In 2020, almost 200 licenses to cultivate hemp were approved by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, equating to over 550 acres of hemp grown across the state. Six of those acres belong to Hondros Farms. After 20 years of raising corn, soybeans and Wagyu cattle on their Morrow County farm, they decided to diversify the operation with hemp and did it in a big way.
“We jumped right in and had 12,000 plants in 2020,” said Kelly Hondros, CEO of Hondros Hemp Farms. “It definitely was a risk, but we wanted to take that risk in the first year because we knew that hemp was a tricky plant to grow and we needed the end product.”
Hemp grown on Hondros Farms is processed for their company, Motive CBD
Hemp grown on Hondros Farms is processed primarily for their own company, Motive CBD, which they began even before the first hemp plant was sown.
Their approach into hemp was an ambitious one, but it allowed them to learn more about the land, the plant and the process. Their 2021 plan looks a little different.
“We learned so much last year that this year we are able to put more of a focus on our technique, making sure our processes are perfected, and we are definitely more prepared for whatever comes our way this year,” Hondros said. “Our spacing is much wider this year to help with weed control issues, and we will be cutting back the number of plants to 4,000.”
One of the largest challenges of growing hemp is ensuring that the plants’ THC levels stay below 0.3%. Anything higher than that is considered “hot” and is classified as marijuana. In 2020, 7% of the planted acres in Ohio, including some on Hondros’ farm, tested high for THC and had to be destroyed.
“We learned the hard way that testing early and often is a necessity,” Hondros said. “Last year, we had a few frosts that hit some of our plants and it did test hot. Although it was heartbreaking, Ohio Department of Agriculture made it an easy process and as painless as possible.”
There were also lessons learned off of the field as Hondros looked over the 2020 budget. They poured a lot more money into the hemp crop last year, from the number of plants to maintaining them throughout the growing season. Much of those input costs will be re-evaluated this year.
“This plant is ever changing and we still have a lot to learn,” Hondros said. “We are excited about what the future holds for this industry and we are excited to have been a part of it from the start.”