PORTLAND, Ore. — Nearly 7 percent of Americans are already using cannabis oil, better known as CBD, according to a January consumer survey from Cowen & Co. It also predicts the market could reach $16 billion by 2025.
With the CBD boom only expected to continue, it has turned hemp into a real cash crop for farmers. That includes smaller farms that are planting their very first acre of hemp this season, competing in an industry that is exploding with potential.
Before it gets to your tincture, balm, a cup of coffee or craft cocktail, CBD starts in the soil. And the Oregon fields dedicated to hemp are on the rise.
The state has licensed 1,342 growers to plant 46,219 acres of hemp this year, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. That is nearly six times more than the 7,808 acres planted in 2018.
“We are definitely one of the leaders,” Anna Symonds said. “We do have an amazing climate for cannabis, but we also have a knowledgeable workforce because it’s been in the culture for so long.”
Symonds is the Educational Director with East Fork Cultivars, an organic cannabis and hemp farmer, growing CBD-rich products in southern Oregon.
“Your source really matters; the way the plant is cultivated,” Symonds said. “We grow everything organically
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill opened the floodgates for hemp-derived products by legalizing the production of hemp as an agricultural commodity, while removing it from the list of controlled substances.
That gave CBD products room to bloom.
“Hemp farmers got a lot of access to traditional agricultural tools that we didn’t have before. Things like loans, and USDA certification and crop insurance,” Symonds said. “So, really a big deal.”
The boom of CBD has expanded its mission into what is called the “craft hemp” industry, according to Symonds.
“Oregon has such a strong affinity for craft products; whether that’s craft beer, or wine or distilleries or coffee roasting. All of those things,” she said. “And so with hemp, we’re seeing the same thing where we’re really breeding and producing some really high-quality hemp that is pretty special to our region.”
To foster that “craft” industry East Fork Cultivars are partnering with smaller farms such as Sauvie Island Growers, formally known as Sauvie Island Organics.
For more than two decades the small farm on Sauvie Island has provided Portland with fresh organic food. Now, among the rows of greens and vegetables, you will find their first acre of hemp.
“We make sure to partner with companies who share our values around quality and ethics; to be environmentally responsible, socially responsible,” Symonds said.
The partnership is part of East Fork Cultivars’ Organic Hemp Farm Network Pilot program.
“We’re banding together to grow at a scale that can compete with the larger corporately owned farms and keep our focus on environmental values and craft production.”