The land and region are not enough to guarantee a great Hemp plant. Our Family Farmers have generations of experience growing everything from nut trees to wine grapes, grains to vegetable crops on our lands. With both practical experience and current day techniques, our farmers manage the daily routine of matching mother nature’s gifts to the Hemp plants needs. We have recognized the need to consult with marijuana plant cultivators to gain us the insight needed to maximize our efforts. Every plant is unique in its needs to optimize growth and flowering, and the marijuana plant is no different, even if it has been referred to as “weed.” We have taken the years of experience of California marijuana propagation and applied it to our Sun Grown Hemp Flower. We are learning something with every new varietal planted and season of growing. Farmers are the original practitioners of “necessity is the mother of invention.”
Our Hemp planting process begins in June, before the hottest days of summer arrive. We plant on raised beds with buried drip tape which targets irrigation and promotes water conservation. Every twelfth row we dedicate a pair of “Dead Beds” planted with “Beneficial Flowers.” The flowers are what you might find in your backyard garden. They attract negatively impacting insects from the Hemp flower to the garden flower. They also seduce beneficial insects to live in their flowers and then hunt in the Hemp flower for harmful bugs. The practice of using beneficial beds is nature’s way of fighting insects without pesticides.
With the vegetive state of growth converting to the flowering state in mid-August, we start the process of “Male Hunting.” Team member cultivators begin the process of walking all the rows of plants looking to identify any rogue “Males” that will be removed and destroyed as we are growing flowers and not a seed crop. The cultivators will walk the same row up to five times during the flowering cycle. One “Male” plant can pollenate “Female” plants within several acres of itself.
By late-September the first of the Hemp flowers are ready for harvest. We hand harvest, selecting each Cola (Flower) for its size, color and firmness. The “Spears”, as we call them, are then placed in bins and delivered to the “Bucking Barn” on the Farm to be further trimmed. The Flower is removed from the spear and packed for transportation to be dried at our Processing Facility that is 28 miles away.
Post-Harvest work in the fields begin the day after the Flower is cut from the plant. With a farm implement known as a shredder, we return 90% of the Hemp plant back to the soil after mulching and discing. Before the winter rains arrive, we plant a targeted mix of seeds as an off-season cover crop replacing and adding needed nutrients naturally to our soils.
The Farms are large enough to allow us the practice of “Rotational Planting” a different crop each season on each block. This system of changing crops each year allows for the soil to naturally repair itself and for the insects and pathogens to not to get a hold on the site.
Each growing season and each new variety of the Hemp Plant is a learning experience for us. We keep detailed notes and photos as each day passes. We are currently adding technology to the equation as products are developed for the Hemp plant. We cannot see the day when we mechanize harvesting as the wine grape industry has, but we do expect to use drones to help identify weak blocks and maybe in the future they can identify “Male Plants” from the sky, speeding up the “Rogueing” process.
Our Family Farms have been in continuous ownership and stewardship for multiple generations. The Farms are nested in the fertile Cienega Valley that is formed by the Gabilan Mountains, the Pacific Plate, pushing up over the North American Plate at the San Andreas Fault. The valley is famous for being one of the earliest locations of wine grape vineyards planted in Northern California in 1849, the year before California became a State. This area was very desirable for grape production as the soil was rich with natural minerals, our blocks are rated by USDA as “PRIME FARMLAND” and Certified Organic by CCOF. The micro-climate, less than 25 miles from the Monterey Bay as the crow flies, offers full daytime sun and overnight sea breeze influenced cooling. The Hemp plant benefits from these same characteristics as the plants love the hot sunny days, with the cooling afternoon sea breezes blowing down the rows to begin to cool the flowers and keeping the soil from over-heating. Spring starts earlier and the summer lasts longer allowing for a lengthier growing cycle and a reduced chance of early rain interrupting the harvest and damaging the flower, averaging less than 10” of rain per year. Our summers have the highest Average Annual Sunshine for a near coastal region.