Our producers made it through the 2019 Colorado hemp harvest by the skin of their teeth, and we thought it would be good to share some of the lessons we collectively learned.
Mother Nature. (We initially typed in “Mother nature” and our spell-checker corrected it to “Mother Nature” – clearly our technology is fully aware of the respect she deserves!) She threw a 2-week wrench in our farmers’ harvesting plans. The mid-October cold snap lasted several days, and caused most growers to pull forward their harvesting plans (or try to). We saw conflicting advice about what the cold would do to the hemp plants themselves and to CBD %s. Ultimately, based on the advice of our agronomists, we rode out the cold snap, then harvested immediately thereafter. That proved to be a good decision.
Plant size and harvest method. Our plants were not the largest (the Department of Ag inspectors who pulled the samples in our farmers’ fields generally gave their crops a “B” grade relative to the other fields they’d sampled) but they certainly challenged the headers our farmers were using. A lot of on-the-fly equipment repair proved necessary. Makes us feel that gunning for bigger plants is not the solution, and the question is how to get to the maximum CBD production in an acre that can be readily harvestable. We believe that hemp harvesting equipment will improve, but that the industry is likely to settle on a smaller, denser plant.
Control over harvesting assets. Ultimately, our farmers were harvesting their own fields, and so they had the flexibility to time what got harvested when. Custom harvesting may be cost-effective, but we worry that it doesn’t create sufficient flexibility for a crop like hemp, that is going to be very sensitive to small mistakes in harvest timing.
Bottlenecks. We did a good job of sizing our drying capacity to our producers’ needs, but were initially challenged by the rate at which harvested biomass was arriving at the dryer, and needing to be offloaded. Fortunately, that was a very solvable problem, and we were able to quickly increase the offload rate with a little more equipment and a little more labor.
Having seen fields that had to be left unharvested, or that were desperately harvested at the 13th hour, we feel very happy for our farmer partners that we were able to work together collaboratively to maximize the results, given the weather constraints we all had to deal with!