Do any reading about CBD, and you’ll see lots of info about hemp in the mix. After all, hemp is...Read more
In the United States, California has been relatively late to the hemp cultivation game. Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill legalizing industrial hemp cultivation and consumption across all 50 states, plenty have jumped head first into the hemp-growing waters. Each state has its own application process for licensure as well as requirements for oversight, and some of those policy differentiations and registrations go down to the county level. Even though many counties’ grower applications in California are backed up or not yet open, still the state looms as possibly the best in the union for growing quality hemp.
Why is that? What growing conditions does hemp need to become high-quality, and why is California the place for that?
Best climate for growing quality hemp
The optimal climates for growing hemp are warm and stable climates where the air temperature stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and there is plenty of direct sun. The plants do best when grown with lots of direct sunlight in loose, deep, alkaline soil with a pH between 6 and 7.5 and plenty of rich organic matter and nutrients, like phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphate, among others. Hemp seeds need a fine and firm seedbed to germinate and establish roots, along with soil that is well-aerated and retains enough water but not so much that it’s consistently wet, since soils that are too wet can constrain growth in the roots and shoots. Hemp is, in fact, quite draught-resistant (which might come in handy in certain parts of California).
Hemp experts advise planting the hemp about two to three weeks after the last chance of frost, when the soil has warmed slightly—to somewhere between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideal rainfall for hemp runs 25 to 30 inches a year, coupled with a humid atmosphere and mild climate.
You also need a lot of space. Whether you’re growing hemp for oil extraction or for fiber and seed tells you how much space will be needed between the plants themselves—anywhere from 7 inches to 4 feet. But for either focus, the plants grow to between 3 and 18 feet tall, which certainly requires plenty of room. You’re looking at acres upon acres.
While there are certainly exceptions to this, and hemp growers in all kinds of climates have found success, the conditions stated above tend to yield prime crop. And those conditions sound an awful lot like ones you find in much of the Golden State.
What about California makes it great for hemp
For starters, with over 70,000 farms, California produces the largest amount of agricultural product of any state in the country—nearly 11 percent of the national total. The state is itself very big, with tons of land and plenty of space for farm fields, and the climate is precisely what hemp calls for: warm and very consistent. California’s Central Valley region alone accounts for the majority of California’s farming due to its near-perfect conditions and deep water ports, so it’s no surprise that we find the top four counties for agricultural sales in the country there. Farmers in the Central Valley region, and across much of California, have been excited about the prospect of finding a big economic boon in hemp growing.
In theory, California is also the ideal for hemp farmers because it is relatively easy to get a hemp license there. The state’s licensing application only requires a $900 fee, the location of each farm, and the name of the approved hempseed variety or cultivar that the farmer plans to grow after they’re licensed. “In theory” is key here, though, because just under half of the 58 counties in the state still have freezes on hemp cultivation, citing the lack of regulatory guidelines and definitions. But even in the counties that have opened registrations for farmers to produce hemp, some farmers are finding a lack of clarity in the registration process.
However, the needle is moving—both on the counties’ hemp freezes and on the overall perception of hemp. As more hemp regulations get put in place and as hemp becomes more widely understood and its connection to cannabis (or marijuana, rather) lessens and clarifies, California’s hemp industry could explode, giving the industry the potential for some of the highest-quality hemp around.