Growing Hemp in Massachusetts

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A Guide to Growing Hemp in Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts has a jagged coastal edge, that transitions into stony upland pastures in the middle, before rising further into to the gentle hill country in the western end. To learn whether the climatic and geographic conditions of the state can support the cultivation of industrial hemp, read on below. 

Plant Hardiness Zone(s) 

The state of Massachusetts is categorized into 3 main plant hardiness zones, ranging from 5a to 7b. Farmers interested in growing hemp in their fields should note that it is a zone 8 to 11 hardy plat, and will therefore not survive winter lows of the state. These crops should be grown during the warmer months of the year. 

Thermal Profile

Located in the New England Region of the US, the state of Massachusetts has a humid continental climate. This means that the winters are usually cold with a lot of snow, while the summers are warm. The average annual temperature across the state is 51.4 degrees Fahrenheit. This annual average meets the minimum average annual temperature requirements of growing hemp, 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Length of Growing Season

The growing season lasts for an average of 150 days each year in the state. The last frost may be seen as early as late April in some parts of the state, while the first frost appears in October across most parts of the state. Since young hemp plants do not do so well with frost, planting should be done after April, leaving enough time for the plants to grow and mature, within the average 120 day hemp growing period. 

Average Annual Sunlight

On average, most parts of the state receive more than 2600 hours of sunshine each year. To support rapid growth during the vegetative stage, hemp plants need more than 12 hours of sunlight each day; otherwise they transition into the vegetative stage. 

Average Annual Precipitation 

The state receives an average of 43.56 inches of precipitation each year. While November is the rainiest month of the year in the state, July is the driest. However, it is worth mentioning that rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year, with slight variations on a month to month basis. An average of 25 to 30 inches of rainfall per year is enough to support the growth of healthy hemp plants.  

Surface Elevation

The state of Massachusetts has a mean elevation of 500 feet above sea level. While the highest point is Mount Greylock, standing at 3,847 feet, the point where the state meets the Atlantic is the lowest. Most local hemp growers do not have to worry about the effects of crop stress induced by high elevations of 600 to 800 feet and above.

Soil pH

Most soils in the state are acidic, just like in most parts of New England. This means that growers need to lime their fields, where necessary, to bring them to the optimum, 6 to 7.5 pH levels, for growing hemp. 

Soil Composition

The official state soil of the state is the Paxton series of soils. These soils are moderately permeable, well-drained and very deep. Well-drained, aerated loamy soils that are known to have great water and nutrient retention properties are the best for growing hemp. 

Notable Pests

Spider mites and corn borers are among the most common pests posing a threat to hemp plants grown in the state. These plants are also susceptible to attacks by viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens.

Obtaining A Hemp Grower’s License In Massachusetts

Under federal law, it is illegal to grow hemp anywhere in the United States without first obtaining a grower’s license from the appropriate regulatory body for the state in which the interested party intends to plant the crop. View our breakdown of the 2018 Farm Bill for more information on the legal status of hemp in Massachusetts, as well as a breakdown of the application process.

Program Name Program Type Resources
Massachusetts Research and Commercial Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Hemp Program