You don’t want your hemp crop coming in “hot” — over the limit on THC, the intoxicating compound in marijuana — and so far, with the first harvest of the nascent crop in Alabama, everyone’s been under the 0.3 percent limit.
“I have not heard of a single person failing the state’s test,” Chip Bryars of Hemp-TEK said. “That’s been good, and it sounds like the state’s really trying to work with everybody. I was worried about that at the beginning of the year. We’ve had some through third-party testing that have come back what we say is ‘hot,’ which is high THC. But they’ve passed the state’s test so the state’s been reasonable with what they are doing.”
Bryars is not only a hemp farmer and lifelong traditional farmer, he also works with other hemp farmers through his company. He also works as a consultant for farmers growing other crops through another company, Precision Agriculture.
When the season started, Bryars said, oil extracts were expected to be the cash cow for the crop, but more recently there has been a shift toward a more traditional delivery method.
“Right now, everybody is chasing this smokable market,” Bryars said. “If you’ve got something that looks really good and smells really good, those are the two main factors, more so than percent of CBD [the medicinal compound in marijuana], that’s driving the sales of the smokable market. It’s definitely a more valuable product if you’ve got the quality to sell it. Some guys are selling small amounts right now for the smokable market. I have not seen anybody make any big sales of several thousand pounds at a time yet, so we’ll see if this market actually exists.”
The oil extract continues to be popular as well, and how the markets develop will determine which of the delivery systems will be most sustainable, Bryars said.
“That’s just one option for smokable,” he said. “Option two is to go for a local extractor and option three would be an out-of-state extractor.”
At his farm and at others, Bryars said they are looking more to the outside extractors because they have the experience.
“The guys that we’re working with are going out of state because we just didn’t have the confidence level in the guys in state this year, their first year,” he said. “They’ve never done it before; they were building facilities. We weren’t sure they would be up and ready in time, so we’re working out of state this year.”
About 180 or so brave souls took advantage of a change in rules to allow for hemp farming in Alabama with mixed results. Bryars said it will be a learning process and this is just the first year.
“We talked to the state tester the other day and he said of the 182 people that were approved, it sounds like 40 or 50 are going to harvest in the state,” Bryars said.
Of those, Sirmon’s, has harvested this year in Baldwin County and a group from Brewton is also harvesting, Bryars said.
“Currently, with harvesting right now, pretty much everybody has either completed their harvest, started harvest or is waiting on the state to come out and take their test and make sure they are not above the THC limits before they harvest,” Bryars said.
It was a typical first year for those trying out a crop for the first time.
“It’s had its ups and downs,” Bryars said. “There’s been some good success out there and there’s been some guys that have failed as well. Which is somewhat to be expected with a brand-new crop like this. Everybody’s trying to figure out how to do it best.”
Farmers used to traditional methods are struggling, but at the same time learning from the first-year experience.
“Some of these guys were not quite prepared for the intensity of this crop,” Bryars said. “It’s not like corn or beans or cotton or peanuts. The holdup is going to be the weed control. There’s still nothing to spray on it, so you’re still going out there and manually doing weed control. You’re not just going to go out there and plant it and come back every now and then and spray it. It’s something that takes pretty much daily care. I kind of liken it to growing tomatoes. I don’t know if you’ve ever gardened, but growing tomatoes is a pain in the ass.”
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