Seeing the Benefits of the New Harvest is a Long-Term Process for Halifax County Farmers | Business


Hemp growers in Halifax County, for the most part, are declining this season. They say a lack of certainty that they will see the benefits of their labor in a timely manner makes them cautious this planting season.

“The majority of hemp growers are tobacco growers as well, who hope this will be a profitable addition to their operation. People have often made their planting decisions this year based on their payment and contract options, ”said Rebekah Slabach, Agricultural Extension and Natural Resources Officer for Halifax County.

This is the third year that hemp has been grown in Virginia. The first year of growth for hemp was 2019, with the passage of the Farm Bill.

Blair Hall of Waller Brothers Farms in northern Halifax County said his family planted two acres of hemp last year and decided to plant three during the growing season. She said the hemp harvest performed well last year, but the farm is still not devoting all of its resources to hemp. Waller Brothers Farms has been growing primarily tobacco for years.

“We’re still not jumping with both feet,” Hall said. “We hope for the best. “

Waller Brothers Farms has a contract with Golden Piedmont Labs, a hemp processing plant that opened in Halifax County last fall.

“You have a closer relationship with someone in the area than with someone from afar,” Hall said.

Even still, Hall said that seeing the benefits of their hemp harvest is a long process for farmers, and she hopes that in the future, she can see the benefits of the farm’s hemp harvest more quickly. rather than “wait”, as it was. case last season.

The process of getting the hemp crop from the farms to the consumer market and to the farmers who see the financial rewards of their labor seems to be a process that is being smoothed out.

Workers at Waller Brothers Farms in northern Halifax County prepare to plant hemp seedlings the second week of June.

Vernon Hill farmer Garland Comer is reducing his hemp crop this year. He planted 22 acres of hemp last year and decided to only plant 2 acres of hemp this year.

“Everyone cuts down considerably. We haven’t been paid since last year, ”Comer said. “The price of the finished product has really gone down. There has been overproduction (of hemp) in 2019 and 2020. There is a lot of hemp on the market.

Comer said he believes hemp could be a profitable crop in the years to come, but the market for any new crops will take time to develop.

“The new hemp industry has grown very quickly, but there have been challenges with the hemp produced being able to be delivered, purchased and connected to the consumer side,” Slabach said. “Accessing a processing facility was a hurdle that local producers hope they can overcome with the addition of Golden Piedmont Labs in Halifax County. “

In 2019, 80.27 acres of hemp in Halifax County were reported planted to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). That year there were 22 registered hemp growers in Halifax County and 11 of those growers said they had planted.

In 2020, the area of ​​hemp planted in Halifax County was halved from the previous year. Twenty-six registered growers in the county were reported to VDACS that year, but only nine of those growers reported planting that year.

This year, 21 growers registered in Halifax County were reported to VDACS at the start of the planting season in early June. The total area of ​​hemp planted this season will be unknown until harvest in September.

Virgilina farmer Steven Bowen has a contract with Golden Piedmont Labs because he says he wants to support the local people and all of the staff are from the Southside.

Although he saw some of the profits from last year’s hemp harvest, Bowen said he was still waiting for his “last pay.” Bowen explained that hemp growers are not paid until their hemp crop has been processed at a hemp processing facility and the facility in turn sells the product, a process which he says can take two years.

Last year, Bowen planted 20 acres of hemp. This year he only plants one acre of hemp of the Baox variety.

“We have reduced considerably; we’ve decided to plant more tobacco this year, ”Bowen said. “It looks like the hemp market is not where we were hoping at the moment.”


The hemp is planted at Waller Brothers Farms in North Halifax. Farm owners say their hemp crop performed well last year.

Charles Nelson, a farmer from Buffalo Junction, is also cutting back this season. He planted 35 acres of hemp last year and has only planted around 20 acres of hemp this season. He plants the Cherry Blossom and Baox varieties. The hemp grower who also grows tobacco said the reason he is reducing his harvest this year is because he is not getting any profit from his harvest because contracts are not honored.

“With the tobacco, we brought it to the market, we got a check, we got paid. With that hemp, they take it and you never get paid, ”Nelson said.

Last year Nelson said his farm had more than $ 100,000 tied up in its hemp crop and made almost zero profit.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” Nelson said. “I saw a lot of (hemp) growers get hit hard last year.”

If the contracts were honored, Nelson said it would be “a dream” to grow hemp in this area, and he would expect a profit of $ 15,000 to $ 18,000 per acre.

While farmers are cautious about planting this season, now that they have a few years of hemp growing experience under their belt, they are more confident in their ability to produce a healthy crop.

“The first year of hemp production in Virginia was tough, and now that it’s done, we have more understanding and resources for pest control, disease diagnosis and what to do better,” said Slabach explained.

Waller Brothers Farms learned how hemp behaves in different weather conditions. Last year has been a wet year, with this year shaping up to be a dry year, Hall said.

She said she also learned what pests and diseases affect hemp plants. Since hemp is still a relatively new crop for farmers in Halifax County, there were lessons to be learned.

“With hemp, it’s all about trial and error and asking a lot of questions of people who might know more than you,” Hall admitted.

Despite the challenges in the market, Bowen said growing hemp appears to be a good solution for Southside farmers.

“The plant grows very well in our Piedmontese environment; it does very well in our soil, ”noted Bowen.

Comer also said he “got it right” when it comes to caring for hemp plants, fighting pests he had never faced before, such as armyworms who like to eat the buds of the hemp plants. plants.

Comer said that while hemp appears to thrive in Halifax County soil, he doesn’t think it will ever replace tobacco as a cash crop.

Attempts to reach Golden Piedmont Labs for comment were unsuccessful at press time on Thursday.


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