“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love."
Say Hello To The Cannabis Plant
Hemp, it turns out grows very well in Vermont. Fifty years of hemp prohibition ended with the 2018 Farm Bill and CBD is on the rise. All good news. Seems like the right time to meet some of the farms, the businesses, and the cannabis compound superstar of Vermont’s craft-hemp movement.
Hemp, a common name for Cannabis sativa L. is a legal but regulated agricultural commodity and the source of 1000s of food, fiber, medicinal, and "industrial" products. CBD or cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating compound found in all varieties of the cannabis plant. CBD may be the latest hemp revelation, and it won't be the last.
Cannabis sativa goes by lots of unscientific names, with hemp and marijuana being the most common. Both have CBD but what legally sets them apart is the amount of euphoria-producing THC or tetrahydrocannabinol in each variety. By current legal definition, hemp can contain no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight (a trace amount). This is an arbitrary quantity of THC that legally distinguishes hemp from marijuana, which is cannabis that measures over 0.3 percent THC.
No matter the source, CBD itself will not make you high. Period. And yes, it is legal in all fifty states. According to the World Health Organization, cannabidiol presents no risk of toxicity or dependence. Other research on CBD points to its excellent safety profile.
With hemp’s new legal status, we can expect to see considerably more clinical and human trials delving into CBD’s effectiveness. So far, the dozens of peer-reviewed studies I’ve evaluated (see below) point to CBD’s benefits as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and antipsychotic compound. Cannabidiol alone, or acting synergistically with hundreds of other active compounds in hemp is shown to have potential medical benefits in the treatment of addiction, anxiety, arthritis, cancer, cognitive decline, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, nausea, pain, and PTSD.
Just Google “CBD” and you'll get 190,000,000 hits. That’s a lot of CBD. According to one recent report, 22 million Americans, or an estimated 7% of the US population are using it. How could this be? Quite simply, they're finding relief.
If all this sounds like new news, or too good to be true, consider that humans have been growing cannabis for 10,000 years. And in the U.S. for one-hundred years before 1940, cannabis tinctures from the likes of Parke-Davis (Pfizer) and Eli Lilly were routinely prescribed by physicians to help treat muscle spasms, chronic pain, and sleep disorders, as well as melancholia, migraines, and much more.
Modern medicine might not see the interconnectedness of these ailments, but apparently, cannabis surely does.
Vermont CBD Artisans’ Tour de Hemp
The year before Alejandro Bergad moved to Hardwick to buy a farm, he’d gotten a good feel for growing hemp in Colorado. In 2016 he and his close friend, Jacob Goldstein started Green Mountain CBD, now called Sunsoil; Vermont's first commercial, vertically integrated CBD wellness company.
Their inspiration for starting Sunsoil rings a familiar note among Vermont’s hemptrepreneurs. "Jacob and I shared a clear vision of the utility of CBD and the benefits of using hemp oil," says Bergad.
Now their Vermont grown, certified organic, full spectrum tinctures, capsules, and edible salve are gaining national attention. Twenty-eight full-time employees work at Sunsoil, and 60-100 more are needed during the 60-day harvest and drying season.
Hemp gives good reason to come to Vermont to work, live, play, and stay.
About the time Bergad was eyeing Vermont, Carl Christianson was returning to the Green Mountains to be part of the new hemp economy. Carl brought with him his family, a Ph.D. in natural products chemistry, and a passion for hemp.
This combined for a fitting launch, when he and his close friend Noah Quist established Northeast Processing (NEP); a premier botanical processing, testing, and hemp extracts company located in Brattleboro.
“Noah and I identified a gap in hemp processing services and lab testing in Vermont,” says Christianson. “We brought Northeast Processing's team together to help small farmers. They needed the infrastructure.”
NEP uses a cold ethanol process, and by adhering to precise and consistent standards for purchasing, testing, and processing hemp, Quist and Christianson are able to, in Carl’s words, “showcase the Vermont brand as an exemplar of quality.”
Those words echoed my recent conversation with Alejandro.
“What’s most important to look for in a CBD product?” I had asked. There was no hesitation, "Transparency," he replied.
Bergad maintains that organic production, GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) and third-party lab documentation are the keys to CBD product safety, “This is what builds customer’s trust; that what it says on the label is what’s in the bottle.”
Due-north 150 miles from Brattleboro, Rebecca DeGiuseppe and her husband John run Lily Hill CBD from their farm in Eden. John and Rebecca are full-time hemp growers and artisanal producers of organically grown, CBD-rich tinctures, capsules, topical salves, and manicured flowers. Rebecca carries a certificate in family herbalism, focuses on formulations and sales, and assists John with the farm. Their neighbor, Ryan Podd of Northern Roots Nursery, supplies the hemp starts and seeds. All of Lily Hill's products are third-party tested multiple times for accuracy and consistency.
Curious if there was a customer favorite, when I asked Rebecca, she replied that their tinctures sold the most.
“It seems people are able to find their correct dosage more readily,” she said.
Their salve is her go-to. She uses it for arthritis, and to keep her hands relaxed during a day of filling jars.
John pointed out, “I’ve been taking our CBD caps daily for two years… they really help me over the afternoon hump.”
This sounded strikingly familiar. As I was saying goodbye to Carl earlier, I asked about his experience using NEP’s extracts. "No question,” Carl told me, “having daily access to our CBD helps with stress relief."
A pattern of craftsmanship and “product benefit” among these entrepreneurs was emerging. I reached out for additional confirmation to MP Labs in Burlington. They buy or processes Vermont-grown hemp for others, and to supply the main ingredient to their own CBD line, Mansfield Provisions. Following a common theme, "transparency is key," all their products are also third-party tested.
For partners Kyle Rapoza, and Drew Kaigle, having steady access to their own supply of CBD has been a real benefit of starting the two companies (Drew has been hampered by sports-related pain). Tim Ruarks, the third partner, solidly confirmed my realization that regular CBD use is soothing for entrepreneurs and their families.
Said Tim, “40 milligrams of our tincture every morning in my coffee not only helps me with the stress of running the business, it’s helping me to raise my one-year-old, and I’m sleeping better.”
The last stop on this Vermont Tour de Hemp was with organic farmers Rebecca and Joe Pimentel, who started Luce Farm Wellness in Stockbridge. The couple puts a great deal of care into their line of organically grown CBD-infused products, and it shows. All are third-party tested, from field to jar.
The Pimentels moved family and farm operations here from Massachusetts in 2013, eventually settling at the old Luce Farm. Their first crop was a true adventure.
“Our plants were very productive our first year,” Joe told me. “And no one was set up to process yet in Vermont, so I ran all over New England looking for an extraction lab. That experience showed us why it’s much better to have a plan in place before you start the crop. We’re better prepared now.”
He and Rebecca went “all-in” for 2017 as full-time artisanal hemp farmers and craft formulators to produce their infused-honey, elderberry syrup, extracts, and body rubs.
Online sales on their eye-catching website are brisk. “It’s exciting,” says Joe. It’s also intense, but that, he says is what the CBD is for, “We use it to ‘help run the business’. Every day.”
~ Netaka, May 1, 2019
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
This article was written for the annual 2019 ACORN Local Food & Farm Guide
Vermont Artisanal Hemp Gallery
Where To Buy Vermont CBD Products
*The products mentioned in this story and others grown in Addison County are available throughout Vermont, at the Middlebury Co-op, Emerald Rose Grows, Green Mountain Gaia, or online at:
mansfieldprovisions.com (and MP Labs)
*Only a partial list. You'll find many other fine Vermont CBD products & shops; too numerous to count!
As always, thank you for posting your comments and questions below!
Sources and Credits
I'm Netaka, friends call me Tak ("tock"). I write from Vermont and curate Tak About Hemp.