5 Questions to Ask Before Harvest
The Munch Machine crew works with growers all over the world and has seen just about every kind imaginable, from artisan boutique cultivators to huge industrial operations. What is the one thing ALL successful cultivators have in common? They have a well-planned strategy to harvest, process, and store their crop before they even put seed to soil!
Tragically, we see too many growers dial in their genetics, irrigation, nutrients, and lighting, only to have their crop fail because they did not have an adequate plan for the last and most crucial stage.
To develop a solid plan, ask yourself these basic questions:
- Who am I selling my crop to?
- What is the end goal for my crop?
- How do I plan to harvest my crop?
- What Is my plan for drying and curing?
- How will I store my harvested material?
Having well-considered answers to these questions will help ensure a successful and profitable harvest.
1) Who am I selling my crop to?
It’s basic economics: Before you supply a product, be sure there is demand for it!
When the US Hemp Bill was implemented in 2019, a “green rush” of new hemp growers flooded the market with improperly harvested, low-quality biomass. Many new growers planned poorly and just assumed there would be buyers for their product. Sadly, the market gave them a very expensive lesson on supply and demand.
The most successful growers secure buyers well before their harvest. Some growers even coordinate with pre-buyers on genetics, cultivation methods, and how they want the product packaged and delivered.
Having an answer to this question could make or break your profitability, so be sure to give it plenty of thought!
2) What is the end goal for my crop?
If growing for smokable flower, is your goal to produce a grade of flower suitable for budget-minded consumers? Or are you going for artisan-style “boutique” buds that fetch the highest prices?
If your crop is heading straight to extraction, what is the goal of the extracted material? Pure cannabinoid/terpene isolate extraction? Or super-premium “live resin” from fresh-frozen harvested flower?
Whichever end product goal you choose will determine how you harvest, so pin this down before moving on.
3) How do I plan to harvest my crop?
Do I plan on wet bucking or dry bucking?
If you are rack drying or doing fresh-frozen extraction, bucking is done with freshly chopped “wet” plants. This greatly increases bucking efficiency and flower quality and trichome retention is maximized.
For more traditional hang drying with buds left on the stem, you’ll want to watch your moisture content closely as bucking at the ideal state is of critical importance with dried plants.
Do I have the tools and equipment I need?
Harvesting is a labor-intensive business that can benefit greatly from automation equipment, especially bucking and trimming machines. If you want to grow at scale and be competitive, automation is imperative.
If you have not yet decided on what tools and equipment you need, don’t wait until the last minute to buy them!
Plan ahead, do your product research and make purchases well in advance of your harvest window. Your crew can get up to speed on the equipment, and you can develop an efficient workflow set-up.
Do I have the labor force I need?
Knowing what labor you will need is most important to outdoor growers as their harvests are big and seasonal. However, even at an indoor facility, if you still buck and trim by hand, you may need to hire temp help to supplement your regular crew during harvest cycles.
The amount of labor needed to harvest even a smaller outdoor crop is routinely underestimated, especially by new growers. If you need help estimating what is needed at your operation, please give us a call!
4) What is my plan for drying and curing?
There are many different methods to dry and cure your product for consumption or extraction.
The traditional process is to hang dry, then buck and trim. If done right, this can achieve high quality, but consistency, harvest efficiency, and scaleability can suffer.
Another common method is to buck wet and rack dry in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. This ensures consistent quality and increases efficiency, also making this method more scalable.
For premium concentrate production, a recent trend is to extract from fresh-frozen flower. This method speeds up the entire process by many weeks, increasing harvest and processing efficiency exponentially.
There are pros and cons for each method, but, whichever you choose, be sure to ask the following questions:
- Do I have adequate space to dry and cure my crop? (This is routinely underestimated.)
- Do I have enough supplies to get through my harvest? (drying racks, fans, freezing media, etc.)
- How will I ensure my end product is consistent? (For instance, hung plants dry at different rates.)
- Is my chosen method GMP compliant? (If important or necessary for your intended market.)
What is my plan to mitigate contaminants? (You don’t want your crop ruined at the last stage.)
No matter what method you choose, make a plan, test your systems, and be sure to have spares for critical parts and equipment.
5) How will I store my harvested material?
We are dealing with a relatively delicate organic product. If you haven't pre-sold your product and have to store it, you must take precautions to mitigate degradation.
Ask yourself these questions to prepare for storage and/or shipment:
- How long do I estimate I’ll need to store my product? Overestimate, just to be safe.
- What method will I use to store my product to reduce degradation to a minimum?
- Do I have adequate space, and is it suitable to keep the quality I desire?
- Am I fully stocked with supplies for my chosen method of storage?
- If pre-selling product to a buyer/extractor, do I know how they want the product delivered?
Even if you don’t plan on storing your product, it’s still a good idea to devise storage “Plan B” in case you need to hold on to your crop longer than expected.
Final Thoughts and Other Resources
Sometimes you can learn more from the questions you ask, than the answers you receive. This post aims to challenge you to think about the final, and arguably most critical stage of your cultivation efforts.
If you ask yourself these questions, do your research, and make a plan, your harvest will be more efficient, achieve higher profit, and experience far fewer issues.
If you would like help with any of these questions, please feel free to reach out! We talk to thousands of growers and have helped many develop a harvest plan that works for them.
Thanks for reading! ~ The Munch Machine crew