The HempList #42: From Washington Apples to Hemp! Rising Labor Costs, Hemp Flower, & More Ft. WHO Orchards

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In Summary

Andy Arnold of WHO Orchards joins us on the HempList this week, hosted By Chase Nobles, Founder of

Chase & Andy discuss how it’s been coming from growing Apples, Cherries, and other fruits in Washington to WHO Orchards first Hemp Harvest in 2020. Andy goes into how overhead costs in his orchards have increased 59% in the last 3-5 years, and hemp was an alternative. They also discuss some of the general challenges faced in his first year of growing hemp.

Drying and curing space, fertilizers, garden pests, and a ton of other specifics covered in this podcast!

Transcript (Auto-Generated)

hey everybody chase nobles here
co-founder of
here with andy arnold of who orchards
how are you andy
i’m doing well today thank you i’m glad
to have you on the show
now uh you’ve been growing apples for a
fair minute as long as as well as
cherries bunch of other different fruits
here in washington what has the hemp
industry been like it sounds like you
got to grow a little bit this year i did
uh not
i grew some uh i grew five acres of hemp
for the 2020 crop
um you know and in our little world our
has really been increasing a bunch and
him seemed like a potential uh income
revenue stream that might not
have a ton of overhead you know right
and so we jumped into that bucket to see
how we could do with
manageable numbers of course right right
and it’s it’s nothing like cherries or
i would assume you know absolutely not
absolutely not when you say costa
overhead you know
in order to have an orchard a tree
you have to have it in the ground for
quite a few years before you really get
a good harvest off it don’t you before
you start generating some
some cash from that that plant whereas
hemp is just in and out
in a couple months in and out and it you
know might be
five months of uh startup growing
drying that kind of stuff and and
through the winter you can
and start trimming and bucking that
stuff down to a
finished product but uh yeah on our tree
fruit end you know we
we can start harvesting maybe after
three years after we plant the block uh
the initial investment on that can be up
to maybe 50 grand an acre
to get those apples planted and get all
that stuff done and
and uh you know the labor thing in
washington state is
has just really made things uh
not economical you know in a lot of
senses and so we’ve been
in what way in what way has the labor
labor laws up here changed
because we’re based in seattle so we
deal with a lot of you know the same
kind of
laws but it’s it’s different a little
bit for the farming and agriculture
industry isn’t it
sure so uh we just had minimum wage pass
excuse me overtime just got passed by
the legislature
signed by the state uh and
um but previous to that with the initial
hikes of
of minimum wage if they’ve gone you know
our our costs have increased about 59
over the last five years uh three to
five years
about 59 our overhead costs farming wise
uh pretty much tied to labor a lot of
our services
cost more even though the products
aren’t more
necessarily but uh to get them delivered
in the yard in there
and then you know a lot of the places we
deal with are stop and go so it costs
them more money to unload and load and
divvy up and and so it it just uh
those costs have really increased and
and the
the average return on apple tree fruits
not paralleled it you know it’s lagging
behind about we can call it nine percent
increase in the same amount of time as
labor and costs have gone up 58
59 so it’s uh it’s been a big shift
in our world now washington is
incredibly well known for its apples
and it’s hops and a bunch of other
things but uh
has this really impacted a lot of other
orchards out there as well and
it’s not just the orchards but it’s the
packing house and the distributors and
kind of the whole supply chain what
what do you what do you what do you see
happening in there and you are a lot of
other farmers looking at other crops
like him you know but not limited to him
but just like him or other farmers
looking for
hey i might need to start thinking about
a different kind of business model
uh what’s going on i believe so you know
we there’s only so many things as as
farmers that we can control
within our grass and you know
there are a lot of markets or industries
hey for example
um but you know if we wanted to go grow
some hay we’d be busting into something
that we’re not
really doing that’s established that’s
been there for
generations going on right and not that
we couldn’t do well with that
but it’s just a risk that you know
farmers are
inherently risk-averse because we’re
farming and it’s a risk every day
you got enough risk on your plate as it
is right exactly
so um again like when we moved into hemp
we went to a five acre model
which five acres is about you know
four percent of our operation if that
three percent
um just to get our feet wet and see how
we did and we learned a ton on the deal
um you know i grew i grew cannabis
for a few years so uh we we weren’t
didn’t have our feet wet in it and kind
of know what was going on
but uh you know actually drying and
uh that much product you it was a
shocker to me to see how much space you
actually needed
for just five acres of uh hemp now were
you were you able to use you know kind
of the big packing houses or anything
like that to be able to dry that much in
because yeah
five acres that that had to surprise you
whenever it all came down
it did we we have a uh 5 000 square foot
cold storage facility on site for our
cherries and apricots that that when we
harvest we put them right in there
um obviously in october we’re not
harvesting those so it was space to use
but uh it wasn’t
he looks big enough for all of that
that’s for sure
that’s for sure so you filled up more
than a 5 000 square foot cold storage
yeah we ended up uh going and and
renting a potato
cellar down the road a ways uh to hang
the rest of it because we had a big
that freeze was coming i can’t remember
the date i think it was the 20th or 21st
and uh when we saw that cold weather
coming you know we
we kicked into high gear to get all that
stuff cut and get it out of that cold
and we were successful there
but but it you know we learned a lot
right on right on and how did the crop
turn out because uh you know
in washington you get to harvest a
little bit later in the season
um than a lot of places you know i think
it went well
honestly i mean uh we learned a lot
growing organic we had some uh one of
the first fertilizers we were using was
was a sugar beet abstract and so it was
to the taste and those darn sugar ants
uh got in under our weed mat got in
there was feet
on the tissue you know you’d see a
healthy plant today and tomorrow it
would kind of just collapse and
you’d pull it up and there was no
cambium left on the roots
the little ants had just eaten them down
to nothing and
and so we had some adjustments to make
there we switched our fertilizer out
and uh got rid of those little guys but
i think without having anything to
compare it to it went
well i i wasn’t upset with my yields
um we did not
we weren’t we weren’t quite on our game
for the drying process having to do that
off-site we weren’t able to get the
uh ventilation how we thought we wanted
we with that kind of amount of time that
we had
uh and so we did lose some uh
to mildew while we were drying it we
didn’t get good air circulation in there
like we’d hoped and
and we lost some pretty decent amount
maybe a quarter of the overall weight
we wound up losing that we grew now
you’re over there in the high desert so
that must have been a
a decent place to grow as far as the
season goes but yeah moisture i’m sure
can become an issue if uh if you’re
going fast right yeah
and one of those varieties that we grew
the bubba
kush um it really had a
uh thick branch break at the bottom
they were real steep angles there wasn’t
a lot of space in there
so there was this mass of flower around
that that
bottom cup that just uh really gave us
fits on that deal
that was kind of the basis of it all had
we been able to kind of
cut those up and and single that out and
hang and dry specific
limbs or leaders if you will i think we
would have avoided
a lot more of that but um being as it
may the freeze was coming we got it all
off before that cold hit for sure so
that was positive
uh but we did end up getting getting bit
on the other end there
i think i think everybody you know
especially on your first year growing
you know five acres that’s
it’s to be expected right you’re gonna
have some hiccups here and there you’re
gonna be
dialing in certain things nutrients like
you said that apricot
abstract you know would you use that
again next year up here
actually i the storage facility or the
type of plant the the plant nutrients
the apricot
no i i would actually love to
try to grow that bubba kush if i if i if
i do
go again and we find this to be you know
revenue positive for us
and something we can do i would like to
go with that bubba kush again
i you know i think that the the analysis
that we got back on the cbd content
um and it was uh it was bred
to be under the 0.3 thc
delta whatever the regs are on that so
it we didn’t have any issues there
but the the quantity of
of uh cbd in the in the flower
was a lot higher than than the other
variety that we grew
it looks smelled just a richer
flower if you will and that’s you know
that’s where we
we want to be i mean like we want to
grow the stuff that looks smells
um attractive visually and at the end of
the day hopefully the
the product that we grow and create is
is enjoyed by the consumer
you know whether it is a cherry or
apricot or apple or
cbd flour well it is one of those things
where if you’ve got that much land and
you know five acres is
three four percent of what you’re doing
hey why not take that take that risk
it’s not like
you wouldn’t went ahead and just grew a
hundred acres you know like we’ve seen
some people do and take
you know that’s even more risk like you
said you know risk aversion you gotta
take with a you know a grain of salt
supply has been a challenge in this
market you know there’s been a lot of
and the the market hasn’t quite caught
up with that because a lot of people you
know look to
to to grow and uh quality has gone up
quite a bit too so uh
what what’s the plan you’re looking at
this from you know an
agricultural standpoint you know you’ve
got your your orchard
and your orchard is you know kind of
bread and butter
but what are you looking to do with this
harvest to say hey i would love to do
that again next year
how do you measure that success on such
a new venture
well it you know we’ve we’ve got x into
um and and we’re looking to
after our costs and maybe make a little
bit hopefully you know for sure not go
the wrong way
uh with the operation um and
as we see it as we see it developing if
if we can
it’s it’s all finding the right buyer
right it’s all right finding the right
person that
that you or outfit or place that you
can have your through foot to um
it’s you sleep better at night you know
you you know that you’ve got at least
maybe break even money sitting out there
with said
entity and then you know whatever else
that you might do business with is
is profit um but we’re watching that
real close
you know we we can’t just go buy new
tractors we can’t just go
decide to put you know a new apple in
because they’re it’s super expensive and
like as you said supply in everything in
ag right now is high
and demand hasn’t quite caught
it’s not quite in balance right right
especially with a strange year now
if for your flower looking at it is it
are you trying to
market it as smokeable flower you you’re
going to go more the the extraction
method what
how do you think we’re going to go to
the market we’ve started out going for
smokable flour
i mean that was the uh that was the
intent like we want to
grow grow a flower that we can trim and
look at and be proud of and um the
research i did getting into this when
you talk about extraction
uh that gets spendy you know and then uh
there’s the the crude part of it and
then to my knowledge there’s another
extraction to extract the
all the thc out of the crews which is
another expensive process
um there’s folks that i know that have
tried it in this region not the
smokeable avenue but have gone after the
uh deal and they’re sitting on
you know who knows how many gallons in
cage tanks somewhere in medford that uh
that got you know extracted but it’s
just sitting there
right and it’s a lot different than
apples because you know apples it sounds
for my limited understanding of the the
orchard market up here is that uh
you know before you even grow most of
time you have a packing house already
set in stone
right and then the the deal with the
packing guys that usually
they end up you know storing it and
selling it downstream and then you guys
kind of
split the cut based on whatever
percentage how
how does that work in apples and then um
what would you like to see in the hip
for ideal you know distribution
conditions what
what what about apples makes you think
we could maybe build something like that
in hamp um
you know i mean it’s maybe build
something like that and hemp i think
it’s all
you know the fed is a big part of of
risk right because it’s not technically
legal no the fed’s not doing anything
against us but
uh unless somebody has a ton of money
that they want to come through with this
people can’t get finance to go do it
you know you’re not going to go to the
bank and say i want to alone to put in a
processing facility and and this and
that and the other thing because it’s
not there
at this point so uh the little knowledge
i have about him
like that that’s a a tough thing to get
past at this point right um now as far
as uh
this the selling end you know um
it’s not something that i’ve been really
involved in and pursued
up to this point uh you know we’ve been
growing and
and we’ve we’ve thought we’ve had a good
initially getting into this that we were
going to be able to move our
our product and and we have moved some
of it but
you know we’re it’s not going at the
pace that we’d like
and so uh we’re trying other avenues
the great thing about america is that
you know you run into a wall maybe you
take a couple step back and move
move over and try to try another spot so
we are going down that road
right and andy so how does it work in
apples though that is somewhere that you
have an extreme amount of knowledge
um being in the apple industry for as
long as you have in a family business
how do apples get sold and um
what what lessons could the hemp
industry maybe learn from that
well you know um when you talked about
the warehouse most of those warehouses
some type of sales desk affiliated with
them or they’re
they’re it’s their own or they’re a part
of a sales desk that sells
apples from a bunch of packers packers
basically it’s the the growers crop all
the way through the process
and and they turn it into said packages
by weight and grade uh
based on what grow uh
kroger costco sam’s whatever
just throwing random names out there but
based on how
they want that package or what fruit
they want at that point and
the lines have you know the capability
to adjust and
and put them in different size packages
bags clam shells big
bigger boxes up to 40 pounds and and
away they go
you know i mean they’re labeled and
tracked and counted and away they go
do you think the hip market will ever
look like that or is this fundamentally
in the way that it’s it’s farmed and
i i don’t think it i mean it could
look like that potentially but i i
see issues with
this the storage aspect of it right
because uh for like the flower if you
um takes up so much blessed room
right so if you’re if you’re like we’re
sitting on product
that we harvested in october you know
bucking trimming selling at a
at a pace that would be awesome if it
was a lot quicker
you know because uh but that’s not how
this market works right now
people aren’t buying you know reefer
vans full of of hemp to move and so
uh it you know just the space
to even what i have that’s in mma bags
just the space that that takes
me to have it somewhere um there’s no
joke i mean
if you get to an industrial level the
economy is a scale like you you might
you grow 300 acres well you might have
to have 300 acres of barns next door to
dry it all
you know right i mean and that’s the
overhead on that thing is a nightmare in
itself just to even think about the
building permits right now the price of
the price of metal siding the price of
electrical wire to get power to all
those buildings i mean
you know so if you think it comes to
scale on that
that end of it like the to have a place
to put
all of the raw material um
is the scope is something that it
it would take somebody a minute to get
their head wrapped around
right and i think that’s i think that’s
why you know in the market we see a lot
of people just like you that
have the infrastructure you know even
though the 5 000 square
feet didn’t quite you know fully fit
what you were looking for but
you have the cold storage you have some
of the infrastructure in place where
it’s like hey maybe we can dip our toes
and utilize this equipment
while it’s being used right right and
next time
two and a half acres will fit in that
thing just fine
that’s what we would do right and that’s
how you that’s what you know now so you
wouldn’t have to contact it now
all that exactly i think i think when we
look at the market
and the oversupply of the year before
and you know kind of what happened a lot
of people pulled back quite a bit
the people that didn’t have the
resources necessarily do it the people
that did have the resources to
to do well um were repurposing
equipment from another you know
agricultural product or industry
and you you know kind of feel it
backfilling the time that that was free
with him and it’s i think it’s really
smart what you’re doing to be able to
to to learn from that five acres see how
it goes and then decide if it’s
something you want to scale up because
you know you have a you have a solid
business that you’re that you’re that
you have right now
and uh it’ll be interesting to see more
farmers take that you know more
considerate approach
of let’s see what we can do with this
before we consider
growing 100 200 acres because that first
year that hemp was legal that’s kind of
what you saw
right it was all really low grade yeah
not all of it but a lot of it was really
low grade there wasn’t a buyer for it
so it’ll be interesting to see um
what happens with these smaller growers
because you were able i’m sure to keep a
tighter eye on keep the quality up for
smokeable flour
well that’s what we’re after water
inputs you know fertilizer inputs
i mean all those things like you know
you you
in this day and age you don’t just go
turn the water on you know for eight 10
12 hours
like you you need to be precise you need
to be accurate you need to irrigate when
it’s not super hot um so those plants
can move and
and use that sunlight to pull that water
up during the day and
and we you know we try hard to watch and
learn and study what
what the plant’s giving us and telling
us so that you know we can capitalize on
what it’s doing
um now did you did you have any issues
with males or uh
uh um no i didn’t have any issues with
actually i was i was really happy that
we skate you know like folks keep
did you see him and i’m like i haven’t
seen any different looking plants out
here and we’ll you know
here’s a bunch of pictures and uh now
wound up not having any issues with that
on that note though did you have any
cannabis farms concerned about seeds
uh nothing near us nothing nearest yeah
that’s good that’s good because it’s
kind of been this contentious thing
where people have been all worried about
hemp in the northwest
infecting their outdoor grows and i
haven’t seen a whole lot of a
whole lot of that happening no no i yeah
i don’t think in the proximity of where
in my region where
some cannabis grows are you know we’re
12 15 miles as the crow flies you know
i i doubt that would have any issues um
i did i did have some farmers take some
plants though i think to go get them uh
tested to make sure that my signs were
you know i didn’t do that a few times
trying to try to snitch you out if you
if you were uh yeah made a mistake right
now what was the state like to deal with
did did
uh did the department of agriculture
have a hand in that testing and
regulation what was that experience like
for you
absolutely uh and yeah it was it for me
you know
uh we weren’t hot quote unquote
right right tested so i didn’t have
anything on that end that i had to worry
about which was nice
um getting our hemp license was uh
not difficult uh through the state of
so that was nice um contacting them
about testing
you know and and some of those things uh
they they showed up they were efficient
in and out and and you know that was it
now so overall that sounds like a much
better experience than some of the
states that we talked to now
um that being said the lady did
though tomorrow i’m on my way to go
watch somebody cut down their grow
because they’re hot
oh that’s that’s the stuff that i’m not
really excited about doing so i did hear
that some of that did happen
uh but we fortunately were under the
threshold now how did you do were you
running tests throughout the
throughout the season to see where you
were thc wise how did you how did you
keep yourself under the
limit um well honestly
i i got lucky on that one right
that’s all i can really say i mean you
know the
the guys that that i were working with
and and
and sending pictures back and forth
about what it all looked like the
question came up did you get a
thc test yet and i
had um i did go grab
some samples took them to the local
whatever and had him do a breakdown
and it was good and i was like yeah no
sweat but then shortly thereafter i
realized like no you
you can’t get do it yourself the state
has to come do it
so i was i was pretty late on that and i
was a little nervous about it
sitting on the edge of your chair i’m
sure you’re just wondering like did i
just make a giant mistake
yeah i was and and we were but then um
you know again the state came out they
sampled our two varieties and
and they came back you know legit and so
we we slid through that deal thank
goodness because yeah congrats
that’s exciting that’s exciting well it
might be worth testing uh every
every week or every other week as you
get closer to harvest next year but uh
you know we’re i’m sure you have some
friends with orchards up there other
local businesses local farms did they
think you were crazy whenever they saw a
uh mess of hemp growing uh on the side
of the road
what was did you have any interaction
with the local other than them stealing
a couple of plants and
trying to pop you you know i knew a few
guys like i said earlier that went to
crude route
like two three years previous you know
and their head scratching man i hope it
works out
you know knew some other guys that
planted a whole quarter
quarter section in a circle uh in one
that you know had a hemp guy that was
all dialed and in on them
here’s your plants and here’s your stuff
and and then about
the first week or second week of june
that person dropped off the face of the
earth for him
so they kept the water going for about
another two or three weeks and couldn’t
get a hold of that guy
and so they wound up just disking that
whole field of hemp in and putting uh
winter wheat in behind it oh man well
hopefully i made some good fertilizer i
guess that’s
that’s unfortunate the boys yeah like
good you know good
good luck good luck good luck and i am
you know i’m feeling some of that i mean
i’m not gonna lie like it’s not going
just as great as as we’d like but um
it’s not a train wreck yet
at this point so uh i guess the the most
positive part of it all is that
we got the product off
before that freeze um i didn’t see
any other hemp in my region
that did so i was
you know i was like well at least we did
that right you know at least i’m
freeze might have caused a little bit of
a local shortage compared to what people
were expecting
and even the even the you know because i
was uh
in league and getting some advice from
some folks in the prineville area
and the same cold snap showed up there
and there was only a
small portion of those folks that got
their hemp down and
hung before that happened and so you
this last fall was like well okay great
like we’re
i’m a small percentage that they got
this off before this weather came and
way to be on the ball and get that done
and then you know yeah it’s like well
that’s not really that big of a deal
or maybe it will be but we’re you know
it’s like nah
well i want to say congratulations you
know get
getting the harvest off in the first
year actually no let me back that up
taking the steps to
to say hey there might be an opportunity
here you know
i know what this business looks like on
the orchard side let’s let’s
let’s start a new venture let’s take
that risk let’s see what happens
i i think that’s commendable i think
that is what america is made on
as people are taking that kind of risk
so and then to be able to pull it off
and get the harvest and get the plants
under that ground is really exciting
so andy i’m i’m impressed i i got to
come out there and see you
what part of the state are you in uh
we’re in the columbia basin
you know all right yeah i’ll have to go
out here right on the columbia river
i’ll have to come down there and see uh
the tri-cities area
um mattawa okay mata
well i might have to look that one up on
the map when we get off
well hey congratulations i’m really
excited about what you’ve been able to
do and
excited to be working with you on for anybody else
out there thinking about getting the
hemp industry here in washington
uh sounds like andy’s gonna be a good
resource so find him on
andy arnold who llc appreciate your time
thank you have a good rest your day all
right you too buddy

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