DELAVAN, Ill. — For many central Illinois farmers, the planting season has been extremely difficult.
WMBD’s Matt Sheehan spoke with an industrial hemp farmer who says he’s thankful he has anything left to harvest.
A month ago, David Diekhoff’s industrial hemp plants were stretched 8 feet tall.
He let the state know his intent to harvest.
Hemp has to have its THC levels tested before harvest. Now Diekhoff and his crew are getting ready to sell the product.
For Diekhoff, planting his industrial hemp plants has come with some major challenges.
“The wind is the biggest enemy for hemp right now,” Diekhoff said.
When storms rolled through central Illinois at the end of September, Diekhoff wasn’t sure he was ever going to see the fruits of his labor.
“We had what they say were 80 mile per hour straight line winds that came through here. About a 3-4 mile stretch from east to west right in this area,” Diekhoff said.
But the hemp plants were around 8 feet tall and were very heavy. They luckily survived the storm.
“Wind really laid them over but fortunately it didn’t break them off,” Diekhoff said.
Diekhoff took samples to a lab to ensure his plants contained less than .3% THC. Now with the help of several other farmers, it’s time to harvest and get the crop ready to distribute.
“We sent 5 samples in to a lab in Illinois and my THC levels were .1 Delta 9. We were really happy with it,” Diekhoff said.
Mitchell Carr has been leading the charge in the field, he says they’ve been harvesting for two weeks and are just over halfway done.
“Labor is really intensive. We probably have 600 man hours just in the field alone. We just keep adding to that day in and day out,” Carr said.
“We mainly use loppers and we have people hauling it out for us. We have a magnifying glass and we go in and look at the bud to make sure it’s right and ready to be harvested,” Carr said.
Carr has worked with Diekhoff for years, but says industrial hemp is something he’s never done before.
“I’ve been working with Dave since 8th grade, bailing hay. Then when I graduated high school, I started helping him with corn and soybeans,” Carr said.
“Industrial hemp is something I never thought I was going to be getting into, but first year doing it, I said I’d try it and help him out. It’s a cool experience,” Carr adds.
On Thursday, a man from LK Pure Labs came by the facility to take samples of some hemp that is nearly ready to sell.
After drying out for 10-14 days, the product gets tested again to make sure the THC levels are still at the correct spot.
“We may process it down to the buds or a company may come and take the whole plant for us,” Carr said.
Diekhoff says he hopes his plants will be able to be sold by this winter.
If they meet the federal requirements, he could be selling his product across the country.
“The federal requirement for the THC levels are based on a different formula than what Illinois is. Illinois just uses the Delta 9, the .3 percent. The federal actually combines the Delta 9 and the THCA to come up with the formula to be under the .3%,” Diekhoff said.
“That’s what we hope for because it increases our marketing ability. Illinois is really behind as far as finding processors. It’s very difficult to find processors and some of those that are out there haven’t been in business very long.”
Currently the 500 plants are being stored in a 4,200 square foot storage facility drying out.
Since they’re so large, the remaining 400 plants will have to be placed into another building.