Given the time of year, we’re getting a ton of questions and are involved in a ton of discussions about what hemp harvesting method to use and why.
(As an aside, if now is when you’re doing your first real thinking about hemp harvesting, you might want to bump that up a bit next year!)
Here’s what we’re hearing are the principal solutions in play in the Rocky Mountain West:
Hand harvesting. Obviously tough to do at any scale, but if you can assemble and supervise the crews, this can generate terrific results (though it results relatively expensive per-acre harvest costs, and depending on the size of your crew, may be too slow).
Silage chopping. Cutting and chopping the entire plant. Relatively straightforward for many farming operations, as they have easy access to the necessary equipment and expertise. Lends itself well to baling and/or mechanical drying. One problem is that, by taking the whole plant, you’ll be artificially lowering your CBD %! The CBD is largely concentrated in the flower, and whatever the quantity of that CBD happens to be, the more biomass that accompanies it to the testing lab and processor, the bigger the denominator in that CBD % fraction, and the lower the CBD % will be. All else equal, processors will want to run high CBD % product (so as to maximize the capacity utilization of their equipment), and so we expect that lower CBD % product will probably get less favorable terms.
Various new and re-purposed headers. There are a number of new and re-purposed headers that will be used this fall (A hemp farming joke: “How do you convert a header to hemp use? Double the price.”).
Our farmers are generally going with one that has an upward stripping motion, expecting that this will do a good job of harvesting the flower (and leaves) while leaving the stalk behind. Trial runs have been good.
We’re forecasting substantially reduced pounds of biomass (since we’re deliberately leaving the stalk behind), but hoping to achieve the maximum CBD % possible with mechanical harvesting. Will be sure to keep you posted!