Did you know that Hemp was one of the first crops cultivated in the world, with records of hemp harvesting as far back as 8,000 BC?
Many farmers and now contemplating making the switch to a hemp farming enterprise, with some farmers claiming the ability to grow between 5-6 tonnes of Hemp per acre! They say they can do this, whilst also reducing their carbon footprint significantly, as Hemp only uses about one and a half tonnes of Co2 per tonne of hemp.
But how do you go about getting involved? How does it grow? What should you know before entering the sector? Keep on reading and it will all be revealed!
There is an abundance of uses for Hemp, with in excess of 50,000 products produced from the plant.
The seed from hemp plants can be used to create a variety of products for many different uses such as Animal Feed, Foods, Tinctures, Health oils (CBD), Fuel, Cosmetics, Paints, Lubricants, protein powders beer and much more.
Straw from hemp plants can be used for the production of insulations, building materials such as the concrete alternative (hempcrete), ropes, textiles, furniture, canvas, carpets, clothes, animal bedding and much, much more!
How to grow it -
Hemp plants are actually very easily grown and need no chemical treatments of any type, as the plant is naturally more resistant to pests and weeds.
Hemp plants grow very tall (up to 16 feet) and seeds germinate very quickly, which is why weeds are no competition for them. Hemp plants also naturally help clean up soils and thrives best in well-drained pastures, with high levels of organic matter. In fact, some farmers even use hemp as a catch crop to allow their pastures time to recover and to rejuvenate them.
When planting, seeds are usually sown directly into the soil (up to one inch deep) and should only be planted after the last frost occurs. The ideal date for planting is late April or Early May, with temperatures in excess of 10 degrees as Hemp plants fare better in warmer weather. It can, though, survive when temperatures drop to as low as -5 degrees.
Seedlings will require access to water in overly dried pastures. A soil pH of between 7-7.5 is recommended, though the plant will grow in soils with a pH of 6.0. In order for Hemp to be a profitable enterprise, a farmer would need to grow an abundance of the crop. Some hemp farmers advise that in excess of 50-acres should be planted, in order to ensure a good profit level.
As Hemp plants come from the same family as the Cannabis plant, there are some legal restrictions to consider and adhere to before beginning your ‘hempire’.
In Ireland, Hemp classed as a controlled drug and a special grower’s licence must be obtained before growing the crop. The HPRA (Health Products Regulatory Authority) are currently the only governing body that can issue a license to grow hemp.
Any Hemp plants grown must contain less than 0.2% of THC, the component in Cannabis which causes a ‘high’, if grown in Ireland. The crop cannot be grown in an area which is visible from the road and the location of the crop has to be proven to Gardaí via land mapping (OS maps), prior to the commencement of planting. All farmers must be Garda vetted prior to the commencement of planting and Gardaí are also permitted to visit the holding for an inspection.
To obtain your license all interest parties must email firstname.lastname@example.org. They will then provide a list of questions seeking information on the applicant. The HPRA will request all of this information prior to sending out an application form.
The information likely to be requested includes personal information on the applicant, company registration documentation, Ordinance survey maps of the land in question and other identification methods, information on the end-use of the product, information security arrangements, information on any prior convictions, information on Authorisation for making Confidential Enquiries by the Gardaí, any information on suppliers and the Specific details of any seeds grown, including certification.
What is it worth -
At the moment, there is no real paper-proof of how much switching to hemp farming is actually worth to Irish farmers.
In the US, a recent study from Cornell University found that profits usually ranged from $130 to $730 per acre (€113 to €638), though some farmers claim to be making up to $3,000 per acre for industrial hemp!
Currently, the majority of hemp is imported into Ireland, though the Irish Hemp Growers and Processors Association (IHGPA) hope to create a viable market for farmers to sell their hemp crop, in a bid to encourage more farmers to grow it. They and other hemp organisations within the country say that the hemp sector will only get bigger and better over the coming years, as the world seeks more renewable and environmentally friendly way of producing products.
Could hemp farming be the latest craze to sweep the nation?