Tucked away in the farm country around Eaton is the largest hemp farm in the United States. Colorado Cultivars has planted nearly 300 acres of the cash crop known not just for its CBD properties, but numerous commercial uses — including oils for cooking, topical lotions, clothing, rope and everything in between. "I'm a huge proponent of medical marijuana — and recreational marijuana, for that matter. But what it can do compared to what hemp can do? It's not even close," explains Damian Farris, co-owner/ farmer of Colorado Cultivars. "I don't think either one should be penalized. it's a simple fix, if people communicate."
As you approach the Colorado Cultivars property, the rows and rows of corn fields turn to hemp, which requires a third less water than corn, making it one of the most economical crops that farmers can grow. While hemp farms are few and far between across the country — hemp was made illegal in 1937, before Colorado and other states began passing laws that allowed its cultivation — they've almost doubled in production, from 250 million pounds in 1999 to an estimated 450 million pounds in 2014.
A rainy spring season means the farm's 2015 crop is being brought in later than usual. "There was so much rain that we were delayed by two and a half weeks," Farris says amid a tour of the farm during its harvest festival this past weekend. "We couldn't plant until June 6 of this year. We've already harvested half or three-quarters of one field. We've got 293 acres planted; we'll finish in the next couple of weeks."
Co-owner John Gallegos and marketing man Rick Trojan are the other masterminds behind this operation, and there's a lot to think about. The farm-grown hemp contains no THC — but the plant can be used for its CBD properties, which provide pain-killing, anti-inflammatory and digestive help without producing a high. You do not need a government-issued MITS license in order to sell CBD items, one of the avenues Colorado Cultivars has taken with its crop. Instead, all the partners need is an agricultural license from the state.
In February, Colorado Cultivars met up with the family that owns the property and proposed growing and processing the crop as a team. Trojan explains the symbiotic business relationship: "They are fourth-generation farmers who've partnered with us, so they know when the soil is ready, when it's not."
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There are currently 1,600 acres of hemp under cultivation in the state "and we have 300 of them, so it's a fifth," Trojan continues. "It's a pretty big chunk. There are 3,000 registered, but only 1,600 in the ground." At 6' 1", Trojan still looks small compared to the towering hemp plant beside him; the largest in the field reach up to eight feet. He walks through the hemp forest, explaining the difference between the male and female plants: The female grows bigger and healthier buds, the male dies after pollinating, but both plants are crucial to the hemp farm.
"We use it for seed production, for planting seeds for next year," Farris says. "Some seeds are going to be used in food products or for food oil. We're also growing it for CBD. We have a line of products called Moonrise Extracts, tinctures and honey, and stuff like that that's infused with CBD. Also, potentially hemp cream as well as textiles, clothing. Our waste is going to be used as product. There is no waste, even the roots; they're just really good for farming. They contain growing nutrients for all sorts of different stuff."
And in Colorado, hemp is definitely a growing concern. "Sometimes it's just like, wow, this is our life," says Farris. "This is our day-to-day. We have to make sure the plants are watered. On top of the fields, we have two greenhouses and an indoor processing plant, so it's a lot of work, but it is rewarding."
Take a walk through the Colorado Cultivars hemp farm through the photos below.