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Vermont’s Hemp Farmers Report Late Season Start, Increased Planting

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
Evan Johnson
Evan Johnson 24 Sep 2019

Vermont’s hemp farmers saw a productive season this year, with more registrations and more acres of hemp grown than in the past. 

So far, in 2019, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets has granted over 900 hemp grower registrations and 200 processor registrations, double the number granted for 2018. This season, over 7,800 acres of farmland were registered for growing hemp, a figure that VTDigger pointed out is 137 percent higher than 2018.

Growers described a late start to the season, attributed to the long-lasting wet and cold from the spring. A drier summer also resulted in lower infestations of pests. Outdoor crops benefited from a lack of summer hail storms. 

Arantha Farrow, project managed 55 acres with Caledonia Cannabis, described a cold and wet start.

“Because of that, a lot of people weren’t able to put their plants in as soon as they wanted,” she said. “I’m curious with how the fall is going to be. I’m feeling like it could be a wet fall, which for farmers means issues of mold.”

Ben Lanza of Family Tree Hemp Company in Sheldon, Vt. said the season’s late start improved fast, which caught some growers off guard.  

“It was an amazingly late start to the season and then it sped up real quickly,” he said at the recent Vermont Hemp Festival in Burke. “The growing conditions were out of control perfect in some areas this year, which I feel had some people scrambling to catch up with feeding and watering. We have to irrigate a lot, so that was a challenge for us.”  

Meanwhile, hemp production in the United States has quadrupled since last year, according to Vote Hemp’s 2019 license report. It estimates some 230,000 acres of hemp will be planted in 2019. The advocacy group says that 50 to 60 percent of that acreage will be harvested, resulting in 115,000 to 138,000 acres of harvested hemp.

In 2019, 19 states started growing hemp. To date, only Mississippi, New Hampshire, Idaho and South Dakota have not enacted hemp legalization.

This growing season came with new regulations in the state program administered by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. This summer, the agency finalized a new set of rules governing the cultivation and processing of hemp. After receiving input from farmers, drafting and a public comment period, the rules went into effect in August. 

Rules governing hemp cultivation are evolving at a national level as well. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture submitted its hemp regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget for approval. 

The new regulations are expected to clarify items the U.S. Farm Bill that passed in December 2018. Currently, most state hemp growing programs, including Vermont’s, are operating under rules passed in the 2014 Farm Bill. 

Northeast Hemp Commodities, based out of Fair Haven, Vt., planted over 200 acres on land leased from farmers. Last year, they grew 60 acres and yielded 70,000 pounds of processed hemp. The increase in acreage required them to expand their staff to 30 full-time employees with added temporary workers at harvest.

“Higher value crops require extra steps and paying a good wage. It results in a healthier product and it helps the community,” NEHC Chief Technology Officer Rye Matthews told Heady Vermont. “It’s worth it to us even if production costs are higher. It sets a standard for this new industry to grow in the direction of sustainable communities and producing the finest cannabinoid extracts and supplements available.”  

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