Recently, we were lucky enough to visit a historic Vermont hemp farm that’s a wonderful example of hemp’s power to heal American agriculture.
With low humidity and an abundance of air flow, it comes as no surprise that hemp’s found a way to prosper in the Green Mountain State’s countryside. Joe Pimentel, with his family and team, operate the historic Luce Farm and have found more success than they imagined in the ever-changing, fast-growing hemp industry.
First established in 1820, during our visit we learned how this 206 acre farm transformed from vegetable growing to hemp.
FROM VEGGIES TO A VERMONT HEMP FARM
Years ago, Pimentel began growing vegetables and raising goats due to the lack of easy access to good food. After the farming grew substantially, he moved to Vermont to grow food full time at Luce Farm and truck it down to areas in and around Boston.
“We were always able to sustain, but it was hard,” Pimentel told us. “Veggie farming is hard.”
Pimentel had dreams of restoring this 200 year old farm, but it was impossible to do on just vegetables. So, he began looking into a variety of options. Eventually, he stumbled upon hemp and it stuck. Pimentel recalled:
In 2016, we were hired to grow hemp for an R&D [Research and Development] project. We ended up with eighty pounds of it by the end of the year and we didn’t know what to do with it. That’s when we started playing around with the CBD in our kitchen.
After trying some simple recipes and sharing them with friends, people came back to Pimentel claiming the results were “unbelievable.” Many were new to CBD and what it could offer. Some friends who were taking several Ibuprofen a day reported more relief from the healing properties of hemp.
This is what motivated him to continue with harvesting and making Luce Farm CBD products. Pimentel knew if he wanted to make a business out of this, he had to be confident in telling people the exact amount of CBD they’d receive. As a result, he transitioned to using supercritical CO2 extraction, an industry standard method for producing high-quality CBD.
With a professionally produced, labeled and tested product under his belt, he decided to take his CBD to the place he knew best: farmers’ markets.
HEMP SAVED HISTORIC LUCE FARM
Unsurprisingly, he found himself easily making much more profit than he did off vegetables.
“And then we just ran with the ball, man,” Pimentel proclaimed. “It was evident this was exactly what we needed for our project.”
That project, to preserve this important site, is about to take a major step forward. Luce Farm will soon be added to the National Register of Historic Places, with all the protection that brings. Thanks to Pimentel and the possibilities of hemp, a piece of Vermont history will remain in the serenity of this mountainous landscape.
Luce Farm is a piece of the community that was almost taken away. After operating within the Luce family from 1820 to 1950, the last member passed away just when corporate agriculture was taking control of American farming. A pair of caretakers kept the property preserved, then sold it to the Pimentels a few years ago.
Since Vermont legalized hemp through the 2014 Farm Bill, it’s been making more and more appearances throughout the state. When Pimentel first began growing in 2016, there were less than 50 hemp permits within the state. This year, that number has reached an astonishing 249 hemp permits.
In Pimentel’s words, “That’s a ridiculous amount of growth.”
Different states have different regulations when it comes to growing hemp. Vermont hemp farmers face few barriers under their state’s relatively simple regulations.
“As far as the state of Vermont goes, its hemp program is awesome,” Pimentel told us.
Still, Luce Farm has faced legal complications. About 6 months back, Pimentel teamed up with Long Trail Brewery in Vermont to create a CBD-infused beer. It was a winner in terms of sales, moving thousands of cans within a two day period. However, the federal government stepped in and told them they couldn’t mix cannabinoids with alcohol.
The Luce Farm team remains proud of the work they did and hope they can work with Long Trail again in the future when hemp is fully legalized.
BEYOND LUCE FARM: HEMP CAN HELP LOCAL FARMERS NATIONWIDE
Pimentel believes hemp can be a winner for local farmers across the country. Just as when big corporations moved into farming as a whole, he’s noticed big corporations trying to make their way into the hemp industry and take profits away from small family farmers. The more hemp becomes available to the public, the more people are trying to purchase it for cheap.
Moving forward, he hopes small farmers can continue to take advantage of the economic opportunities hemp provides:
I know how hard it is to grow that stuff … We’re farmers first. We want to keep that price high. We don’t want Wall Street coming in and driving the market.
When it comes to getting into the hemp industry, Pimentel advises people to have a plan. Farmers must know in advance what to do with their hemp once it’s harvested.
More personally, Pimentel believes farmers should keep control of their harvest and “fight to keep [hemp] an agriculture product rather than a commodity product.”
This Vermont hemp farm directly uses the crops they grow in their own CBD products, rather than selling the crop to other businesses. They control their output from seed to shelf, and earnings can go right back into preserving Luce Farm.
Like so many other people working in this industry, Pimentel is excited about hemp and its potential to revive American farming.
“I’m a firm believer that every 7-Eleven in America should be replaced by a farm,” he declared. “It’d change a lot of things.”