Navy veteran Jeff Boogaard wasn’t new to farming when he considered growing hemp, but he soon found the crop was different than the water buffalo he had been raising on his farm in Loudoun County, VA.
Once Boogaard decided to proceed as a CBD hemp grower, he was determined to learn as much as he could about growing the potentially profitable crop. With the help of his cultivation manager Justin Everhart, Boogaard has successfully cultivated CBD hemp on Cannabreeze Hemp Farm for four years.
Although Boogaard and Everhart have experimented with several strains, they typically select six strains for each growing season. “We try to find strains that do well with the humidity in our area and yield well,” said Everhart. “We want plants that produce a high percentage of cannabinoids from the flower. One from last year we liked is ‘Special Sauce’ and this season we tried four others. Each year we try to find what fits – we keep a couple and discard a few that didn’t do as well.” Breeding programs are continually yielding new strains with more potency.
Hemp plants are started from seed in a climate-controlled environment on grow tables with optimum lighting, temperature and humidity. When plants are sufficiently mature to go outside, they’re planted in a prepared field. Field preparation starts at the end of the growing season when fields are stripped and the plastic and irrigation system are removed. After disking and tiling, a cover crop keeps the soil protected through winter. Young plants are put in the ground on five-foot centers with 10 feet between the rows, which is wide enough to promote good air flow as well as providing easy passage of a tractor for mowing.
Boogaard grows both CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol) dominant plants, each bred specifically for certain genetics. “There are over 120 cannabinoids in cannabis plants,” said Boogaard. “They all serve different purposes. Some people believe some are there to support the major cannabinoids, which is why full-spectrum cannabis is so important rather than stripping it down to a single cannabinoid.”
As plants mature, excess heavy growth is trimmed away to maintain good air circulation. Liquid FOOP Organic Biosciences is used to fertilize plants as needed. Throughout the growing season, Boogaard sends samples for laboratory analysis to ensure plants remain below the legal 0.3% limit for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content.
At the end of the growing season and after plants are confirmed below 0.3% THC, they’re ready for harvest. Harvest begins with hand-cutting of stems and moving them immediately inside for processing. In less than 30 minutes, harvested material is inside the processing room. Freshly harvested hemp is trimmed before going through the Twister, a cannabis trimmer. Next, buds are carefully placed on drying trays.
The moisture percent of material prior to going into the trimmer is critical. “If it’s a dry trim on biomass, it’s about 14% moisture,” said Everhart. “If it’s too dry it’ll turn into dust when it goes through the Twister.” Everhart will monitor moisture until it’s between 10% and 11%.
Boogaard said most bulk hemp is processed with ethanol, which works efficiently for high volume. With his custom-made equipment, CO2 goes below a certain temperature to become liquid and that liquid helps separate the components in the cannabis plant.
“Our goal is to minimize processing to achieve a quality product,” said Boogaard, describing the new CO2 extractor, “as well as to be as sustainable and clean as possible. So far this is the best system, patent pending, that’s on the market today. It’s a single process, solventless process to extract the valuable terpenes from hemp.”
Boogaard worked with Green Mill Supercritical in Pittsburgh to create a suitable processing machine. He ordered the machine two years ago, but COVID and difficulty obtaining parts delayed delivery until just recently. The new machine does a real-time winterization process, which Boogaard described as taking the raw material and reducing it to liquid form using super cold temperatures. This allows the separation of oils, waxes and lipids in the plant.
Since Cannabreeze grows both CBD and CBG dominant plants, separating components is critical. “The raw material goes into the cylinder, and with time, pressure and temperature, it parses out the components,” said Boogaard. “Based on the parameters we put into the computer system, it will parse out heavy material like fats, lipids, waxes and chlorophyll and another for crude oil. The terpenes and flavonoids are in another cylinder.” Although Boogaard isn’t aware of any current uses for the non-terpene and non-flavonoid components, he believes there is a use for them.
The end goal of processing is two types of oils. “The single-process oil is dark because it still has some chlorophyll,” said Boogaard. “We’re removing the byproducts while keeping the beneficial compounds. The cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are separated during distillation. The number of passes determines what’s remaining in the oil. Our goal is to deliver an oil that has all of what we consider to be the health value without breaking it down before it goes into a product.” An ultrasound nano emulsification system by Sonomechanics further breaks down the oil molecules. Boogaard said that while timing is important during processing, much of the process is visual.
Boogaard has developed a number of CBD and CBG products, including vaping cartridges. “Some people want to use cannabis but don’t like the flavor and odor,” he said. “In the full-spectrum crude, there’s too much ‘junk’ in the oil and it gums up the heating elements inside the vaporizer.” Boogaard said aesthetics such as color are important in the end product – clear oil is more appealing than a dark oil.
One unique Cannabreeze Hemp product is CBD-infused seltzer, produced in cooperation with Lost Rhino Brewing Co. Cannabreeze extract is mixed with organic pineapple extract for a flavorful beverage. The next flavors to be introduced will be mango, blue raspberry and lemon-lime.
Since Boogaard had a space for selling meat at a farmers market in the Washington, D.C., area, the market allowed him to start offering CBD products. This helped him ease into the market and helped get his name out. “That was in 2020,” he said. “By January 2021, we stopped selling meat and it was 100% Cannabreeze CBD products. They’ve been very amenable.”
A cattle shed on the farm has been converted to a modern on-farm store where guests can shop for a variety of products. Boogaard is also in the middle of several additional projects including an on-site, all-inclusive private cannabis club and three fully automated greenhouses that will be used for growing hemp out of season.
“We’re the company that isn’t afraid,” said Boogard. “We’re trying to remove the stigma of cannabis.”
Visit Cannabreeze Hemp online at cannabreezehemp.com.
by Sally Colby