They helped to bring down thick-stalked plants. Thereafter, a machine was used to collect these plants which were cut into pieces and bits.

According to Charlie, the shipment of the harvest to nearby Mentone should be done. This is where the drying of the harvest will happen. Thereafter, there’s a high chance of it being sent to Michigan City where a new CBD processing plant is located.   

The experimentation of eight different hemp varieties was done by Charlie. These varieties were for CBD purposes. Experiments involved the spacing left between the plants and whether watering needed to be done by the roots or from the top.

“Finding the best plants together with the best methods that work for our soil is what we are figuring out,” said Charlie. He commented that the performance of stunted plants wasn’t good enough in comparison to others including Cherry Wine and Sweet. From a distance, the development of these plants seemed like small pine trees.

There were some valuable lessons for Jesse Spencer to take home from the acre of plants that were bred for CBD purposes. This was in Michigan, about 10 miles west of Flint. Despite both the Youngsim 10 and Cherry Wine doing well on his farm, he was perplexed by just how much labor these varieties required.

Spencer pointed out how farmers in Michigan dived deep into the planting of hemp. Almost 20,000 acres of plants were developed for CBD purposes. He serves as the director for communications at iHemp Michigan. This organization’s role is to help individuals who have a passion for industrial hemp through education and connecting them.

According to Gary Cole, Indiana farmers went for a less aggressive and laid back approach. They were more conservative when it came to planting hemp plants. About 3,000 acres were set aside for the production of CBD, fiber, and seed. Gary is the co-founder of the Midwest Hemp Council and an attorney.  

Last year, only 24 acres were used to plant hemp in Indiana. Gary predicts that hemp planting may double or even triple during the coming year. He attributes this to the education of farmers on cultivation methods as well as the development of supporting markets.

“A huge learning curve is being witnessed together with the commencement of infrastructural developments,” said Gary. This statement was made in reference to the emergence of businesses as trusted sources for plants, seeds, equipment, and processing. “A mature supply chain will not be realized without the risks of some pioneers.”

Gary is convinced that the importance of hemp as an industrial crop will be very critical. This is due to its uses in bioplastics, building materials, insulation, textiles and much more.

“The industry’s movie star has to be CBD,” said Gary. “Nonetheless, the long-term game may just be fiber.” 

A diversification opportunity is offered to farmers through the development of new crops. This may be just what we need to see the next generation of farmers. Most of them may be grappling with the low prices of products. 

“Trailblazing was done by these guys,” Gary said. “They may start ripping from the efforts they put in in a few years from now.”

“This is just but the start.”

Both Charlie and Bryan share this view.

“Everyone was aware that it was a research crop while going in,” said Bryan. “For about 80 years, we’ve been overlooking the hemp plant. It may take time for us to gain experience when it comes to hemp.”

2019 is just but the beginning of this process for both farmers.

“The starting line is literally what we’re approaching,” said Bryan. “Markets need to be built for these crops.”

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