Hemp Creates Agriculture and Storefront Opportunities in WI
November 10, 2020
Hemp, a strain of the cannabis sativa plant, has been a part of United States history since the beginning. A versatile crop that today has more than 25,000 uses, it was so integral to the country that the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
In the early 1940s, Wisconsin was a leading producer of hemp. It was grown to produce rope and fiber. The plant is a cousin to marijuana, but has less than 0.3 percent THC. Despite this, hemp was caught up in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and, along with marijuana, became illegal in the US.
That changed when the 2014 Federal Farm Bill was passed, and in 2017, when the state of Wisconsin again made hemp production legal. The door opened for farmer entrepreneurs Renee Ballweg and Cal Hansen. They grow hemp and sell hemp products in a retail store in Monona, CBD Farmacy.
“We were looking to diversify farm income and hoped that our retail store could be an outlet for our product as well as promoting and working with other local companies,” said Hansen.
Hansen said that in the past two years, about 2,200 individuals and businesses applied to produce hemp and hemp products. But not everyone remained in the hemp industry.
“I know of many people who grew in 2019 and didn’t reapply in 2020,” said Hansen. “And I also know several people who grew for the first year in 2020.”
He said that like all farming, hemp can be a risky crop to grow. Weather is always an issue. Expenses can vary significantly.
“The genetics of the plant can vary greatly, so it is crucial to find a supplier with stable genetics and a decreased risk of testing ‘hot,’” Hansen explained.
What does hemp testing hot mean? Wisconsin law states that a hemp crop must test at no higher than 0.3 percent THC. Their first year, Hansen revealed, they had grown two strains that tested “hot” at 0.4 percent THC.
“We were ordered to destroy those varieties and submit video evidence,” Hansen said.
This year, they grew only stable, tested strains from clones and did not have to destroy any of their crop. Growing from seed is cheaper but riskier. They also saved money by planting in very fertile farmland and so did not have to add many nutrients to the soil.
While some hemp growers have to ship crop out of state, Hansen and Ballweg have found processors in Wisconsin. And the couple has a retail outlet in Monona.
“We sell the smokable flower out of our store, as well as wholesale in other Wisconsin/Midwestern shops, and have other material…processed out of state,” Ballweg explained. The processors turn the hemp into familiar products such as CBD oil in the forms of tinctures, gummies, lotions, balms, and more. Those products come back to be sold out of CBD Farmacy.
Ballweg has positive experience in using CBD herself. Using it for migraines helped wean her from pharmaceutical prescription medications that left her groggy.
“I wanted to be able to share this natural alternative with others,” she said, noting that she and Hansen opened the store in March 2019.
COVID-19 has been a challenge. “We were forced to shut down in March of this year,” Ballweg said. They resorted to online sales with free shipping, closing their secondary location in Deerfield permanently. But their closure was also an opportunity to remodel the Monona storefront for safety and ease of cleaning, paving the way for a reopening.
And what if marijuana were legalized in Wisconsin? The couple said they would have to evaluate and discuss that situation.
“One thing we do know is that some individuals will always want CBD over THC,” Ballweg concluded. “They are not looking for a product that makes them ‘high.’ Because of this, we will most likely always offer CBD in some form.”
Visit CBD Farmacy + Wellness Bar at 115 E. Broadway, Suite 101, Monona and online at www.cbdfarmacyonline.com.