Farmers harvest hemp, trying to beat the frost after a wet growing season

Hemp farmers across south-central Wisconsin are preparing for the frost headed their way after a wet growing season.

Cal Hansen, a first-time hemp farmer in Deerfield, said the weather has presented some challenges.

“We want to be proactive, especially with the rain. … It’s going to increase the mold, too, but I know hemp can go through frost. I’ve heard it from other growers,” Hansen said.

It’s only the second year Wisconsin farmers have been able to grow hemp under state law.

Hansen’s family has owned a dairy farm for 60 years and added hemp this year.

“It gives us a lot of hope towards being able to keep our farm,” he said. “It’s just a lot of hard work. We’re working 12-hour days. So, we’re waking up, going to work, going to sleep right away.”

Hansen said they planted too much hemp — nearly 30 acres — and did not account for enough space to dry it.

Horticulturist Zach Steeno, who farms with Hansen, said their biggest problem this season has been mold spores growing on the plants. They have been calling their friends and trying to get more help harvesting and cleaning the plants up to try to beat the frost.

“We’re looking at burning hay bales overnight so that we can put those at different ends of the field and burn to help keep the frost off,” Steeno said.

He said the farm has lost about an eighth of its hemp plants but they had taken into account the likelihood that they would lose some of the crop.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.