Harvest season for outdoor grown hemp in most of the U.S. is now over, and those without year-round grow facilities will be taking a halt from growing again until spring. The plants are dried, cured, and hopefully sold. This leads to an important question... what are the best ways to make use of the winter as a hemp farmer? There are many things to consider whether it be accounting or spending time in the fields. Each farm or grower is inherently going to have its own specific needs and resources for winter maintenance and upkeep, however, there are definitely some things to consider doing that are almost universal! Winter may seem like a time for rest and easy work but many tasks will need to be done or considered before your next crop. Winter presents a great time for any farmer to get ahead for the next season, and find ways to streamline and have the best harvest in the coming year. Here are some great tips (from experience) for you to think about this winter
- Cover Crops - Winter cover crops are an option for almost every hemp farmer in the U.S. They should be utilized and will reward you greatly if you plan ahead. Some are sown in the fall, and some are sown in the spring. Many can even be seeded through the dead of winter and they will sprout with the spring rains. Cover crops will both improve your soil and help with weeds and yields next season.
- Check your soil - Late fall, winter, and early spring all present great opportunities to test your soil. Soil testing is usually outlined by your local co-op or state agriculture department. You can see how well your fertility program worked, and how much your soil changed throughout the season. This also allows you to know if you will spread things like lime or rock phosphate which need to be out a few months before the grow season.
- Prepare your soil/apply nutrients - As mentioned previously, some nutrients require a few months of being worked into the soil before they can be used by your cannabis plants. Many rock fertilizers and lime can be applied many months ahead with great success. Those who have tillage programs can sometimes find a nice warm day in the winter to till the soil and work in any nutrients or compost that you may add. You can even use this time to create terraced rows or dig irrigation lines. I personally also love to use this time to clean up trash, old stakes, or possible hazards in the field.
- Make sure harvested Hemp or seeds are properly stored- Many farmers still will have harvested product or even seeds that are going to be stored through the winter. It sounds very easy to just store things in a cool, dark place until you need them however routine quality checks should be done! Proper storage of hemp and hemp seeds is crucial for making them last. Storing is only half the part of the work though, and the other part is checking on those regularly as you make it through the winter.
- Clean and maintain your facilities/equipment - If you are a hemp farmer of any scale, you are going to have some tools or machines/equipment that need maintenance. Whether it is changing the oil on your mower, cleaning the floors in your sprouting room, sanitizing pots, replacing tractor parts, or sharpening the blades on your trimmers there is always maintenance for a hemp farmer. Your fields or facility may even have fences or gates in need of repair.
- Get ahead on accounting and taxes - This one speaks for itself. It is very easy to procrastinate doing your yearly taxes or taking care of your accounting needs, however, winter is a great time to plan on getting ahead.
- Utilize social media/networking - Make use of the downtime to advertise your business or farm online.. even if it is just to connect with other farmers and share information. There are many great educational events or online courses available to those who seek them. The hemp industry is becoming more of a competitive one each day and those with an online presence will prove to be the most successful!
- Outline your crop plan for next season - Anticipate the fact that it is easy for time to get away from you in the winter months, and the growing season can hit fast and force you to plan things quickly. Begin to write down ideas and formulate a plan for your next growing season if you haven't already. The nature of farming is to be unpredictable, but you can use your knowledge and online resources to have a rough plan in place through the winter to revise as you need.
Winter is never truly an offseason for a dedicated hemp farmer. There is certainly more time to relax or take a vacation, but there are still many things that need maintenance or attention before the growing season returns. Every operation is going to be different, but let these tips be, at minimum, some inspiration. For more info or help with your farm, check out our Holistic Farm Management Workbook and Budget Builder or schedule a free consultation call with one of our Hemp Resource Agents. We will be happy to help you get on the right track with all of the resources you need to grow beautiful plants!