There are broadly two approaches to farming hemp, agriculturally (field cultivation) and horticulturally (garden cultivation). The philosophies are different in that agriculture focuses on creating one habitat; the meadow or “field” is used to lower costs, increase yield and compete on price. Alternatively, horticulturists provide a little more “TLC”, using strategies to promote ecological succession, diversity of landscapes, and are more focused on quality and preserving the environment.
Agricultural hemp operations produce commodities (similar to corn and soybeans), and it’s all about size and scale. To accomplish this, farmers look for seed genetics that are easy to grow, pest resistant, cheap and drought resistant, which makes GMO appealing. Since hemp can grow just about anywhere, and agriculturally grown hemp will ultimately go through a number of processing steps, plant quality, potential contamination and location are not priorities. Growing indoors avoids contamination and increases the number of harvests / profitability. However, there is a tremendous carbon footprint to growing indoors due to the energy requirements.
Just as some grapes produce jelly, others produce a fine Bordeaux or Brunello wine. Horticultural farming is part science and part art, and it all begins with seeds. Early flower initiation, high resin content and complex flavor (robust terpene and cannabinoids) are all plant genetics that produce a quality plant, and in hemp’s case, The Entourage Effect. Location is paramount - great sunlight, moderate temperatures, rich soil and distance from heavy industry and contaminants. Outdoor hemp plants are part of the local ecosystem, and grow naturally under the cycles of the sun, moon and stars. Organic is a good place to start, but sustainability and regeneratively are key to saving our planet. Many organic farmers will lay plastic down on beds to retain water, prevent weed growth and avoid using pesticides. This is a step in the right direction, however, micro plastic particles can leech into the soil and that plastic needs to go somewhere after harvest. Sustainable and even better regenerative is where we want to be. Hand planted, weeded and harvested, without plastic or pesticide, leaving the earth’s soil richer for the next season, instead of depleting it.
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