Hemp Buying Guide

Harvest season is upon us, the hummingbirds & geese are packing up and heading south, along with a multitude of their aviary friends, the goldenrod is blooming and if you wander into your local township you’ll see the weary dazed look of farmers who’ve been out in the fields. 

Not the Cannabis (yes, that’s hemp as well) growers – it’s a bit early for them, but the time is coming. They’re busy getting extra sleep (haha, not really). No, they’re stocking up on caffeinated beverages and praying for a long dry fall. 

This guide is all about sourcing quality flowers for medicine – which almost always means supporting the local growers. After reading this guide you’ll: 

  • Have the questions to ask your grower to ensure you have the highest quality flower for medicine making. 
  • Understand why smokeable flower grade would be your first choice for medicine making.
  • Recognize the importance of building relationship with your grower.

First let’s recognize one of the most important aspects of good medicine, and that is relationship. It’s not just about getting a good deal today, it’s an investment in long term connection to where your medicine is coming from.

Now is the time to have conversations with local growers about purchasing flowers for your medicine making needs. You could get to know your local growers by lending support to the folks who’ve been growing your medicine for the last 3 seasons. If you don’t know any local growers, most legal “hemp” states provide a list of growers on the Agricultural website for the individual state.

The field this year, big leafed and ready for harvest.

Ways to build relationships with growers

  1. Pre-purchase flowers. This is just like a CSA, but you don’t need to wait for them to start a formal CSA. You can simply negotiate and reserve the flowers you will need in advance. 
  2. Offer to help with the harvest. Like many harvests, Cannabis demands a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time. There is always room for another helping hand for trimming and processing flowers
  3. Cook them a nice meal. Whether for them or to share with their crew, a nice meal is a heartfelt gesture of friendship and it’s incredibly helpful during this busy time.
  4. Bring snacks. It’s a well known fact that snacks are always a good idea. 

Really, this phase is about you building relationship with the growers. 

The growers I would want to buy from are like beekeepers. 

Have you ever chatted with a beekeeper about their bees? They LOVE them. They are in deep relationship with their bees. You want the same relationship and love between your grower and their Cannabis plants. 

The center of our medicine wheel garden

Good vibes only

Your medicine begins with the relationship of the human interacting with your flowers and the environment the flowers grow in. 

Any medicine maker knows the secret ingredient in good medicine is the intention/energetic field of the raw ingredients. If you can’t spend time or bring snacks to the growers of your medicine, you can always bring appreciation for their love, care & commitment to the plants.

Now we move on to part two of this buying guide.

Things to Ask When You’re Standing with the Grower

My advice is not to grill them with a game of 20 questions – but instead to give you a sense of the kinds of things you’ll want to know about how your medicine is made. Much of this information is evident once you get to know someone. 

Okay? Here it goes.

  1. How many plants did you grow? The number of plants will give you an idea of how much time they could potentially be spending with the plants. Someone managing 10 acres of 1500 plants per acre has a different relationship than someone managing a total of 200-300 plants. 
  1. What are you going to do with all of your flowers? Many big farms grow “hemp” for biomass. If you can, you want to steer away from these farms. The plants are packed in together, with little or no time for individual inspection and/or care. It’s all about the numbers. These plants (yes, the whole plant; stalks, leaves and flowers) will be quickly heat dried and ground up for processing into distillate. Even if the farmer is only processing flowers, rather than the whole plant, they are usually drying the flowers with heat on conveyors. This process evaporates all of the terpenes, the smell molecules you want in your medicine. Ideally what you want to hear is I’m growing for smokeable grade flowers”. 
  1. What strains are you growing for smokable flowers? The farmer who’s growing smokable flowers is growing & tending fewer plants and will be spending much more time harvesting, drying, trimming and curing the flowers at the end than someone growing thousands of plants per acre. You want to pay more for these flowers.
What your trimmed flowers should look like.

These farmers are growing their “hemp” like they would high THC cannabis. The smokable market brings the top dollar to the grower and requires more skill & knowledge to produce this highest grade flower. These flowers will look and smell exactly like high THC cannabis. You can’t tell them apart. They should look green or purple, but not brown. There should be zero stems and bigger fan leaves covering the flower. The flower should be trimmed down and should have few smaller leaves visible over the flower.

  1. How do you manage pests? What are your practices during the flowering phase? Regulations vary from state to state and organic practices aren’t enough with regards to a flower you might smoke or concentrate. What you really want to know is are they spraying anything on the plants during flowering? Ideally the answer is NOTHING. Especially if you’re planning on smoking or concentrating the flower. Large farms of thousands of plants won’t spray anything because they’ve got the numbers. Sometimes inexperienced farmers believe if it’s “organic” it’s ok to spray on the flowers. This is not always correct. Very few interventions are safe & acceptable. Look to California for what they safely allow sprayed on cannabis flowers during the flowering phase of growth.
  1. Have they tested their flowers? Do they have a COA (Certificate of Analysis)? All legal growers must test for THC levels to be compliant for “hemp” and present the results in the form of a COA to their state. The benefit to you is you can get these test results for the flowers you are buying, which will be helpful when you make medicine and want to calculate potency. 
  1. What is their asking price for the flowers? Do they offer a better rate for bulk? Prices vary wildly in the hemp market. Even in the smokable flower market. For the current year’s flower you should expect to pay at least $300/pound and up to $1600/pound. Don’t bother buying smaller than ¼ pound (114 grams) for making medicine. ¼ pound will make roughly a quart of tincture or infused oil. 

We are living in exciting times with many changes and doors opening in the world of cannabis. The ability to make your own herbal medicine begins with good information and quality flowers to start the journey.

The Queen of the field this year, Suver Haze

Tammi

I'm a researcher, educator, guest lecturer, and co-founder of Heartstone Center for Earth Essentials in Van Etten, NY.