From Dairy Cows to Hemp Fields – The 2019 Season
Testimonial: Karl Scott
Not surprisingly, one of the challenges that Karl Scott dealt with when he planted his first 10 acres of hemp in 2019 was explaining to his neighbors that he was NOT growing marijuana. As curious looky-loos in Garland, Maine, cruised slowly past his plot in their trucks last summer, Scott would take any opportunity he could to reach out to inform and educate them.
He chuckles about it now, recalling, “It used to be I didn’t know the difference between hemp and marijuana either. I had to educate myself and get past some negative misconceptions. My wife was ahead of me on this and encouraged me to look into it because of all the popularity hemp and CBD have gained recently.” What he read about hemp growing and hemp economics convinced him that it would at least be worth some smart, conservative experimentation.
Like many traditional farmers, Scott’s journey into hemp production began with a lot of online research into the hemp industry, farming practices, and suppliers. He wanted to pursue this fully informed. “This was my dad’s dairy farm,” Scott explains. “I bought it from him 28 years ago and work it with one of my sons.” Needless to say, many family discussions followed about how best to proceed with a hemp trial.
He also reached out to a friend in Canada who was growing hemp successfully alongside his more traditional corn crop. The Canadian farmer was enthusiastic and forwarded encouraging words as well as crop photos to his American friend. Scott additionally had conversations with about a half dozen other Maine farmers he knew who were also considering hemp production and asking some of the same questions that he was. As he built his knowledge base, Scott slowly began to formulate a strategic plan outlining how to integrate a plot of hemp into his 600-acre dairy and silage operation.
To put the plan into action, one of the first decisions Scott had to make was choosing the right hemp seed. Using his Yankee discernment, Scott’s investigation into seed suppliers quickly revealed that there were wide variances between seed companies in terms of their experience levels and the integrity of their processes. “I wanted a company that could show me independent research and information on their strains,” Scott recalls. “I wanted a company with a lot of experience. And, I wanted a company that would take a personal interest in me.” These specs quickly narrowed the field. One that sold verifiable, high-quality hemp seed stood out among the rest: Scott ultimately chose Cheyenne Mountain Seed Company. “They are terrific to do business with and Reed Mason (Cheyenne COO) is excellent. He truly partners with me.”
In spring 2019, with a delivery of Mountain Mango seeds in hand, Scott began his hemp experiment in earnest. He started by working cow manure into the soil before setting the seed. “I had purchased a seed planter,” explains Scott, “but I wasn’t happy with how it worked so we ended up planting our 10 acres by hand. That took three days.” The newly seeded plot was also outfitted with plastic mulch and a drip line to the farm’s pond.
It was a cold, wet spring so the crop had to be planted late, along with hopes that it wouldn’t be an early frost year. The added moisture and the plastic mulch created a small issue with damping off in some places, which Scott simply replanted. “We also had a little bit of cutworm and some snails,” he reports, “but we were able to control these fairly easily.”
The crop thrived over the summer, requiring very little watering. Scott observes, “I used the drip lines primarily to run minerals.” But what really impressed Scott was the purity of the Mountain Mango strain. “I had 10 acres and not one male plant. To me, that is exceptional,” he says with pride. “The seed really speaks for itself.”
By fall, the plants were flourishing and passed their state and independent lab tests for THC levels. Scott employed a crew of 10 to harvest the hemp with chain saws and load it onto flatbeds over the course of three days. From his farm, Scott hired a transport company to take his crop to a drying facility in North Carolina. “I would have preferred to dry in state, but the commercial dryer I had lined up was overwhelmed and couldn’t fit me in,” says Scott. “The infrastructure is catching up, but right now, there are not a lot of drying facilities.”
Still, Scott expects to end the cycle profitably. “Even if I go wholesale instead of retail, I’m going to be fine,” he says.
Today, with one successful hemp harvest behind him, Scott is eager for the 2020 planting season and the chance to apply last year’s lessons to an even more efficient operation in the coming year. He is even considering expanding his hemp plot to 20 or 30 acres. To curious onlookers, Scott says, “it all starts with the seed. Stay on the CBD side. Buy feminized. You get what you pay for and it’s worth it.”