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Starting a business can be a daunting experience. And while countless factors are involved in the process, some may be more important than others.

Here, Allison Justice, Ph.D., CEO of The Hemp Mine, a vertically integrated CBD hemp business in South Carolina, shares her top tips for success and tips she wishes she could tell herself when she entered the company.

1. Start small.

Justice suggests starting small, as many people may be unaware of how labor-intensive certain growing processes can be. “Start smaller than your plans,” she says. “[Use] this first year to be able to master everything, because there are many things you will have to learn – difficult learning lessons – and you would rather learn to [do things] at an amount less than a significant amount.

This may mean reducing your planned square footage to simplify processes. The harvesting and drying process can be particularly labor-intensive, especially if growers don’t have the proper equipment to support those processes, she says.

“A lot of times the equipment you can rent, say a large kiln dryer, the cost of renting that doesn’t necessarily pay off in the end. Especially if you buy one, it might take you a long time to get your money back,” she says.

Timing of harvest can also be difficult for new growers, as they typically miscalculate the length of the process, she says.

“[With] harvest in particular, you’re sort of on a timer, not just by the state, but also by the plants themselves,” she says. “If it takes you 30 days to harvest, depending on your location, you may enter the rainy season or [the plants] might be past their prime and starting to catch some kind of disease that ends up being a wasted harvest or a partial harvest. So, yes, harvesting has certainly fooled a lot of people in the past, and [they] end up leaving plants in the field, or somehow they [get] somehow ruined.

2. Find a trusted buyer.

As a grower, you’ll want to successfully sell your crop, which is why Justice says finding a trusted buyer or establishing a plan is key. before planting.

“Try to have a buyer, someone you trust, [and] when I say buyer, I’m not just talking about someone you met on the internet,” she says. “…If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. … Unfortunately, I think that’s the story with a lot of new industries. When you don’t know the ins and outs or who to trust, there is a lot of snake oil and the problems that come with it.

As a supplier of hemp clones since 2019, Justice says The Hemp Mine has worked first-hand with several growers who have engaged in the wrong partnerships. Sometimes these partnerships result in a buyer wanting the farmer to grow genetics that are too expensive to justify the purchase, Justice says. She has also seen situations where contracts include a provision that a buyer can refuse to buy the farmer’s crops.

RELATED: Hemp Companies Collaborating to Rise Above the Seeds vs. Clones Debate

“One [situation] I have personally seen is [a buyer] saying, “Well, if it’s not up to our standards, we won’t buy it.” Well, it could be an A-grade flower, [but] maybe they already have too many flowers for this season,” she says. “…So the farmer ends up paying way too much for those genetics upfront, and he’s spent the season not looking for other buyers and building those relationships because he thinks he’s taken that into account. . … Then, [they’re] left somehow at square one.

Justice suggests seeking advice from other farmers and industry organizations to prevent this from happening. This way they can provide recommendations and advice on who they have worked with or what to look for when seeking partnerships.

3. Understand where your plants come from.

Just because a particular cultivar seems to do well in California doesn’t mean it will do well in Florida. Justice says it’s the biggest lesson she’s learned since she’s been in the business.

“The first year, … we wanted to grow 20 acres. So to do that, we had to buy other genetics from other companies,” she says. “We bought genetics from a group in Colorado. And in 2018, we were paying $5-8 per plant. So it was extremely expensive. In Colorado, these plants have done well. They had pictures, they had references – you name it. But when we brought it to South Carolina, these plants flowered immediately after planting and they weren’t very disease resistant.

Looking back, she says it makes sense because these plants were bred for a different region and climate. She suggests conducting extensive research to understand where your plants come from. Ask questions such as: have they been grown in my area before? How did they perform there? What do they look like? Does the company have references in my particular field?

“There’s no one plant that fits all,” says Justice.

4. Select cultivars based on what you are growing for.

Do you grow for extracts? Are you growing for smokable flowers? These are other key questions to ask when selecting cultivars, Justice says.

“Is it a flower that needs high terpenes? Is it a flower that has a higher percentage of a minor cannabinoid? Those are things I would say think about and have a game plan,” she says. “If you are [growing for] smokable flower, maybe have variety [of genetics]. So instead of making an acre of a cultivar, divide it up so you have a high CBG flower, a high CBC, or maybe you have one that has a really high amount of terpenes, even though she may not have as many cannabinoids.

Especially for small farmers, having a mix of items to sell can be beneficial, as what’s in high demand in the industry and what’s not constantly changes, she says.

“If you spread your cards over a few different bets on what [could] be in high demand after harvest, you might be in a better position overall,” she says.

5. Vet everyone.

Whether you’re buying plants or having produce extracted, it’s important to check out everyone you could potentially work with, she says.

“If someone says, ‘Oh, I’ll extract your material [at a low price],’ Well, maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe that’s a good reason, but ask that person, ‘Hey, did you… [a] some names of farmers you’ve mined for in the past that I can call? “, She says.

Get feedback from real farmers, not just the company you work with, to avoid being taken advantage of, she says.

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