“When we started him on the CBD and we noticed the swelling on the side of his brain was going down, I said, let’s go for it. I’ll go ahead and get back into it.” – Ed, Kush’s Father
Phoenix, Arizona – Over the last year, those in the hemp industry have seen hundreds of farms start cultivating hemp. From the large 500 acre farms to the small boutique cultivators. Hemp farms come in all different shapes and sizes. Arizona’s Kush Hemp Farm, located near Mesa, Arizona is setting the bar high for craft hemp growers, not only in the state, but across the US. They also lay claim to being the first department approved hemp harvest in Arizona since SB 1098 was signed by Gov. Doug Ducy in 2018.
Hemp plant in late flower stage, almost ready for harvest
Hemp is not just a plant, it’s medicine
For the family taking hemp cultivation to the next level it isn’t just a passion. They grow this premium flower to be turned into medicine for their son Kush, who suffers from seizures and recurring episodes of confusion as a result of complications removing a cyst. April, Kush’s mom explains,
“Kush was diagnosed with an Arachnoid cyst when he was four years old. We eventually had to remove the cyst in an emergency surgery but within hours he started having seizures. It got so bad that we lost him for about five hours to where he could not see me or talk to me but he could hear me, for five hours he was stuck in his own little world”.
After his hospital stay, Kush was prescribed seizure medication, but the episodes continued. Puzzled and frustrated that the medication wasn’t helping Kush’s episodes, his parents began to search for different treatments. That’s when they found Cannabidiol or CBD through the internet and decided to look into it as an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals. Kush’s parents got connected with a farm in Oregon, where hemp has been legal since 2015, who was growing hemp for CBD extraction. Kush began a regiment of CBD RSO or Rick Simpson Oil, a cannabis extract known widely for its ability to kill cancer which can be made from both Marijuna or Hemp. Ed, Kush’s father and former cannabis cultivator, explains.
“When we started him on the CBD and we noticed the swelling on the side of his brain was going down, I said, let’s go for it. I’ll go ahead and get back into it (cannabis cultivation). We’ll make as much as we can and just stick it all up in the freezer and turn it into medicine so we don’t have to buy it”.
And that is how Kush Hemp Farm came to be, but the story doesn’t end there. What started off as a family necessity has turned into a booming family business. Ed’s experience in cannabis cultivation helped him produce some of the best hemp flower in the country and is helping to fuel the explosion of the craft hemp products, focused on small batch, boutique hemp cultivation and processing.
Kush wearing a decorative hemp beard, just in time for Christmas
Boutique Hemp Flower:
Much like craft beer segmented off from the mainstream American beer industry, boutique hemp flower is the craft beer of industrial hemp. Farmers like the Kush Hemp Family, take extra time and money managing their plants during cultivation and finish the flower by slow-curing it for weeks after it’s harvested. This results in beautiful, aromatic flowers filled with CBD and other minor cannabinoids. Here’s the catch, you can’t grow amazing boutique flower in a massive 100 acre field, the scale is impossible. Boutique hemp flower is unique because it’s grown just like it’s psychoactive cousin marijuna, for its flower. However, unlike marijuna, boutique hemp flower will not get you high when turned into oil or smoked because it contains less than .3% THC. True boutique flower it an art many hemp farmers just don’t understand. American hemp farmers have experience growing commodity crops like corn or cotton, which don’t take as much attention as boutique flower. As we start to see more interest in smokable hemp, there has been a surge of flowers being sold as smokable, but it’s not dried or cured properly and consumers are being left buying and smoking lower quality flower that was dried in an open air barn. Although premium flower is most often defined how it is finished after harvest, Ed says it start before you seeds ever go into the ground, he explains why good genetics are important to producing amazing flower.
“If you want really good flower, it’s all about genetics. You can buy some junk seeds and really try to put an effort in it but it’s better to buy something you know is going to be good from the start. If you have no skills it’s still going to come out ok. But if you’ve got skills it’s really coming to come out amazing. Start with genetics. Really do your homework make sure you’re buying from a good supplier”.
Bad genetics have plagued farmers this season causing losses in the millions of dollars across the country. Many unproven varieties being sold in unregulated states are proving to be problematic when planted on large acreage. Some seeds simply don’t germinate or are not feminized as described. Ed’s advice is a great place to start for anyone thinking about getting into hemp cultivation in 2020.
Flower in the drying stage
Hurdles for a small farm
Bad genetics can also lead to problems for your neighbors in some cases. A major problem boutique farmers like Ed and April face as large scale farms huge fields of poor genetics, is cross pollination. Farmers growing for CBD extraction or smokable hemp flower want female plants with seedless flower. Cross pollination occurs when larger farms grow from seed and are unable to remove the males from their fields. When the males reach maturity they produce pollen, which causes seeds in female plants as part of the plants natural reproductive system. The pollen from these male plants can travel 30+ miles and if it finds its way to a female flower on a boutique farm, it can spell disaster for small farms. Ed gave me his thoughts on cross pollination.
“It’s definitely something that’s in issue, being a farmer you want to protect yourself. Unfortunately It’s like telling your neighbor they can’t grow a different kind of corn. It just doesn’t work like that. So everyone’s got to work together. You’ve got to check your plants (for males). This first year so there’s gonna be issues, we’ve already seen it in other states, one careless farmer, destroys everyone else’s crop. Fortunately, we haven’t seen it here on our farm”.
The Kush Hemp Farm family in the green house. Kush is far right
Passing The Art
It’s not a stretch to say the average age of farmers keeps getting older. Currently in the US the average age of agricultural farmers is 58 years old. Over the past decade, the amount of new farmers entering the industry has dropped as younger generations don’t seem to have an interest in farming, but according to Ed and April, agriculture is something they want to pass on to their family.
“We want to get the kids into the farm. I did FFA all the way through junior high school so we have green thumbs, they are going to have green thumbs. It’s definitely something that you’ve got to teach somebody, for my kids they can see something go from a seed and this little tiny jar, to medicine that can help so many people”.
Across the country, Hemp is a crop that appeals to the younger generation and with so many uses for hemp. Many think hemp is an opportunity to draw younger farmers into the industry and it seems to be working as many millennials have grown up in recreational or medical marijuna states and have experience in marijuna cultivation. Skills that many aging farmers do not have. On the Kush family hemp farm, the entire family helps out with the farm work. Leafing, watering, feeding, harvesting including trimming and drying are all regular chores that keep the whole family busy full time.
For the Kush Hemp family, the rollercoaster of operating in a brand new industry may just be getting started but they are on a mission to make their own medicine for Kush and help others with their boutique flower and CBD product line. With a focus on quality genetics, cultivation practices and harvesting practices, their plants are grown with love and it shows in their finished product. Check out their instagram @KushHempFarm, shoot them an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or ask for their flower at your local hemp dispensary.
Teen hemp plant in the vegetative stage.
More of Kevin’s Interviews and write ups can be found here.