Blühen’s Farmer Network

Many CBD companies import hemp from China. Not us. Blühen is Tennessee through and through and proud of it.

Like much of America, the state is experiencing a hemp boom. In 2018, Tennessee had 226 licensed growers. This year that number has swelled to more than 2,600. For the 2019 season, Blühen has partnered with 130 farmers, almost all of whom are located in the state. And, when it came to which ones to work with, we got picky.

We are obsessive about soil—where it is and what's in it. There are no standards that exist for growing hemp - and one of the things that sets Blühen apart is that we require our farmers to test their soil for heavy metals like arsenic,  as well as pesticide residue before they plant. The same tests are performed on the hemp they grow before they can deliver the crop to us.

Why so strict? Hemp is a remediator, meaning it loves to pull things out of the earth. If you have nasty things in your soil, you will end up with nasty things in your plant. We also have requirements around the hemp’s cannabinoid levels, which ensure we receive only high-quality crops. Our six-person farm team—who bring backgrounds in farming, entomology, genetics, plant pathology, and agronomy to the table—is fiercely committed to making sure our farmers have the information they need to grow a premium crop.

We work closely with our farmers to share best practices for weed control and to come up with a pest plan. For instance, we will recommend which catch crops to plant adjacent to the hemp to catch bugs trying to get in. Ladybugs and predator mites can provide a natural defense against aphids and destructive mites that like to attack the plant.

Setting them up for success begins in the lab. We use genetics to identify the strains that will be most successful in our humid Southern environment as well as those that are very high in CBD; farmers make their profit based on how much CBD is in their plant. It can take as long as two years to arrive at a new strain.

The plants are then delivered to our farmers; nearly 60% of whom are former or current tobacco growers. They are well-suited to the task at hand: while the plants are quite different, there are similarities in the methodology. With both hemp and tobacco, farmers transplant a plant rather than put a seed in the ground. Come harvest time, they cut thick stalks and dry them much like how tobacco is cured, with tobacco barns being reborn as hemp barns.

Hemp is a young industry and we are a young company. Our relationship with our farmers is a partnership, not a transaction. And Blühen is proud to be creating jobs and keeping farmers working. Corn, soybean, tobacco, and dairy prices have dropped dramatically in recent years, and the margins on the crops are so low that farming small acreage makes it hard to make a living. Hemp farming can provide incomes up to 10 times other crops, and they have a crop that can bring wellness to their financial lives—one that is helping us change the face of the wellness industry.

by Matthew DeBardelaben