Apple picking season? In Colorado, you can pick your own hemp
'Tis the season for apple picking. In Colorado, fall is also a time you can pick your own hemp.
A farm located a few hundred miles southwest of Denver is opening its harvest to the public this weekend, allowing people to take home their own cannabinoid-rich plants.
"It's like cutting your own Christmas tree," said Ryan Eakes, chief operating officer of Typhoon Farma. "We'll cut the plant for them and then we actually use a Christmas tree bagger."
Typhoon Farma, based in Montrose, sells its hemp flower to manufacturers that turn it into therapeutic oils, tinctures and edibles. The farm planted 70 acres this year.
Hemp plants are rich in cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, and cannabigerol, or CBG, chemicals that have calming effects and provide pain relief. The plant's fiber is used to make clothing, paper products, plastics and biofuel. Although they look identical to marijuana plants, hemp plants have a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes people high.
It's the farm's third annual pick-your-own hemp event. Eakes says the open house events are a way for the grower to demystify the plant, which faces misconceptions and stigma for its association with its psychoactive sibling.
"First and foremost, it's an educational event for our community," he said. "We feel like we have a responsibility to be transparent."
He says visitors will learn how to cure the plant, as well as how to go about smoking it or extracting its oils. Last year, one person made tea from the plant they took home. Each plant costs $40 and produces 2 to 3 pounds of flower, according to the company, although visitors are not required to make a purchase. The farm welcomed about 150 people at last year's event, including out-of-staters from as far away as Arizona.
In 2018, the federal government legalized hemp production in the U.S. for plants with less than 0.3% THC, kicking off a "green rush." But farmers have found that hemp growing isn't as lucrative as they'd once hoped, due to oversupply and falling prices.
Eakes says his company's target market is overseas because current tightened regulations on cannabis sold in the U.S., including its lack of FDA approval on CBD, can make it difficult to run a profitable hemp farm.
But he's optimistic that increased awareness of hemp's benefits will make it easier for farms to grow and sell the plant domestically — starting with his company's educational efforts.
"I don't know many other farms that do this," Eakes said. "But we're like, 'Hey, come on in ask questions, we'll tell you anything you wanna know.' "
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