Interviewer: A lot of people are interested in Farm Direct CBD products. How do you see the farm playing into a higher quality product?
Andy: We have first-hand knowledge of what we grow and we can see that when we plant the seed into the ground, water, feed, harvest, dry, extract, distill and formulate into a product that I can hold. As a cultivator, we get to hear feedback from customers who enjoy the product and find it helpful to them. To know everybody that’s been involved in getting the seeds planted, flowers harvested, and how we go about delivering quality is a real asset to the consumer. I have come to understand and see why a farm connection is important because this is a product that I will use, and my friends will use, and people in need expect the product to help them. We can only deliver quality in this case. I can be confident and take joy and pride and see our hard work come to fruition and to help somebody else.
Interviewer: There are many hemp farmers out there. Why did hōlus decide to cultivate their own hemp?
Andy: Cultivation of our own hemp allows us to constantly learn how to improve flavor and aroma of our strains to ultimately serve the customer with an increasing level of quality each year. We know the quality of what we are growing and what we are putting into products that are shipped worldwide. When we cultivate, we don’t need to rely on the word and promise of others. We can make decisions on nutrients, amendments, and environmental controls that a normal farmer would probably never make because it might cost too much. Ultimately, we love that the biomass comes from our own work, our own hands, our own processes and we feel the pride when we see the good that come from it.
Interviewer: Tell me why you think American Hemp is the best?
Andy: I believe American hemp is the best for many reasons. I think this is more than just sentiment. The hemp plant is known to be an accumulator meaning it cleans the soils it grows in. Soil conservation, good sanitation, and good agricultural practices have been practiced by thousands of farmers for many years in the US. As a consequence, hemp grown by hōlus is among the purest and naturally contaminant-free hemp grown in the world. Soils from many hemp growing regions in south and central America are sourced from volcanic ash have a high degree of heavy metals in them including elevated levels of mercuric content.
You don’t need to guess about quality of the environmental conditions that grew the hemp you are consuming. When cultivating hemp, it is important to understand that the plant will only be as good as the soil in which it is grown. This is one of the main reasons why I believe American grown hemp is the safest, the best.
On a more fundamental level, at hōlus, we use American labor to grow the crops we harvest and thus it is the most ethical crop we can possibly offer. We have had great luck on our farms mostly because our hōlus cultivation professionals work hard, have a strong work ethic, and also bring a keen passion to their profession. At the hōlus farm, we make sure that we are caring for the soil, caring for the ground water, caring for the cultivation of the hemp to the best of our ability. Our goal is to have the best crop in terms of purity, natural nutrients, natural amendments. We make the best product for consumers so they can learn about us just by feeling the quality and consistency of our hemp.
Interviewer: You mentioned that hemp is an accumulator. What did you guys do to understand that your hemp plants were not going to accumulate anything harmful from the soil?
Andy: We control what we give our plants to eat and we source only the highest quality organic nutrients. When we first started cultivating, we conducted many soil and water well tests to understand if there were any concerning heavy metals or contaminants that would be expected to end up in the plant if it were in the soil. And so, with that information, we were able to properly amend the soils, feed our plants and give them the nutrients that they needed.
We looked for pesticides and herbicides that were used in field but didn’t find any. I recently reviewed some pesticide data from plants sourced from a broker. They had pesticides present that were banned in 1983. Among the worst of the pesticides are the chlorinated or fluorinated ones. Many of these have been found to disrupt the human endocrine system and bio accumulate with in the body. We take that very seriously. We also know that many pesticides tend to hang up in the environment for a long time. At hōlus, we employ the best and most advanced analytical equipment available to ensure a contaminant free product. We also selected our location quite well: We put our hemp on an old dairy farm that was farmed for many years as pastureland and has been vacant for the last number of years with rotation crops like hay on it.
Interviewer: What variety of hemp is the best?
Andy: All hemp is not equal. Some strains might have high potency for CBD but not have much of an aroma. One of the unique aspects of the hemp industry right now is that many enthusiastic growers are developing strains that have unique aromas and flavors or has the best size and shape. We source seed from reputable seed producers and are respectful of their strains, but we have also started to develop our own strain. It’s exciting to be a part of our own hōlus strain development right now. Our specific focus on a high degree of targeted flavor and aromas while maintaining CBD potency.
Interviewer: A lot of people are concerned about contamination of the crop as its being harvested. What kinds of controls are you guys using in your harvest techniques?
Andy: Our harvest, drying, shuck and buck systems from extraktLAB have all been well thought out to prevent contamination from fungus or other microbials. Harvest time is not a “seat on the tractor” type of harvest and are not using combine or automated systems at this point to harvest. Based on materials that we extracted from many different farms last year, we found manually harvested plants to be superior in every measurable metric. So, we currently use tractors, trailers, and labor to get the plants to our on-site drying and shuck and buck facility.
We use gentle but rapid methods to get the moisture out of the plant without compromising the aroma. Just like everyone else in the industry, we use air movement to get the moisture lowered; however all of our air is filtered to remove allergens and spores. There is a debate on what is the better method to dry. Traditional methods typically hang the plant upside down in a room that may or may not have a dehumidifier in it or alternatively, a heater. We use fluid bed technology as an alternative. We find this method to be just as good as hanging in terms of aroma and flavor with no discernible difference. We use only stainless 304 contact surfaces to ensure food grade exposure.
Our automated “shuck and buck” is definitely one of the most exciting harvest related developments. It basically eliminates the need to manually remove the flower from the plant. Typically, a plant would be dried first, then manually shucked and bucked with a gloved hand. With our new equipment, we can shuck and buck about 40 acres in 30-40 hours with a single person running a single machine. The nice thing about it is that the flower is automatically deposited to a tote for further processing and storage. Several machines working in tandem would need to be used to do larger acreage. For example, 100 acres could be shucked and bucked in about 20 hours with 5 people and several machines. This machine can cut thousands of hours of tedious labor. We are excited to use the equipment now for the second year.
Interviewer: What motivates you to grow the best holus CBD crop?
Andy: That’s a great question, it’s funny! Funny you should ask that because I’m constantly joking with our cultivators because they’re very passionate about what they do for their jobs. And their experiences reflect that and I always give them a hard time and tease them about hugging all the plants and loving all the plants but it’s actually kind of neat to see that they are people that work for your company and care so much about their own work output. Doing the task that they’re hired to do, and that they really enjoy what they’re doing. I can’t help but think that it has an effect on the plants. I know it has an effect on how we operate our farm. It’s refreshing to see that they’re passionate about their livelihood, their jobs and what they’re doing. It’s neat to see.