One Lake County grower is helping hemp gain a foothold in Central Florida.
For decades, Jammie Treadwell's family operated a foliage and tropical plant nursery in Lake County. Recently, the Treadwells have transitioned to growing hemp, a cannabis plant that doesn't contain enough THC to make a person high but does contain cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compund that can be distilled into an oil.
They had dabbled in the cannabis field before. In 2017, the Treadwell won a coveted medical marijuana license from the state but sold it a year later.
"When we went into this intitially, we were just going to have our own nursery, grow for ourseleves and then make our own products," says Treadwell, one of more than 700 growers around Florida who received licenses to cultivate hemp since the state started accepting applications last year. To help the fledgling industry gain a foothold in Central Florida, Treadwell Farms ended up coaching 10 local farmers on how to grow the crop, which can be difficult to cultivate. Too much rain and humidity can cause hemp to develop mold or root rot, and there's not a lot of cold weather to keep pests at bay. The plants are also bioaccumulators, meaning they're able to absorb heavy metals and other compounds from the soil. "That's why they do consumer safety testing," says Treadwell, who has traveled to Israel and Oregon learning best practices for hemp farming. Despite the challenges, Florida's sunshine provides an advantage over other locations. "We can grow hemp nearly year-round, which other parts of the country can't," says Treadwell, who harvested her third hemp crop in February.
The company processes its organic hemp at a repurposed citrus facility in Umatilla, where it's dried, stored and manufactured in CBD-infused tinctures, teas and topical salves that it sells on its website, as well as in local pharmacies and health food stores. Other products are in the pipeline. "We are working on gummies, pet treats and I was just in a meeting with a local juice bar, and we're looking to do some things they can collaborate into ther juice bar," says Treadwell. "We're always trying to come up with new ways we can use the finsiehd material."
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