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August 22, 2019

Fauquier hemp farmer envisions grower network

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Travis Lane believes his construction experience and horticultural technology courses have prepared him for the hemp business.
NOVA Hemp & Agriculture tends about 1,500 plants on an acre near Marshall.
I think I’ve had enough of going up to Northern Virginia, making the commute to look for work.
— NOVA Hemp & Agriculture owner Travis Lane
NOVA Hemp & Agriculture
• What: Locally-owned company that grows hemp for commercial use.

• Where: Five-acre property along Crest Hill Road, just southwest of Marshall

• Established: March 2019

• Hemp products: Flavored/natural tinctures, lotion, cigarettes, dog treats

• Owners: Travis Lane and two silent partners

• Employees: Mr. Lane and Farm Manager Benson Finnerty

• Acres cultivated: One, with about 1,500 plants, including seven varieties.

• Website: northernvirginiahemp.com

• Facebook page: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Eager for a new career, the Marshall-based contractor has plunged into the hemp production business.

“I think I’ve had enough of going up to Northern Virginia, making the commute to look for work,” explained Travis Lane, 29, who owns a pool construction and landscaping company.

Starting small, Mr. Lane in the spring planted at his Crest Hill Road home near Marshall about an acre of the crop — legal to cultivate in Virginia since March.

Processed hemp’s uses include paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable packaging, insulation, biofuel, food and animal feed. 

His company — NOVA Hemp & Agriculture — focuses on plant oil “extractions” that can be incorporated into food, applied to skin, taken orally and smoked.

Proponents believe hemp products provide a wide of range health benefits, including anxiety and pain relief and improved sleep. Mr. Lane smokes hemp to calm himself.

“I’m in a high-stress industry,” the contractor said.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Tim Ohwiler knows of just one other Fauquier landowner already growing hemp, planting less than a half-acre near Goldvein “to learn how to grow it, with the intent of showing others how to.”

But Prince William County-based Simply Good Hemp, which recently bought a 531-acre farm along Meetze Road southeast of Warrenton, wants to become Virginia’s top producer.

As of Aug. 21, the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services had issued 955 grower, 191 processor and 55 dealer licenses statewide, according to the agency.

VDACS has issued licenses to 19 growers, five processors and one dealer in Fauquier.

Mr. Lane and Farm Manager Benson Finnerty already have harvested enough hemp for off-site processing to produce a range of “sample products” — including peppermint and orange-flavored tinctures, cigarettes, lotion and dog treats — available through the company’s website.

The company soon will push hard its marketing plan, the 2008 Fauquier High School graduate said.

“We’re kind of in a rush,” Mr. Lane said. “We want to start branding ourselves.”

In about two weeks, Orlean Market & Pub at Leeds Manor and John Barton Payne roads will carry NOVA hemp products, including cigarettes, custom teas and bath “bombs,” he said.

The company also will sell its products at the 37th annual Manassas Fall Jubilee on Saturday, Oct. 5.

“I’m really excited to see what the public’s response is going to be” at the jubilee, Mr. Lane said.

In early 2020, NOVA Hemp plans to open a retail outlet in Marshall.

So far, its products have been well received, Mr. Lane said.

A new customer, Kevin Kent of Richmond buys hemp buds from the company, crushes them and rolls the substance into cigarettes.

He smokes one to two a day to ease anxiety and sometimes to help him sleep at night, Mr. Kent said.

“His product changed my mind about hemp,” said the 22-year-old paving supervisor. “It’s fresh and you can actually feel the effects of it.”

A $40 supply of hemp buds lasts about a week, Mr. Kent said.

Eventually planning to ramp up production, NOVA Hemp expects next spring to install 6,000 to 8,000 plants on about 3-1/2 acres at his home, Mr. Lane said.

The company also hopes to strike an agreement with at least three landowners — two in Fauquier and one in Frederick County — to install about 30,000 plants on 15 or more acres, he said.

Under NOVA Hemp’s business model, farmers would buy seedlings from the company and install, maintain, harvest and deliver the mature plants to him, Mr. Lane said.

“I think that’s going to be the best way to manage this — to get other people to grow for us.”

Outlining NOVA Hemp’s brokerage role, Mr. Lane said farmers would get 90 percent of the sales revenue generated and the company 10 percent for “handling the transactions and making sure that their products can be sold.”

He declined to discuss the company’s start-up costs, potential crop yields and revenue picture.

To support the company’s envisioned expansion will require a substantial infrastructure investment, Mr. Lane said. Between the fall and spring, NOVA Hemp plans to:

• Construct a 2,400-square-foot barn, at a cost of about $70,000, to dry and cure hemp and store fertilizer.

• Purchase equipment that would cost $50,000 to $70,000 to extract oil from hemp.

• Install one to two “crop boxes,” which Mr. Lane likened to shipping containers, to grow hemp from seed and clones. They would cost about $70,000 each.

The company uses a drip-irrigation system to water plants.

“We’re planning on probably putting in a water tank that sits high up” on the property, “so we don’t have to use my well all the time,” Mr. Lane said.

Interest in hemp’s money-making potential has soared in Virginia and across the country.

In December, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp from the federal government’s controlled drug category.

To conform with federal law, the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly adopted and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in March signed legislation permitting the industrial production of hemp. That triggered a stampede to obtain state licenses to grow, process and sell the products derived from the crop.

The plants’ THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) levels cannot exceed the federal government threshold of three-tenths of 1 percent.

VDACS nursery inspectors randomly will visit hemp farms and test crops. Plants that violate the THC limit must be destroyed.

Mr. Lane never has operated a farm. But he believes his work experience and Northern Virginia Community College courses in horticultural technology and landscaping have equipped him to succeed in the hemp business.

Despite the growing number of people who hope to get rich on hemp, Mr. Lane believes the market won’t crash, suggesting it can accommodate just about every competent business person.

But agriculture, often a risky proposition, can be vulnerable to forces — extreme weather conditions, for example — beyond anyone’s control, he admitted.

“It’s farming,” Mr. Lane concluded. “Everything’s a gamble.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300. 
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Linda Ward · August 23, 2019 at 6:10 pm
"North America was first introduced to hemp in 1606. Ever since, American farmers grew hemp that was used across multiple different products, such as paper, lamp fuels, and ropes.

In the 1700s, farmers were even legally required to grow hemp as a staple crop.

Many of our founding fathers grew hemp and advocated its uses and benefits. Most notably, Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper."
gorflame · August 22, 2019 at 9:41 pm
egad, I do not want this unholy LEAF in my fauquier!
warfname · August 22, 2019 at 9:02 pm
my god...... the devil's lettuce! satan's cilantro! lucifer's leeks! we'll never allow this spawn of satan "herb" to be allowed in fauquier county!
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