By far the most common question we get is “How much can I make growing hemp?” Before I try to answer some of these questions, let me make this disclaimer to keep the legal types happy! The following information is based on my experience and the state of the hemp industry as I know it to be today. Obviously the prices for CBD and all hemp products change on a daily (or hourly) basis, which could drastically change the figures quoted here. What I am saying is, don’t apply for a loan or take on an investor based solely upon these numbers…. I am no CPA or financial planner, just ask my wife!
Ok, now that we survived that, let’s get on with why you are reading this, the numbers!
There are three basic types of commodities hemp is raised for in the US and Canada today. These can be broken down into Hemp Fiber (for textiles, rope, hempcrete, and like a thousand other products), Hemp Seed (for food and animal feed), and CBD (which is what we specialize in and are most excited about). Each commodity requires different types of seed, different spacing in the field, different growing methods, and obviously different harvesting techniques. They also produce VASTLY different returns on your investment…
FIBER PRODUCTION –
Industrial Hemp grown for fiber is much taller than CBD Hemp and is planted much more densely than CBD Hemp is. Fiber Hemp populations are usually about 300,000 plants per acre, or approximately 40-55 lbs of seed per acre. Once Fiber Hemp is harvested, it is decorticated and sorted into Bast (Large Fibers) and Hurd (Small Fibers). This fiber is then sold to processors to make many different products.
Fiber Yields vary between 2 – 3 tons per acre. Hemp Fiber is currently worth approximately $260 per ton, making the total yield approximately $520 – $780 per acre. After input costs, an acre of fiber hemp can net between $300-$500 per acre.
SEED PRODUCTION –
Industrial Hemp grown for Seed is much like a traditional grain crop. Hemp Seed can be used for many different food products, supplements, and animal feeds. Seed Hemp populations are generally about 150,000 per acre, or approximately 20-25 lbs of seed per acre. Seed Hemp can be mechanically harvested, similar to any grain. The seed is cleaned, dried, and can be stored in grain bins.
Seed yields vary between 800 – 1000 lbs. per acre. Seed is currently worth approximately $.65 – $.75 per pound, for a total yield of $520 – $750 per acre. After input costs, an acre of seed can net between $250 – $300 per acre.
CBD PRODUCTION –
This is where it gets kinda crazy. CBD Hemp is a much more bushy plant, which is planted in much fewer quantities. The goal of CBD Hemp production is to harvest the flowers of the hemp plant, which are rich with oil containing CBD that can be processed into all of the supplements, creams, soaps, tinctures, and oils we see all over. The flowers and leaves of the CBD Hemp plant are called “Bio-Mass”, which is the product sold by the farmer to a processor.
CBD Hemp populations vary from 1800 – 2200 plants per acre. A typical plant will yield between 1/2 – 1 lb of dry bio-mass each. Bio-mass is sold to a processing facility for between $1.00 – $1.50 per percentage point of CBD per lb. A grower using high quality seed should expect CBD levels around 10% at maturity. Using 10% CBD Hemp as our example, this means a single plant can be worth between $10-$15 each. The total yield on an acre is then between $18,000 – $33,000. Input costs vary widely, as CBD Hemp must currently be hand harvested and there are no herbicides approved for use. These make CBD Hemp a uniquely challenging crop to scale. Even considering the increased labor and seed costs though, you can see why so many farmers are excited about the possibility of CBD Hemp. When faced with the current commodity prices for an acre of corn or soy beans, it is no wonder many farmers are considering how CBD production fits into their farm plans.
As a CBD or CBG grower, your biggest concern is cannabinoid production. It is a well known fact that the most productive plants are female plants allowed to flower to full term, but never get pollinated. The second male pollen (or feminized pollen for that matter) is introduced to your field or greenhouse, your female plants will stop putting energy into producing cannabinoids and trichomes, and begin using energy to grow seeds.
While growing outside, the possibility of becoming “seeded” is always a fear from unknown pollination sources, but we must do everything we can to eliminate pollen in and around our grow areas. The biggest source of potential pollen is obviously a male plant, which is allowed to grow to sexual maturity in our own field. A single male plant can pollinate hundreds or even thousands of female plants. This leaves a grower or farmer two choices.
What Options Do We Have?
Option A: Planting feminized seed, seedlings, or clones greatly reduces the chances you will have male plants in your grow area. While nothing is 100% effective, and you should always walk your fields, quality feminized seed will produce more than 99% female plants. This greatly reduces workload and eliminates the possibility of expending resources to plant, water, and apply nutrients to a male plant which you will end up removing anyway. While feminized seed may seem expensive in March, it will be well worth it in July – August!
Option B: Plant regular seed and cull the males at flower. This method is obviously cheaper up front, but will cost a grower or farmer much more in the long run. Imagine that regular seed has the potential to be 50% female / 50% male. Let’s imagine those numbers for a second… If you plant 2000 plants in an acre, and 1000 end up being culled due to being male, your potential harvest has been halved. Not to mention, you planted those 1000 seeds, watered and cultivated those 1000 plants, and applied expensive nutrients to those 1000 plants for multiple weeks before even knowing they were male. Since it is impossible to tell a male plant from a female plant until flowering, it is a complete gamble on the farmer’s part.
Being a Good Neighbor
Another important point, which is not mentioned as often, is our responsibility to our neighbors. If you are growing hemp, your neighbors probably are too. As hemp growers, we have a responsibility to limit pollen drift. If you allow males to grow in your field, and it pollinates your neighbor’s field, you just cost them money. Not only is this not the neighborly thing to do, there have been recent law suits as well.
At Blackstone Farms we produce a quality feminized seed, which we stand behind. Please give us a call with any questions and let us explain why starting your growing season with feminized seeds is a must!