Hemp harvesting is a family affair for the Watertown sisters


WATERTOWN – Wherever you drive, these signs proclaiming “CBD oil for sale” can be found at convenience stores, cafes, health food stores, and gift shops. But what is this magic oil and how do we know it is what the trader says it is?

CBD oil comes from a crop known as hemp. Over a hundred years ago, Wisconsin was a major producer of hemp with nearly 7,000 acres under cultivation.

While hemp has been recognized around the world for thousands of years for its medicinal value, in this country it was a popular culture due to its use in rope fibers during the two world wars.

Did you know that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag out of hemp? George Washington was a proud hemp farmer; Ben Franklin used hemp twine for his famous kite-flying experiment; the declaration of independence was written on hemp paper; the first Levi jeans were made of hemp.

The popularity of growing hemp declined in the late 1940s, but the biggest change came in 1970 after the hippies of the ’60s started smoking it and it became associated with marijuana. The government dealt the final blow to robust cultivation by including it in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 along with its cannabis cousin, marijuana.

Then, in 2018, the federal government again approved the cultivation of hemp – not as a medicine to get people high, but for its high concentration of the well-known cannabidiol oil (CBD). After that, many Wisconsin farmers saw this crop as a possible cash crop. This year, Wisconsin has seen a significant drop in the number of growers and processors, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce, and Consumer Protection, the agency that registers growers and monitors the quality of food. harvest.

Growing is very labor intensive and growers must spend some time testing the crop to determine the ideal time to harvest. When a producer determines by tests that it is close to the ideal, the State comes to test it and give the green light to the harvest.

Organic approach to hemp cultivation

For those interested in learning more about hemp, CBD oil, and what sets some CBD oils apart from others, just ask the three sisters who run Pine Hill Sustainable Farm in the town of Lebanon near Watertown.

The main players in the business are sisters Jackie Phillips, Leanne Anthon and Lynley Gray. The siblings grew hemp on just a few acres of their farm in Lebanon. When the crop is ready to be harvested, they contact the WDATCP to test the quality and indicate if it is at the right level.

All three are healthcare professionals who grew up on the six generation family farm where they shared their passion for holistic approaches to health.

They credit their mother, Carmen Groehler, for their interest in adding hemp to the crops they grow. Growing hemp has helped them better align them with their positive experiences with alternative medicine.

Planting hemp is a family affair at Pine Hill Sustainable Farm in Watertown.  The family recently got together to plant hemp on a two-acre field, fertilizing with worm droppings shipped in large plastic bags from a worm farm in Neillsville.

The women were encouraged by their grandfather Arnie Neitzel. Until his death last September, he was their greatest volunteer cheerleader and guinea pig. They say he always had a positive attitude and an open mind and encouraged them every step of the way.

The main man doing the agricultural work on their farm is Jackie’s husband, Jon, who comes from a long line of “green thumbs” and has always experimented with a garden. He was experimenting with organic farming long before the word “organic” was cool. He receives help in the fields from his brother Nic, an army veteran.

Jon is constantly researching, attending conferences and classes. Even though he doesn’t do presentations on the benefits of hemp like the ladies on the farm, he is very knowledgeable about cannabis, its properties and its health benefits.

Benefits of the holistic approach to the growth operation

The family plants the hemp in May or June and harvests it in September. The plants are placed in holes 8 feet apart to give them plenty of room to grow. During the months in between, the whole family spends their days walking in the fields, pulling weeds, watching out for insects, and tending to each plant.

Hemp plants will be about 8 feet tall before harvesting.  Before harvest, they should be tested for quality and oil content by the WDATCP.

Jackie says they’ve experimented with different soil additives to improve fertility and this year they’re using worm casts, placing a shovel full of casts in each hole before planting the tiny hemp plant.

“Because we’re organic, we can’t use toxic sprays if there are parasites,” Jackie said. “We have to stay one step ahead of what nature has in store for us.”

Because it’s so labor intensive, they started with just four acres. This year they switched to virgin soil on their parents’ farm and reduced to just over 2 acres. The rest of the farmland is leased to a local organic producer.

Hemp consists of a stem, a leaf and a flower. After harvesting the 8-foot hemp stalks, they hang the bundles in their barns to dry them out, much like tobacco farmers dry their produce. There are hundreds of varieties of hemp, and the plants are male and female.

“We don’t want male plants,” says Jackie. “There is better CBD oil in female plants.”

The dry plants are then converted to crude so that it can be used further in their full spectrum products. The CBD oil they sell comes with a QR code that can be scanned to display the third-party lab’s certificate of analysis.

About five years ago, they started moving the land to organic certification and today the entire 75-acre farm is USDA certified organic.

The sisters believe it is this certification that sets them apart from other hemp growers. They also believe that their background in the healthcare industry and passion for continuing education puts them in a better position to communicate with potential clients and help them determine exactly what they need.

They pride themselves on offering high quality products, locally grown and laboratory tested by third parties, free of pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, additives and fillers. This allows them to have full transparency about the products they grow and recommend as they follow a “seed to shelf” philosophy.

Brothers and sisters combine talents, strengths

Pine Hill Farm offers Full Spectrum CBD Oil, Ointments and Balms, Hand Cut Flowers, Essential Oil Infused Rolls, Room Mist, and CBD Oil for Pets of company. CBD-free items include hand sanitizer, on-farm pine infused pine oil, diffuser jewelry, candles, farm-fresh eggs, and more.

Jackie is the creative mind behind Pine Hill Farm. With a background in marketing, she has the commercial spirit of the company. As a speech-language pathologist with experience in home health care, subacute care, adults with brain damage and school-aged children, she recognizes the need and understands her desire for alternative medical therapies. patients. She creates the formulas for their wellness line and enjoys creating new products to enhance the diversity of the Pine Hill brand.

The three sisters who grow hemp on their family property are proud to support the family farm.  When they renovated the farmhouse, they found this inscription on the original brick farmhouse that was later covered by the addition of a porch.

“CBD is an oversaturated market right now and there are a lot of claims that just aren’t true. This gives CBD a bad reputation, “she said.” This is another reason we are taking the extra step of being certified organic and educating our customers and working with them to determine their needs. specific. “

She says there is also still some confusion over the differences between hemp and marijuana

“Our mission is to break this stigma. Some people fear it because they think it’s pot. It is a natural plant created by God and has been around forever, ”she said.

Leanne has worked in the healthcare industry for over 20 years and has experience as a registered nurse in pain management, acute care, critical care and academia. Serving in the Navy Corpsman from 2000 to 2005, Leanne developed a passion for serving the military and veteran populations. She is currently involved in research as a doctoral student who will contribute much needed evidence-based research around hemp.

“Each person is different,” she says. “We all have biochemical individuality.

Lynley is the artistic mastermind behind the very popular diffuser jewelry for CBD or essential oils. Like her sisters and mother, Lynley has a background in health care and works in occupational therapy.

While COVID has affected their business via delays in shipping and manufacturing, they say it has also generated consumer interest in holistic health options. Fortunately, this has opened the doors for them to educate those looking for alternative health options to learn more about what CBD can be used for for pain, inflammation, anxiety, sleep, and more.


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