Harvest times affected by colder weather, rain

MEDFORD, Ore. – It’s harvest season in the Rogue Valley, and with recent rain and much cooler weather, some farmers are adjusting their schedules.

The September rain gave grapes a little more time on the vine, pushing harvest back a few weeks. But due to colder temperatures, the hemp harvest has moved up.

“In Oregon I would safely say that out of 100 percent of people growing hemp this year, only 30 percent are gonna survive and make money,” Nicolaas Vanderwey, NV Farms owner, said.

Vanderwey says farmers in the hemp industry in Bend and Eugene have been hurt by cold fall weather. So far, the Rogue Valley’s cold fall hasn’t hurt his crop.

“We don’t like it to frost. It was kind of cold this morning, but it’s warming back up. It hasn’t affected our crop here,” Vanderwey said.

Often when the temperatures drop, so does the value of the hemp. With lots of rain and other harsh weather, the crop can turn to biomass, which is less profitable than smokable hemp.

“Biomass compared to smokeable hemp. The biomass you can make oil out of. Smokeable hemp they can smoke to relieve pain. Biomass prices are super low,” Vanderwey said.

The wet and cold of the past month pushed up Vanderwey’s hemp harvest a few weeks.

“Weather changed. It’s colder weather this year, makes a difference in what we’re doing,” Vanderwey said.

While hemp farmers are currently harvesting, so are winemakers.

“Right around the first of October is pretty typical for us to start. We are actually going to start picking most likely this Sunday, provided the weather doesn’t change on us,” Brendon Butler, winemaker at Dewitt Winery, said.

Some vineyards, like Devitt Winery, are right on track. But with the rain, many vineyards are harvesting weeks later than usual.

“If we get a lot of rain, but we don’t think it’ll be an issue, we will wait a long time and let the grapes sorta shed that excess water they picked up,” Butler said.

As a result, the grapes are staying on the vine longer, getting more ‘hang time.’ Winemakers say they’re seeing high flavor with low sugar levels, which makes many of them happy.

“Pouring the wine for people, seeing how much they enjoy drinking it. It’s sort of the culmination of all of that work going into it,” Butler said.

However, as the harvest for hemp fields and vineyards collide, there’s currently stiff competition to find skilled workers.

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