Phillip Chavez of Diamond A Farms is into the production of hemp for the extraction of CBD, its medicinal oil.
The hemp used by Folium Biosciences, the La Junta - Rocky Ford - Colorado Springs production company, can contain no more that 0.3 percent THC, the chemical in the related marijuana plant which affects the human brain. The hemp oil which is the final product is made into many products, from dietary supplements to cosmetics. Chavez expects these products to be at retailers, such as WalMart and CVC Pharmacy, within a year.
"I am happy to be producing something that helps people," said Chavez. "Growing alfalfa helps cows and horses, but not people, directly."
A major step forward for growing hemp was the 2018 Farm Bill that was passed in December. Hemp products can now be shipped freely from state to state and also to foreign countries. The company is now exporting to 35 countries. Although Chavez has never had difficulty with financing hemp growing, he said banking will now be easier for all hemp farmers.
Diamond A Farms grew 370 acres and 550,000 hemp plants last year. The production of hemp at Folium Biosciences is used only in the extraction of the medicinal CBD oil and seed for their fields. It is an entirely self-contained facility.
“I am very grateful for the way everyone has cooperated with our cultivation of hemp in the area - the farmers, county commissioners, sheriff, mayors - everybody has helped us with getting started in the hemp industry," said Chavez. "We now have 200 employees in the La Junta, Rocky Ford and Colorado Springs area.”
The hemp produced at Folium Biosciences is produced by a process which results in all female plants through the modification of genes in the pollen. Only one in 400 of their plants turns out to be male. The plants in the buildings are hand-watered, an extremely labor-intensive process. The company is working on installing drip irrigation, which is used in the fields.
The management team consists of Chavez, Joe Ryan and John Corbisez. Ryan and Corbisez are from San Diego, Calif., and were introduced to the concept of seasons when they moved to Colorado.
Chavez sees hemp as having extreme possibilities as a cash crop.
He is interested in improving soil and water quality, too. Chavez and Chairman Lynden Gill of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will both attend a soil health conference in Kansas this week.
Diamond A grows extensive cover crops which are turned back into the ground for organic matter. They are working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Colorado to improve soil and water quality.