Even as the hemp industry grows across the United States, revitalizing farming communities, and bringing excitement back into rural America, frustrations from previous crops still linger.
Why are farmers jumping into hemp to begin with? While answers will vary from farmer to farmer, almost all would agree that there is good money to be made in hemp. And while there are altruistic motives often at play, farmers deserve to be paid well for their hard work, and dare I say, extremely well.
Farming, after all, is not for the faint of heart. Back breaking work, long hours, weeks or months without time off, and the fate of your payday hinging on the weather is enough to make most people crack.
Compounding the issue, there is an ever looming threat from large corporations. With seemingly bottomless checkbooks and massive infrastructure, the price of goods race to the bottom, squeezing every margin to a razor’s edge.
What is a farmer to do?
A New Hope With Hemp
Rarely in modern times is there a “new crop” (technically this isn’t a new crop, either, but that’s for a different post). With a new crop, comes new opportunity; a chance to set firm guidelines, band together, and hedge against the big corporations driving down margins.
For the first time in a long time, farmers can fight back. Part of being a smaller company or a family farm is the speed at which you can pivot. It is much easier to plant a few acres of a new crop and try it out than to roll out corporate changes and write new SOPs.
In this new hope, this second chance to do things right, there is a common phrase uttered across newly-planted fields that epitomizes the movement: keep local.
On the surface, this is great advice. Keeping your crops sales local means keeping tax revenue in your community. Selling only to local processors means creating long-lasting, trustworthy relationships. Buying local flower means the product a consumer buys was grown just down the road. There is nothing wrong with keeping local, and the desire to do so is admirable.
A Nationwide Market
Keeping your business dealings local definitely has it’s upsides, but there are times where holding an extreme-local mentality can actually do more harm than good. I am not saying that keeping your crop or your extract in the community is ever a bad thing, however, living with blinders on can cause problems.
Hemp is now a nationwide crop, with a nationwide market. What is grown in New York can be shipped to Utah, and what is extracted in Nevada can be sent to Tennessee to be formulated into a product.
Pricing of the various commodities, from biomass, to flower, to isolate, is going to be based on national trends, not state-level trends.
If you can sell your goods locally, by all means, you should. However, holding out for a local-only transaction and not considering out-of-state options can not only cause you to miss out on sale, but can hurt the industry on the whole.
When "Local Only" Has Hurt Cannabis Farmers
To see this an action, we only need to look to the marijuana industry in Oregon. While the crop is forced into a locals-only economy, it serves as an example of what can happen when product is kept local and not able to traverse into other states.
With an abundant oversupply of marijuana, not enough demand locally, and no method for moving product out of state, the price of marijuana has crashed. Dropping over 50%, the average cost of a gram is now only $7.00 according to CBS News. In fact, the crisis is so bad that lawmakers have passed legislation that allows farmers in the state to ship their product over state lines (though it is slightly more complicated than that and still needs some federal approval with the current language of the law).
Here we have a state desperate to sell their cannabis crops to far away economies, while in the hemp world, a cannabis crop that can actually ship nationwide, farmers are practically shamed for selling product out-of-state.
In addition, for our local communities to survive, we need to make the hemp industry a success nationwide. We need to expand our relationships and start thinking about our farmer brethren in all parts of the US as our neighbors. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to keep local if you can, but don’t feel bad for selling or buying out of state if it’s necessary. The only way we win, is if we win together.