This years hemp harvest is underway for the farmers of East Anglia. Much of the fibre crop has been cut with only the plants intended to go to seed still left on the land. These too will be harvested in a month or so when the seeds have fully developed and dried. One farmer in the South East of Essex, who has allowed us access to his crop for samples, told us that this years harvest was disappointing. The crop proved very difficult to get established and the growing season this year was too short. Looking at the crop in the field it was evident by the size of hemp plants that this was true. However there were patches where the plants had grown taller and it was in these areas we focused on collecting our hemp stalk samples.
On the first day of our harvest, we took to a machete and loppers to preserve the integrity of the entire stalk, we made our way through the crop selecting only the best specimens. This was, as it sounds, very time consuming, producing low yield but ensuring quality.
On the second day of our harvest, the farmer kindly offered to cut down a swathe of crop approximately 10 meters long with their hemp harvesting machinery. This was over in a matter of seconds however we then proceeded to sort through the cut crop selecting the larger specimens. This yield was much greater but slightly reduced in quality.
On both days we opted to use the machete and knife tools to strip the stalks of their side shoots and leaves, returning the waste biomass to the field. Any waste fibre that we have left behind will be taken up in the farmers harvest in a months time.
We will choose to opt for the mechanical approach from now on as long as it produces stalks of good quality. So... on with the harvest.