Harvest Time at Fletcher Farms

Kaitlin Domangue

Harvest time at Fletcher Farms isn’t until the first week of October, but we want to share with you what it’s like on the farm during the busiest time of hemp growing season. 

Outdoor grown hemp under the sunset before harvest time at Fletcher Farms

Since the 2018 Farm Bill passed, The United States has been bursting at the seams with hemp farms. According to Hemp Industry Daily, as of 2019, 21,496 growers were licensed to cultivate hemp in the United States. In true CBD industry fashion, this figure represents a huge rate of growth from 2018. The number of hemp growers licensed for the 2019 growing season showed a 476% increase over 2018. 

Leaving 2018 and entering 2019 was a special time for hemp cultivators, unlike any other in history. In 2018, what’s known as “The 2018 Farm Bill” or “The Farm Bill” was signed into action by the Trump Administration. The CBD market has grown exponentially since the red tape surrounding the industry was removed, and it will only continue to grow. 

The legislation removed hemp from the Schedule I Substances list, effectively creating a legal pathway for hemp-derived CBD companies to exist all over the country. Before this unprecedented move, hemp was classified alongside drugs like meth and heroin, with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) citing it as holding a high potential for abuse with zero medicinal value. Believe it or not, marijuana is still on this list today, despite over half the country employing a medical cannabis program.

Person holding two large hemp plants during Fletcher Farms hemp harvest

The difference between the two plants? Honestly, not much. As far as the federal government, the difference is THC. The 2018 Farm Bill says hemp plants must contain less than 0.3% THC in order to be sold in the United States. 

Fletcher Farms’ sungrown hemp

At Fletcher Farms, our hemp is grown outdoors under the beautiful Oregon sunshine. Sungrown hemp yields beautiful, dense, and potent hemp flowers. If you don’t know much about plant cultivation, you may not know that indoor grow lighting replicates the sun’s natural rays. But no matter how many lights you put over your hemp plants, they will just never quite live up to the sun’s boundless power. 

The sun’s full-spectrum rays produce flowers with a powerful full-spectrum profile, rich with cannabinoids, terpenes, and other important compounds. Cannabinoids are compounds found in both hemp and marijuana. There are over 100 known cannabinoids, though you most often hear about CBD and THC! 

Fletcher Family in front of hemp plants before harvest season

Timing your perfect harvest

When it comes to harvesting hemp for CBD products, and any cannabis plant really: timing is everything. Chopping the plants too early or too late can be the difference between a few thousand dollars per pound or biomass, which means less money per pound, so we are careful to time it just right. 

According to North Carolina State University’s Agriculture Extension program, just a 1% difference in CBD content among 1,000 pounds of biomass equals a crop value difference of roughly $20,000! So in other words, if your competitor’s hemp has just 1% more CBD than you, they might be getting $20,000 more for their crop. 

Of course, it’s not all about money. Our customers deserve the most potent, powerful, and cannabinoid-rich products available. Nobody wants a bad product, especially in a  new, health-focused industry like CBD. In order to give you the best CBD products, we need to time our harvest just right. 

It’s like produce at the grocery store. They typically harvest just a little early so the produce can have time to ripen as it makes its way to the store. That’s the perfect time for produce heading to the grocery store, and similarly, we have a “perfect time”, too. 

Timing is everything to a profitable hemp farm and CBD company with happy, healthy customers. We rely a lot on visual cues to determine when it’s time to harvest, but on a large-scale farm, testing for potency is really the only accurate way to determine when it’s time to harvest. Visually, you'll begin to see the trichomes change from clear to milky white. The trichomes are the frosty tips on the cannabis plant, they are filled with cannabinoids and terpenes.  

Girl at Fletchers Farms hemp farm harvesting the hemp flowers

Is hemp THC-free? 

You might hear some people say hemp is THC-free. This is not true. While CBD isolate and broad-spectrum formulas do not contain THC (or shouldn’t, always check for your CBD product’s Certificates of Analysis), full-spectrum formulas do. Hemp itself will naturally contain THC; it’s just a trace amount compared to marijuana plants. The 2018 Farm Bill says hemp plants must contain less than 0.3% THC to be sold under federal law, with the “hot” hemp plants discarded and destroyed, unable to be used for any reason. This is true across the country, even in Oregon where marijuana is legal!

However, hemp-derived CBD products will not get you high. The amount of THC in even full-spectrum products is so small, it won’t create a psychoactive effect. 

What does harvest season look like at Fletcher Farms?

At Fletcher Farms, harvesting hemp is a group effort. The amount of hemp we grow changes depending on the year, but you can find us growing anywhere from three to twenty five acres of hemp plants and harvesting the first week of October. On average, we’ll process about 10,000 plants and roughly 50,000 pounds of hemp material. Of that 50,000 pounds, we will hand buck about 3,500 pounds of top-shelf, smokable hemp flower. Hand bucking just means removing the flowers and leaves from the hemp stalk. It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of hands! 

To ensure everything gets done on time, we hire about 20 helpers to assist us during harvest. We have about 12 family members and roughly 10 friends who are family, too, that help us get the job done. 

During harvest time, our days are pretty long and repetitive. In a nutshell, here’s what they look like:

  • Cutting down the hemp 
  • Bring them to the barns
  • Prepare the plants to be dried

Fletcher family at Fletcher hemp farms harvesting hemp during October

Drying the hemp

One of the most important parts of producing good hemp is making sure it’s dried properly. At the farm, we’re all holding our breaths until dry time is over because if it’s not right, it could ruin everything. 

A lot of people might think the growing period is the most important part of hemp cultivation, and they wouldn’t be wrong to say that. But, without flower that has been properly dried, you run the risk of mold and other issues. Not to mention, hemp flower is pretty wet after being freshly harvested. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to smoke wet flower. Have you ever gotten your bowl or CBD flower pre-roll wet and couldn’t light it? Same concept applies here. The key is to dry it just enough to make it smokable, but not too dry to where the flower burns away as soon as it hits a flame. 

Final thoughts from the farm

It’s always exciting to see how well we did compared to the prior year’s harvest. The hemp space is moving quickly. If you aren’t refining and growing your skills to be better each and every year, you might get left behind. Thankfully, there’s such a demand for hemp-derived CBD; more and more people are learning about it’s awesome benefits every day. As long as the trend continues, we can always provide great products to the people who want them.

Girl using Fletcher Farms' outdoor CBD rub at the hemp farm during harvest