The NM True Hemp tour hosted an educational forum on March 24, part of its effort to educate prospective farmers after the first growing season.
State Department of Agriculture division director Brad Lewis said hemp was grown across the state in every county except for two.
During the 2019 growing season, 276 outdoor licenses and 132 continuous indoor licenses were used for hemp farming. Lewis said out of the 300 field inspections that were completed, 38 were failed samples and crop destruction orders were issued. A hemp crop which shows more than .3% THC, the psychoactive substance that gives cannabis its “high,” is destroyed.
Lewis said it was a good learning experience for the state, and reported “significant interest in hemp production.”
The results of this interest were things like farmland being put back into production, vacant greenhouses sold or leased, vacant warehouses sold or leased, infrastructure development and an increase in labor demands all all levels of farming, he said.
He said, “Hemp is expensive to grow, it is a high risk crop and difficult to grow in compliance,” adding, “There is still a lack of crop protection chemicals and there were difficulties relating to harvest.”
Other issues Lewis mentioned included marketing and out-of-state partnerships, issues processing, decrease of biomass processing in-state and inadequate in-state extraction facilities and transport of biomass issues.” Looking to the 2020 growing season, Lewis said minor changes to regulations of hemp will be in place near the end of 2020.
That means state regulations are in place, and starting Nov. 1 hemp will be regulated by the USDA, Lewis said.
He said there are 11 applications for 2020 so far, and that they are anticipating more.
To get an application, farmers need to do a background check through the State Police safety program to qualify. There is no deadline to apply but the entire process can take up to a month or more. The NM True Hemp tour is an education forum, hosted by Torrance County based Leaf and Tackle, LLC in support of the NMDA Hemp Program.
The NM True Hemp Webinar is an educational forum developed to provide insight to farmers for the 2020 growing season, to provide networking opportunities, and give farmers direct access to regulators and hemp industry experts. They bring a panel of experts to educate people about hemp and the process of hemp farming in New Mexico.
A Q&A Farmers Panel to share about hemp farming experiences in 2019, “Lessons Learned,” is planned. The panel of speakers March 24 included Michael Melendrez, who has decades of experience in soil health. His business Trees that Please has focus in native Southwest trees.
Through the company, Melendrez teaches farmers how to revive soil and how to create soil health. Melendrez brings hemp seed inoculation using mycorrhizal fungus to the table. The result of this process is stronger seed genetics and less fertilizer is needed, he said.
He is working to educate people about soil ecology and the importance of microbes. Bob Boylan, owner of Roadrunner CBD and the Verve Botanicals Health Shop in Edgewood, also joined the panel. His company takes biomass from farmers and turns it into a product that can be marketed and sold.
Boylan said, “Creating product consistency and taking farmers’ hard work and turning it into a sellable compliant product is one of the things we do.” He said they will also be introducing a “hemp buyers club” and they are offering beta testing to farmers.
MJ Balizan from Leaf and Tackle hosted the forum and was also a member of the panel. She said, “As hemp farmers, we advocate for a transparent united New Mexico hemp industry providing hemp industry facts,” adding, “We work hard to share about the web of federal and state guidelines and connect farmers to regulatory resources.”
She spoke about the Root to Harvest Farm program that is offered through Leaf and Tackle. The business offers a consulting service. She said they offer a farm site visit, take a soil sample and a water sample. Once the results of the samples is available, they do a consultation.
From there, the company is able to offer a program to each farmer that is personalized to their specific needs. The four steps are creating a pre-farm plan, grow strategy, genetics and soil health and market channels, she said.
For more information, or to apply for the hemp program visit nmda.nmsu.edu/hemp-program. For more information about the Root to Harvest program visit leafandtackle.com. To learn more about hemp products, beta testing or the hemp buyers club visit vervebotanicals.com and roadrunnercbd.com. For more information about soil health visit treesthatplease.org.