Some organic farms emphasize the concept of “Farm to table.” At Healing Greens Farm, where hemp is cultivated to produce CBD products, it’s more a matter of farm to label.
The Healing Greens Farm label goes on every container of its curative products along with a list of ingredients. The label also includes a warning not to use during pregnancy or lactation along with cautions to consult with one’s physician before using and to keep the product out of the reach of children. And there’s a standard statement that any claims made for the product have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that the product “is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
That’s some label, but Cody and Gail Houseweart stand by their products.
For the Housewearts, the decision to cultivate hemp was a conscious choice to do something with meaning and purpose. Cody worked for the West Elk Mine and for Phillips Machine West in Delta. When the mine reduced operations, it was decision time. The family wanted to stay in Delta County and, with Cody working at Phillips and Gail serving as a registered nurse at Delta County Memorial Hospital and their 30 acres in alfalfa and hay, they figured they’d get by.
But they wanted to do more.
When it appeared likely that the 2018 Congressional Farm Bill would authorize the cultivation of industrial hemp, a family discussion led to a choice to begin “healing the world one person at a time” by growing plants that yielded cannabidiol, or CBD.
CBD is believed to have medicinal applications and it differs from industrial hemp which is grown for its fiber and marijuana which has psychoactive properties. Using CBD products such as honey sticks, salves and tinctures produced by Healing Greens Farms may make you feel better, but they won’t get you high. Marijuana contains high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD contains no more than three-tenths of one percent (0.3 %) THC.
As an RN, Gail is well aware of the problems associated with commercial pharmaceuticals. She views the use of CBD products as a welcome alternative to prescription drugs. Among the conditions which she believes are addressed by CBD are chronic pain, anxiety and depression. She is convinced that CBD impacts and enhances the body’s natural systems and brings a person’s overall well being into balance.
The family is proud of the quality of their crop which is inspected to verify low THC levels by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and they also endorse the products extracted from their plants which are certified by a Denver laboratory. They use no herbicides or pesticides and, although they planted and harvested some 20,000 plants this year, their operation is considered comparatively small.
“We have pride in our product,” Gail said. “We emphasize quality over quantity. We produce an organic product. We’re a boutique farm, not a mass-production outfit.”
Though once a staple crop in America, the modern hemp industry is still in its infancy and the Housewearts had to learn and improvise as they went along. Utilizing his machine shop skills, Cody created a custom implement to help with planting. He also created the tables used to separate the ‘biomass’ of the harvested plants from the stems. That process is called “shucking” and it represents one step in the harvesting process.
Once planted in June, then irrigated and tended, the mature plants are harvested in the autumn. The plants are annuals which must be replanted each year. Healing Greens Farm uses cloned plants which are hearty and offer more uniform growth. At harvest time, heavy-duty pruning shears are needed to cut each thick stalk by hand. Cut plants are loaded onto trucks and hauled to covered sheds where they are hung in clusters to continue drying. Once dry, the plants are hand-rolled on a metal grid until the flowers and leaves (also referred to as biomass) are separated from the stalks by shucking. The biomass is stuffed into large commercial bags to await transport to an extraction facility and the stalks are recycled as animal food or compost for use in soil enhancement.
It’s a family operation and a neighborhood one. Many hands are required to harvest, dry, shuck and pack the plants and many other people are employed in processing the biomass. At present Healing Greens sends its raw harvest to Natural Path Botanicals, a processing plant in Hayden, Colorado, for extraction. Once the biomass arrives at an extraction facility the dried material is subjected to slow-heat processes which breaks the dry material down into a full spectrum oil that looks a bit like molasses and has a rich earthy aroma. The full spectrum oil can be combined with other substances such as avocado oil to make salves and tinctures. Full spectrum oil can also be further refined into a liquid roughly the consistency of honey and then further distilled into powder which can be as rich as 99.9% CBD. The refined powder can be re-liquefied and combined with organic ginger and honey to produce honey sticks and similar products. Healing Greens works with other off-site companies to bottle the tinctures, can the salves and fill the honey sticks.
Then the labels go on.
Growing and processing CBD hemp is a labor intensive proposition and Hotchkiss neighbors often pitch in to help. Healing Greens also provides seasonal employment for local residents and high school students. And more workers are involved beyond the farming and harvesting operations, since a host of additional laborers are required to extract, refine and bottle products. Enhancing this growing workforce is one of the reasons the Houseweart’s got involved with hemp cultivation. The couple has a strong desire to help others adapt to area coal mine closures by bringing jobs to the North Fork region in order to allow people to stay in the area and retain their homes.
“We can’t solve everything,” Gail said, “But we can do something that has meaning and purpose. We can do our part.”
As the hemp industry matures in Delta County, additional jobs may follow. In particular, there is hope that a CBD extraction facility will be established in Delta in time for next year’s autumn harvest. To learn more about Healing Greens Farm and read testimonials, visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/gailsgreens/ or on Instagram @healinggreensfarm. For further information, call 970-234-5663 or 970-216-2247.