hemp in fall colors
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Hemp Harvest 2023

Harvest time is when all the hard work through the growing season comes to fruition. After dodging Hurricane Lee early in September, the hemp plants soldiered on through the rest of September and ripened quickly. Hemp harvest 2023 began in late September and continued through the first weeks of October.

This year was unusually warm through the fall, like many recent falls, so there was never any threat of frost and plenty of warm sunny days. We had our first “dry spell” of the season during September for about 2 weeks, but for the most part the ground stayed moist the whole time.

ripe hemp flower
Toward the end of September the hemp flowers fully ripen. We pick them by hand at the peak of ripeness, always just before sunrise when the terpenes are at their maximum.

The Harvest Day

Since drying space is limited, hemp harvest 2023 happened in stages, with the ripest plants taken first. This works out well since the plants don’t all mature at exactly the same time. Since terpenes are produced in the flowers primarily at night, the best time to harvest is right before dawn. It’s a great way to start the day–and by mid October in Maine it’s still dark at 6am, so it’s not like waking up in the middle of the night. Being out under the moon and stars just before the first birds start singing can be a magical experience.

The plants are cut and immediately hung for a few hours then “wet-trimmed” when they’re still quite moist. Although everything is grown organically and nothing was sprayed with anything this season, gently rinse the flower to remove any pollen, dust, or insects. After rinsing the trimmed branches are hung up outdoors in the shade to dry for the rest of the day, then moved to a drying shed in late afternoon for 7-10 days of drying.

harvested hemp plants hung to dry
The hemp plants are harvested just before dawn to maximize terpenes in the flower. After being cut at the base, the plants are hung upside down for several hours, rinsed and trimmed, then hung in the drying shack for 7-10 days.

Final Processing

Once the flowers are dry enough–but not too dry!–we carefully separate them from the stems, given them a final trim, and placed the flower in glass containers to cure in a cool dark storage area.

Somehow I’m always surprised how much work’s involved in harvesting hemp and processing the flower, especially the trimming, even though we’ve done it for several years now. And managing moisture, humidity, and temperature when drying and curing the hemp harvest can be stressful. We just finished the final trimming last week and boy, does it feel good to have hemp harvest 2023 “in the can” as they say in Hollywood. Some of this flower will be made into CBD oil and tincture, while some will be sold as raw flower.

empty hemp field after harvest
The last of the hemp plants are harvested in October, leaving a lonely-looking scene as the empty field prepares for its winter sleep.

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