At High Grade, we wanted to know how hemp farmers were faring in the midst of a rapidly changing industry wrapped up in one of the most unpredictable years on record. We also touched base with non-hemp farmers to learn about their struggles and triumphs. After surveying over 125 farmers, here’s what we found.

Key Takeaways:

  • 59% of hemp farmers are between the ages of 31 and 50 years old.
  • 61% of hemp farmers have been farming hemp for five years or less.
  • 41% of hemp farmers consider themselves “subsistence farmers,” while an identical 41% of hemp farmers categorize themselves as “commercial farmers.”
  • 39% of farmers (hemp farmers and non-hemp farmers) with over 10 years of experience claim finding labor is the most challenging part of managing a farm.
  • 54% of farmers (hemp and non-hemp farmers) claim they do not use modern technologies on their farm.
  • Just under 30% of hemp farmers were able to earn over $5,000 per acre.
  • Only 17% of non-hemp farmers claimed to make over $5,000 per acre.
  • Hemp farmers, on average, dedicate just over half of their acreage to planting hemp.

About the Survey

We used Survey Monkey to survey over 125 farmers (ranging in age, experience, income, and acreage) across the country. Of the farmers we surveyed, just over 35% of respondents farmed hemp, while more than 57% of respondents claimed they were considering farming hemp. The majority of total respondents were between 41 and 60, though 24% were between the ages of 31 and 40. Over half of the respondents had been farming for five years or less; just over 60% of respondents considered themselves subsistence farmers.

Overall, the responses we received were fascinating and have provided us with an important glimpse into the state of both hemp farming and non-hemp farming. Here is a deeper dive into some of the results that really caught our eye.

Profitability of Hemp vs. Other Crops

Hemp is one of the hottest cash crops in the country, especially hemp grown for CBD or CBG. Some reports claim that farmers can earn $30,000 or more per acre by farming hemp for CBD or CBG. Our survey results don’t exactly bear out these Pollyanna claims, but they do seem to indicate that hemp can be more profitable than many other crops.
Our survey found that nearly 30% of hemp farmers were able to earn more than $5,000 per acre. Compare that with just 17% of non-hemp farmers who could make the same claim. Please note that our survey did not distinguish between hemp farmers who grew hemp for fiber, seed, or cannabinoids, so the earnings per acre may be affected by which crop hemp farmers harvest.
The bottom line is that while more farmers are earning over $5,000 per acre farming hemp than other crops, the majority of hemp farmers (over 70%) are earning less than $5,000 per acre. New farmers dreaming of raking in $30,000 per acre need to re-evaluate their expectations.
With that said, hemp profitability is possible. Here are 10 hemp farming tips for increasing profits.


The Biggest Challenges in Farming

Farmers face all sorts of challenges, from uncertain weather to expensive equipment, government regulations, and more. But what are the biggest challenges farmers face? We set this question to our survey respondents, and they told us that the two most difficult things to manage on the farm were selling the harvest (21%) and finding/managing labor (21%).

What is the most difficult thing to manage on your farm?Though these responses included farmers of every stripe, selling the harvest and managing labor are two challenges we hear about a lot in the hemp community. Hemp was only broadly legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, so the selling infrastructure is being built while farmers are learning how to grow hemp in their fields. Currently, there are no hemp silos where farmers can drop off their crops. Take a look at one of our latest blog posts about how to sell hemp biomass.

Likewise, farmers looking to grow hemp flower must harvest the buds by hand. This often requires a high level of labor, which can be difficult when workers are few and far between.

Is Farming Becoming More Competitive?

For the most part, answers to our survey ran the gamut. After all, farmers are not a monolithic population. They’ve got all sorts of opinions. One question, however, seemed to unite nearly all of our respondents. We asked whether farming was becoming more competitive or less competitive. A whopping 88% of respondents told us that farming was becoming more competitive.

hemp farming is becoming more competitive

In a world where margins are pinched and profits are harder to come by, farmers need to focus on using best practices. For hemp farming, however, we’re often figuring out the best practices as we go along. Learn what we’ve figured out in our 2020 hemp growing guide.

Using Modern Farm Technology

One of the best ways to improve efficiency and productivity on the farm is to invest in modern equipment. Despite common stereotypes of farmers working the fields with a shovel and horse-pulled plow, many farmers are excited to embrace modern technology to improve farm performance. In fact, 46% of our respondents told us that they already use modern technology on the farm, while 37% of respondents were considering adding more tech to their business.

Do you use modern technologies for farming?

One of the challenges that may be holding farmers back from investing in new technologies, however, is a lack of capital.

Farming Revenue vs. Expenses

Farming is a risky business, and according to our survey, profits are tighter than ever. Over 80% of our respondents earn less than $350,000 on their farm, while just over 7% earn half a million dollars or more per year. Unsurprisingly, many of these same respondents are working to keep their expenses low. Around 84% of survey respondents claimed expenses of less than $200,000 per year.

Farmers thinking of switching to hemp may be able to increase their earnings per acre, but they’ll have to overcome a variety of expenses first. It costs money to invest in a new crop. Farmers must think about things such as new equipment needs, irrigation, soil management, and even the cost of high-quality hemp seeds. We always recommend that farmers take the time to build out a complete hemp farming plan before making the plunge into growing hemp. It’s also a good idea to plant only a few acres or even just a single acre for your first harvest.

How Are Farmers Faring During COVID-19?

Farmers are used to a little unpredictability in each season, but the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic challenges are about as unpredictable as they come. With just about every aspect of normal life turned upside-down, including consumer behavior, how are farmers absorbing all of the coronavirus fallout?

For the most part, it turns out they’re absorbing it pretty well! The majority of our respondents (54%) claimed that the pandemic and economic upheaval haven’t affected their farming business much at all. A surprising 27% of respondents even told us that their business was doing better this year, while 19% of respondents are struggling more this year than last.

What Is Holding Farmers Back from Growing Hemp?

Almost every non-hemp farmer we surveyed told us they might consider farming hemp (or already were considering it). We can understand their hesitation. The hemp industry is still finding its footing; after all, it was illegal to grow hemp in the United States for decades!

would you consider hemp farming?

We learned that farmers have a wide range of concerns surrounding growing hemp. The most common concern was the market uncertainty surrounding hemp. The intense interest in CBD and its fellow cannabinoid, CBG, is still relatively new, but as scientific research on CBD and CBG continues to come out, we believe this interest will only grow.


biggest concerns over switching to hemp farmingTwo other major concerns our survey respondents noted was a lack of equipment and expertise. Many hemp farmers are still learning how to adapt their farming equipment to use on hemp (for reference, we actually wrote an entire article on hemp farming equipment). Farm equipment companies have been slow to develop equipment specifically for hemp farming, but we are seeing more and more CBD-specific hemp harvesters.

The lack of expertise in growing hemp is also a challenge that will ease over time. Even now, more and more agricultural organizations and hemp farmers are sharing their experiences and the results of their tests and experiments. Before planting hemp, it’s a good idea to seek information from the agricultural department in your state, reach out to fellow hemp farmers in your area, and consider hiring an agronomist with experience in hemp farming.

If you have any questions about which hemp seed strains to use on your farm, we hope you’ll contact us. Our friendly and knowledgeable representatives are happy to answer your questions and to find the best hemp seeds for your goals, budget, and climate.

Hemp and climate change: What’s the connection? Farmers are keen observers of the climate. Everything from changing weather patterns to water availability and soil quality directly impacts their ability to make a living. For this reason, climate change is already beginning to directly affect farmers. In 2020 alone, hemp farmers on the West Coast have dealt with an early and ferocious fire season. East Coast and Southern farmers are facing so many hurricanes, the normal naming convention ran through the complete alphabet by September. Even Midwest farmers aren’t safe, facing off against a fierce derecho in August. All this is to say that the climate is changing rapidly and farmers are on the front lines. Fortunately, hemp farmers may be able to step up and help fight climate change. How? By simply doing what they’re already doing: planting hemp.

Hemp is one of the most eco-friendly crops on the planet. It can absorb huge amounts of CO2, nourish the soil, and be used to create biodegradable and eco-friendly products. Why is hemp so good for the environment? Here are ten ways hemp will help save the world.

1. Hemp Absorbs Large Amounts of CO2

One of the most common greenhouse gasses driving climate change is carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is emitted by fossil fuels, livestock, and many industrial processes. Plants absorb CO2, which is why planting trees is one of the most popular ways to offset carbon emissions.

However, hemp can absorb carbon much more efficiently than trees. While it can take decades for newly planted trees to reach maturity, hemp can shoot up 13 feet in 100 days. Unsurprisingly, hemp can absorb more carbon per hectare than trees, making it an ideal carbon sink. Hemp can also grow just about anywhere, dramatically increasing the potential land that can be used to sequester carbon.

2. Hemp Nourishes the Soil

Many farmers have discovered that hemp can be a significant ally in nourishing and revitalizing their soil. The stalks and leaves of hemp plants are full of nutrients, which can be mixed back into the soil to bring overworked soil back to life. Planting hemp can also lower the need for farmers to add chemical fertilizers into their soil. Many farmers have added hemp into their crop rotation as a way to naturally nourish their fields between planting other cash crops. (It doesn’t hurt that hemp seed, fiber, and especially CBD flowers are cash crops in their own right.)

3. Hemp Prevents Erosion

Erosion is a natural process, where wind and water capture soil, often bringing it to nearby waterways. When large trees and plants are cleared and turned into fields, erosion can happen at a much faster rate. Erosion not only strips away topsoil, damaging fields and hurting crop yields, but it can also send chemical fertilizers and pesticides into waterways, hurting local wildlife and affecting drinking water.

Hemp can help prevent field erosion. Hemp roots grow deep and fast, helping to hold soil together and protecting it from the erosive effects of the elements. Hemp roots transfer nitrogen into the soil, which is a major component in chlorophyll.


4. Hemp Detoxifies Soil

Chemical leaks and nuclear disasters can turn soil toxic for generations, making that land unusable for planting, grazing, or anything else. A special class of plants is known as hyperaccumulators. According to the EcoSciences blog, hyperaccumulators “…have the capacity to absorb metals and other toxins from the soil by metabolizing it through their roots, where it is then transferred and stored in their stems and leaves.”

Hemp happens to be one of the best hyperaccumulators in the world. Hemp bioremediation is a popular technique of planting hemp in order to draw toxins out of the soil. Farmers have used hemp soil remediation to clean up fields after chemical leaks from nearby factories, but perhaps the most famous example is of farmers planting hemp (among other hyperaccumulators) around the blast zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to begin rehabilitating the soil.

5. No Pesticides Needed

Hemp is naturally resistant to many of the diseases and pests that threaten other cash crops. Hemp farmers, therefore, don’t need to use pesticides or herbicides on their hemp fields. Chemical pesticides and herbicides can harm insect populations beyond what the chemical is meant to destroy. They also often make their way into local water sources, where they can affect the local wildlife or contaminate drinking water.

6. Less Water Needed to Make Fabric

Water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource, especially as more regions across the country and the world face record-setting droughts. At the same time, some of the most popular cash crops require high amounts of water, which puts a strain on communities. To put some perspective on this, one of the most water-hungry plants is cotton.

Hemp, while not officially a drought-tolerant plant, does not require nearly as much water as many other high-water crops. In fact, according to the Hemp Foundation, while every pound of cotton requires 1,440 gallons of water, hemp typically needs half that much. Hemp can also produce double the fiber of cotton per acre. Switching to hemp cloth from cotton can help farmers better manage their water supply and save money on a resource that’s only going to become more expensive. (Learn more about hemp field irrigation to see which irrigation systems are the most efficient.)

7. Hemp Paper Can Eliminate Polluting Paper Processes

Cutting down trees for paper can eliminate forests, disrupting ecosystems and putting more carbon into the air. Even as more paper companies switch to regenerative forest management, the process of making paper from wood pulp is extremely dirty. Wood pulp must be bleached with chlorine (which releases a toxic substance called dioxin) and is often mixed with binders that release formaldehyde. In contrast, hemp pulp doesn’t need to be bleached and can be made with soy-based binders, according to

Hemp paper is also of higher quality than paper made from trees. It’s stronger, thicker, and more durable. No wonder the vast majority of paper was made from hemp in America’s early history. (Why did we switch to tree-made paper? It’s a long story.)

8. Hemp Can Help Reduce Plastic Waste

We are beginning to recognize more and more that single-use plastic is choking our world. Every year, eight million metric tons of plastic waste finds its way into the ocean, killing seabirds and ending up in the stomachs of the fish that eventually land on our dinner plates. Hemp bioplastic is an alternative to plastics derived from petrochemicals. Hemp bioplastics not only eliminate the need to create more plastics from oil, but it is also fully biodegradable, unlike traditional plastic, which can take 450 years or more to break down.

9. Hemp Can Be Used in Building Materials

The building sector (buildings and construction) is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, contributing to 36% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Hemp-derived building materials can cut down on the carbon emissions of the construction industry as well as promote more energy efficiency within homes.

Hemp can be used to make fiberboards that are stronger and lighter than wood, as well as soundproofing and insulating materials. It can replace wood and concrete and offer better thermal insulation, which will allow homeowners to use less energy to heat and cool their homes. The insulating power of hemp-derived materials will only become more important as summers become hotter and winters become colder in the future.

10. Hemp Biofuels

The world is hungry for energy, using an estimated 575 quadrillion Btu of energy in 2015. (that’s a lot.) However, many of our top energy sources, including petroleum and coal, contribute to climate change and degrade the environment.

Hemp offers a clean energy alternative. Oils and fats extracted from hemp seeds can be used to make biodiesel. After a few more processing steps, the hemp biodiesel can actually go into a car engine to fuel a car. In fact, according to the site Hemp Benefits, one acre of hemp yields 1,000 gallons or 3,785 liters of fuel.

According to the Ministry of Hemp, hemp can also be turned into ethanol, which is traditionally derived from food crops, like corn and barley. Given that hemp can grow quickly in nearly any environment and requires less water than many other crops, hemp-derived ethanol can also be a sustainable alternative to traditional ethanol.

Considering that California’s governor recently announced that all new gasoline-powered cars would be banned in California by 2035, car manufacturers may want to start looking to hemp to fuel America’s next vehicle fleet.

Is Hemp the Solution to Climate Change?

Now that you’ve learned about hemp and climate change, do you believe hemp will help save the world? Hemp can certainly help provide more eco-friendly materials in a variety of industries, nourish and protect the soil, and sequester a lot of carbon, but hemp can’t save the world alone. Hemp is only one of many tools we can deploy to transition away from fossil fuels and other pollutants. Farmers have a strong role to play in the battle against climate change, as they are some of the most affected people when temperatures rise and the storms come. Hemp can be a highly lucrative crop, which is why many farmers initially decide to give it a try, but perhaps its climate-combatting credentials will also be a decisive factor in farmers choosing to grow hemp.

Ready to try growing hemp? Contact us today.

This incredibly versatile plant has thousands of uses, from hemp building materials and hemp paper to hemp clothing and CBD cosmetics.

This incredibly versatile plant has thousands of uses, from hemp building materials and hemp paper to hemp clothing and CBD cosmetics.