Hemp drives 21st century green rush in Carson Valley
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — The practitioners of 21st century agriculture in Carson Valley may well trade raising cows to growing hemp.
Driven by the popularity of CBD, there are 10 hemp farms listed among those growing the new cash crop in Douglas County.
But like any operation that relies on Carson Valley weather and complex supply chains, hemp growing can be a challenge.
Mark O’Farrell of Hungry Mother Organics said he started growing hemp last year to produce bulk hemp flowers.
“I have learned quite a bit about this Wild West industry,” O’Farrell said. “I previously worked with UNR Cooperative Extension, and we are trying to figure out the complexities of the industry. For now, we have a beautiful crop of five different varieties that are just starting to flower.”
This is also farmer Caleb Kruger’s second year growing, though he said he hasn’t fared quite so well.
He said he grew seeds last year, but tried to grow flowers this year.
“It’s been a terrible year for me unfortunately,” he said. “I still have one-thousand plants on 40 acres.”
He said that growing biomass to make CBD oil doesn’t bring the returns that harvesting flower does, but that the equipment needed to bring in a harvest is substantial.
He said he plans on growing a lot of acreage next year, but that he expects that the return will go down as more people jump into the market.
“The thing that bothers me the most is this may be the last year of good pricing before the market is flooded,” he said.
This is the first year Jaden Wass and his dad, Jeff, are growing hemp.
“The plants are getting pretty big,” he said. “We’ll scale things up next year if things go well.”
Wass said he’ll be harvesting his first crop in September.
“We’ll sell the flowers for smokeable CBD and extract the rest for CBD oil,” he said.
Oil is used in lotions and food.
“There’s hemp everywhere you look,” he said.
According to the Nevada Department of Agriculture, the hemp program started in earnest in 2017 with just 26 growers.
Now amid its fourth-ever growing season, the state’s hemp industry now boats 207 certified growers, 53 handlers and 37 seed producers.
“The program has grown by more than 600 percent since 2017, and we are proud that Nevada is on the forefront of the hemp industry,” Ashley Jeppson, Plant Industry division administrator for the department, said this summer.
The plant, related to marijuana but with almost no THC, was removed from Schedule 1 in the 2018 Farm Bill, thus making it an agricultural commodity.
To be a legal crop, hemp has to have .3 percent or less of THC content. Hemp with a higher content must be disposed of under state supervision.
Justin Uhart is another first-time grower in Carson Valley with 4 acres under cultivation this year.
Uhart, who was under fire at the Harvest 91 Festival and later appeared on Deal or No Deal, said he saw the popularity of legalized marijuana while working as a loan officer in Las Vegas.
A fifth-generation Carson Valley resident, some of Uhart’s adventures would be familiar to his forebears.
When he learned the transplanter he required to put in the plants couldn’t be delivered, he drove to Tonopah to get one.
“Thirteen hours of driving later, I had a brand new transplanter to put my plants in the ground,” he said. “They were delivered the next day, and I headed out at 5 a.m. on the tractor towing my girlfriend on the transplanter and we planted from sunup to sundown.”
He relied on flood irrigation for the field until the water ran out in August while he was hiking in Yosemite.
“I came home to a field in desperate need of water,” he said. “When I turned on the water for my plants, I had completely forgotten about a five-year-old leak that pops up every time the water supply is turned on.”
Uhart’s watering system is back on task and he hopes this year’s harvest will just be the beginning.
“I believe there is going to be an extremely high demand once everyone realizes how much better it is not only for the environment, but in terms of strength and durability of items it’s put into.”
GasBuddy projects the national average gas price this Thanksgiving will be $2.56 per gallon, a penny higher than last year. The average per-gallon price in Nevada, meanwhile, is $3.30.