Travis Lane sees growing hemp as his future, so he spends a lot of time tending the sea of green plants outside his home in Marshall and working on his business plan.
He’s got an acre of hemp growing this year for his first crop and plans to expand next year to put 5 acres in production. Cameras are trained on the field to prevent theft or other mischief; Crest Hill Road borders his field and home off Walsingham Lane.
Growing industrial hemp is newly legal in Virginia. The federal farm bill in 2018 opened the door by removing hemp from the definition of marijuana on the controlled substance list. States individually regulate the growers, processors and dealers.
Growers pay a $50 fee to register with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Applicants state where and how much land they plan to cultivate and then report how much they’ve planted. Growers must destroy any product that has more than 3% of THC – the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. Hemp processors and dealers must reapply every year to stay in business.
Lane believes he’s the first to legally have a hemp farm underway in Fauquier. The state’s agriculture website lists Happy Family Ranch Inc. in Midland as a hemp processor and Northern Neck Hemp Company as a processor in Warrenton. Northern Neck Hemp is also listed as a dealer. SB Holding Inc is a registered hemp processor in Manassas. They and Lane allowed the state to post their names on the state website. They weren’t required to do so.
Lane set up Northern Virginia Hemp and Agriculture with four partners. He spent “life savings and cash flow” to bankroll the business, but he didn’t want to say for the record how much he’s put into it.
The partners have a website – northernvirginiahemp.com – that talks about the purported benefits of hemp for pain management and relieving anxiety and depression. They plan to market and sell hemp products that can be smoked, applied as a lotion, or taken orally in oil form.
The flower that grows on the hemp plant provides the effect when it is consumed.
Product from a premium flower could go for $15 per gram or $40 for 3.5 grams. A tincture – the liquid form -- could range from $50 to $130, Lane said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get the prices down,” he said. He'd like to set up a network of growers.
“I use a lot of the smokable products. And the lotion is great for my sore body,” Lane said.
“We’re trying to see what the best products will be,” Lane said. The partners are considering a tea version. A dog treat is planned too.
Customers will be able to purchase from the Northern Virginia Hemp website, though the “shop” section on the site is empty now. Lane said his products will be sold at the Orlean Market and he’s going to approach Red Truck Bakery and Cobble Mountain Cider in Delaplane about carrying his products.
“I also have a couple interests in D.C.” lined up to carry them. He said he’d like to open a hemp product shop in Marshall.
Lane and his partners also plan to sell their products at the Fall Jubilee in Manassas this October.
Lane has 1,500 hemp plants on his 1 acre. He got started with clones from a supplier in southern Virginia that obtained them from various parts of the country. He tried seeds from a supplier in Colorado, but the plants didn’t do well. “They didn’t like Virginia’s weather,” Lane said.
He’s also importing seeds from a supplier in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Currently, he has five different varieties of hemp plants. The one that grows tallest is “T Rex.”
T Rex “has a citrus smell; then there’s Otto that smells like sugar and produces a sleepy effect. Other varieties are Wife, The Nova and Mango,” he said. The Nova is a name he gave to that variety, since it didn’t have a name.
“Plants going into flower start to show buds. This is like a science project right now. Which will be harvested first?” he said.
Lane wants to boost his production next year.
“By this time next year, the plants will be up to Crest Hill Road and there will be 8,000 plants on the property,” he said.
Insects are a problem for Lane, as they are for other farmers.
Mites are a particular bother, he said. But he doesn’t use chemicals to be rid of them.
“We’ve got mites to take care of mites. Our goal is to be a certified organic farm,” Lane said.
Recent high winds caused some of the plants to lean, but he expects them to straighten again in time. The plants in his field currently range from 3 to 10 feet in height.
The hemp plants are also susceptible to root rot. The plants haven’t grown as tall in an area in the center of his field where water collects.
He figures he’s lost 50 to 75 plants so far.
He’s been working closely with the local cooperative extension office and as a result “we’ve become very good friends. This has definitely been a learning experience.”
Lane uses an organic fertilizer. A drip line under plastic channels between the rows keeps the plants watered.
A neighbor, Chris Cloud, supports Lane’s turn to hemp farming and thinks it’s a “unique” addition to Fauquier agriculture.
“This helps us diversify and keep us agricultural. It’s cutting edge,” said Cloud. He said it represents a return to an earlier time in the country when hemp farming was legal.
Lane turns 30 in October. He’s still involved in HC Lane and Son contracting business in Marshall. The company installed tennis courts when his grandfather founded it, then moved into trucking and topsoil hauling. Now it’s heavily into installing pools, patios, porches and decks.
But going forward, hemp farming will be Lane’s main focus.
“This is going to be my full-time gig,” Lane said.
Reach James Ivancic at email@example.com