A First-time Farmers Insight to Hemp: Considerations of Fun and Failure

Article by: Benny Blanchard, Commercial Real Estate Agent and Massage Therapist, UF/IFAS Industrial Hemp Pilot Project Advisory Committee

Edited by Zack Brym

This insights article is part of the blog series Perspectives from the Hemp Industry.

Why did I want to try growing hemp?

I’m a guy that has never officially lived on a farm except as a young kid and until recently, the beginning of 2021. I wanted to grow hemp and ended up in a situation with the correct zoning but not the best soil. Let’s be honest… the thrill of growing a once illegal plant is awesome. But seriously, what you do with what you grow can determine how you grow it and if you can make money or use it for personal needs. You don’t want a short bushy plant if you want to try your hand at making rope. Growing smokable flower outdoors is a huge challenge and not for the faint of heart. Perhaps you want some seeds for any number of its uses. Study the options and pick your purpose. And then grow a test crop! Since I had no particular goal but to experiment with genetics, I decided to have a little fun and experiment using general materials I had already on hand.

What are the basics to get started?

1. You need agricultural or industrial zoned land.

2. Read carefully through the hemp cultivation licensing program through FDACS and make sure you can meet those requirements for growing hemp.

3. Get fingerprinted at a local business, knowing you have no felonies on your record or that they are more than 10 years ago. I paid $80 for the fingerprinting.

4. Submit an application, with your fingerprint id, plot information, containment plan, and wait to be approved. The application doesn’t have a cost other than the fingerprinting. If your application was denied, be sure to reach out and ask why. FDACS is working hard to accommodate those who want to farm, and you may have missed something.

I got my license and set out to farm hemp!

My first idea was to grow hemp in felt containers and raised beds. I went to a reputable nursery and acquired 300 sprouted seedlings with a Georgia heritage. Cost me $400. Felt pots $30 for a set of 30 at different sizes. Let me tell you… digging holes in the hot summer heat to plant seedlings is no fun business. Some lucky souls have tractor equipment. But we hobby farmers have to work with what we have. I had a team of three volunteers help me plant 200 of the seedlings. I selected the best looking of the bunch and kept some for a Mother nursery for more clones. Two pots each of three cultivars. This is a great way to preserve some genetics, when things go wrong. I used an old Halogen lamp on a timer that could handle being outdoors to keep the mothers in veg state. I used composted mulch in the grow bags and around my plants in the ground.

A blend of fun and failure.

Each ground-based bed was lined with the composted mulch with fresh chip mulch placed on top to hold the moisture in. I hand watered twice a day while temps were 95 degrees plus until the rains came and flooded the sites. My plants never really flourished past the middle of the summer despite daily watering. The seedlings only grew 1.5 feet high and never really maintained vegetative growth. The daylight at summer solstice is still too short to maintain vegetative phase for many hemp genetics. Then, a careless truck driver backed over my remaining outdoor plants and destroyed them. So much for that experiment.

Come fall, I was left with a choice. Pay $200+ to have 20 fist sized low quality flowers tested to see if it was under 0.3% total THC or destroy the crop. I chose to destroy them. Sometimes it’s just not worth trying to keep a crop active. I cleared the land and spread tons of Spanish needle (Bidens alba) seeds on the plot to have a native plant out compete any potential hemp seeds produced. Spanish needle is a great way to boost the biosphere of the grow plot, attractive native pollinators, predator pests, and semi tills the soil, when you uproot it.

I haven’t given up. I’m taking advantage of the Florida “winter” to start over in pots with some new clones. Once they reach 2 feet high, I will flip them and see if they produce a reasonable quantity of seeds. All plants currently growing are female, so I will use 30ppm colloidal silver spray, on a 1 foot tall clone, to convert it to a male, hormonally. All pollen from this “male” will produce feminized seeds, which is more advantageous to my production goals and for invasive control purposes.

Good luck growing and remember to have some fun! Don’t forget to register your crop with FDACS.


Posted: December 2, 2021

Category: Agriculture
Tags: Hemp Perspectives


Kendra V Solow
December 2, 2021

Thanks for this article. I'm in the starting phases of growing hemp here in swfl. I appreciate the insights! Kendra Solow @mindbodyphysique

November 6, 2021

This is great information for navigation through the details. The less confusion about the subject means more people finding a wonderful wellness product

ganesh shivbaran
November 5, 2021

looking to partner with any one to cultivate hemp. i had been doing row crops in homestead florida since 1989. i have my license, land and equipment. thanks. ganesh shivbaran. 3054840787

November 5, 2021

An excellent explanation of marijuana, hemp and what to beware of in the myriad CBD products now available everywhere. Good advice to read labels, select carefully and be suspicious of unregulated product claims - similar to all the food products which claim to be “organic “ and “non GMO.” Keep up the good work to educate John Q. Public!

Karen Cox-Dennis
November 5, 2021

Thank you for continuing to educate us in your field of expertise

November 5, 2021

Thank you Lisa, your commentary is very much appreciated.

November 5, 2021

Thank you for your work. ❤️ This is very well written and easy for anyone to understand.

Brad Buck

July 27, 2021

Kenneth, I am copying Dr. Alan Chambers, the lead scientist on this research. He can help your comment/question. Alan, his comment was on the TREC blogs. Please reply. Kenneth is copied. This is interesting news. Is there any way of contacting Mr, Chambers directly. I am from Barbados in the Caribbean and am looking for a niche market product to grow on island. Thanks, bradbuck[at]ufl[dot]edu


July 23, 2021

Hi Alicia. Before you cut down your tree, you should notify FDACS-Division of Plant Industry (DPI) at 1-888-397-1517 and Jeff Wasielewski, Commercial Tropical Fruit Crops Agent, UF-IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County at 305-679-0227.

July 5, 2021

Based on the information and photos, my smaller lychee tree definitely has LEM. I’m a private homeowner, not a commercial grower. Should I contact the county and report this? The infestation is extensive and on 2/3 of the branches. Unfortunately, it seems my only recourse is to cut it down so it does not spread to my other tree.

Kenneth Erik Nilsen
June 28, 2021

I have read articles on new varieties of Vanilla plants being worked on by scientist Alan Chambers. This is interesting news. Is there any way of contacting Mr, Chambers directly. I am from Barbados in the Caribbean and am looking for a niche market product to grow on island.


May 14, 2021

Hi Al. Dr. Carrillo has requested you bring a sample to the Florida Extension Plant Diagnostic Clinic for further analysis. The Clinic is located at our campus, 18905 SW 280 Street, Homestead, Florida 33031. You can review the Clinic's website here: https://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/plantdiagnosticclinic/.

May 3, 2021

I have very tiny black insects, less than a cm long living on my litchee tree. They’re so tiny that’s it’s difficult to see them individually with the naked eye. They live in patches on the trunk. The patches, for lack of better description, look like black under arm hair. When disturbed they do not fly but continues to regroup like a herd. Are they harmful to my tree?


March 29, 2021

Hi Chan. Thank you for your inquiry. Dr. Carrillo has requested you visit this website for the most up to date information: https://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/Lychee-Erinose-Mite/. Thank you.


March 22, 2021

Thank you for your interest! The only document that we have available at this time is Matthew Quenaudon's master's thesis. You can find it here: https://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0054534/00001.

March 14, 2021

I have only just seen this on my lychee trees and the leaves are dying. It's spreading to other branches. My tree has only just started flowering. How do I get rid of this to avoid it taking over my entire tree? I have a younger one that's flowering for the first time and want to protect these so badly. Waited more than 10 years for the older one to flower. Help

Michael Bausher
February 23, 2021

Has this work been published? If so could you please provide a citation. Thank you

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September 24, 2018

It is recommended that all infested branches are cut and burn before any acaricide treatment. Pruning is the most important cultural practice against the LEM and the most efficient way to remove infestations. After pruning, removing and destroying infested branches, acaricides can be used to protect new leaf flushes as they emerge and develop. Sprays applied directly to infested leaves and branches provide poor control because of the protection provided to the mites by the erineum. Among the acaricides registered for use in lychee in Florida, the only conventional pesticide registered acaracide proven to work against LEM in other parts of the world is Agri-Mek (abamectin). Agri-Mek is a restricted use pesticide (you must have a pesticide license to use this material) and has a restriction of a maximum two applications per year on lychee. Of the other insecticides known to have activity against LEM, azadirachtin, which is extracted from neem oil provides suboptimal control of this mite. Azadirachtin is labeled for use on lychee and can be used as an alternative acaricide while additional insecticides are being explored. Azadirachtin brand names include Aza-Direct, AzaGuard, Azatrol EC, and Trilogy. Although wettable sulfur has also proven efficacious against this mite, it is not registered for use on lychee at this time. Detailed control recommendations are available at: https://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/Lychee-Erinose-Mite/.

Thomas Pritchard
September 7, 2018

What can be sprayed on the tree to kill the invader ??

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