First Rhode Island Hemp Harvest Begins as Farmers Share Lessons

This year, only four farmers were licensed to grow industrial hemp in Rhode Island and the harvest season is on. Dawson Hodgson, the farmer with the biggest hemp farm in the state, is one of those already harvesting and he revealed what the journey to this point has been like.

Hodgson, whose family has been running a 500-acre farm for generations, says that he has been lucky that he hasn’t encountered any major problems during this first season of growing hemp. For example, he says that he has only had to water his hemp plants once, and rainfall did the rest for the entire growing season.

However, Hodgson reveals that there has been a lot of trial and error when it came to harvesting his 70,000 plants grown on 65 acres. This is because the harvester he acquired to harvest the hemp plants only worked for the shorter plants (those about 3-feet tall) and the taller ones jammed the equipment so he had to improvise and send in workers with motorized cutters.

Drying the plants also presented some unforeseen challenges. In the beginning, Hodgson had the cut plants baled and ferried to a turf field for preliminary drying. However, the farmer quickly noticed that the hemp, which already had a 94 percent moisture content, was absorbing water from the grass on which it had been spread instead of losing its moisture down to the required 12 percent.

Hodgson therefore instructed his field workers to leave the cut hemp plants out in the farm for a few days, after which the plants would be collected and taken to the drying machine at the farm. It takes about 12 hours for eight bales of hemp to dry in the dryer which can be heated to 110-degrees.

Hodgson doesn’t seem to be worried about where he will sell his dried hemp even if the only in-state processor closed shop months ago. The farmer says that he has received queries from half a dozen out-of-state processors who want to buy his entire crop, so he is waiting for the hemp to dry before deciding who to sell to.

Hodgson knows that CBD oil is only extracted from hemp flowers and leaves, and he is considering to look into the possibility of selling the stalks to the fiber market in future.

Next year, Hodgson plans to stagger his plants because it was very challenging for him to transfer all 70,000 seedlings from indoors where he started them off to the outdoor garden. Growing the hemp in phases can eradicate that headache, he says.

Right now everything is looking up, but Hodgson can’t help but wonder what future growing seasons will be like in terms of the weather and the market as more farmers come on board.

Experts believe that CBD industry players like Grapefruit Boulevard Investments Inc. (OTCQB: IGNG) and Green Growth Brands Inc. (CSE: GGB) (OTCQB: GGBXF) could be very pleased that farmers are getting off to a good start in this first growing season after hemp was legalized.

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