Greater Chattanooga's Growth Industry
Farmers, businesses, entrepreneurs push commercial hemp production forward.
In one year, hemp production in Tennessee grew by 1,100%. In early 2020, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture reported more than 3,800 licensed producers and as many as 51,000 acres of hemp statewide.
Entrepreneurial businesses like Haygood Farms, Grass Roots Health and Landrace Bioscience embraced the opportunities created by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which made growing and processing hemp legal across the country.
Haygood Farms planted 5 acres in 2018, scaled up to 30 acres in 2019 and then up to 60 acres in 2020 on its 160-acre certified organic farm in the Sequatchie Valley, just outside of Chattanooga.
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Haygood Farms’ mission is to grow high-quality industrial hemp while educating consumers and promoting healthier lifestyles by distributing CBD products. The farms’ motto is “dirt to delivery.”
“We are a vertically integrated operation,” says Llew Boyd, a co-founder. “We control everything, including developing our own genetics in-house. The ability to manage our genetics internally allows us to control our products from seed to shelf. Ultimately, operating in this way allows us to ensure our customers know what they’re getting when they choose Haygood Farms products.”
Haygood Farms produces a variety of hemp extract oils and salves, each of which is formulated to help with issues such as poor sleep, anxiety and pain management. They also offer wholesale pricing for retailers.
Elisha Millan, owner of Grass Roots Health, says she’s seen significant improvement in the hemp market since she started her business in 2017.
“I had a difficult time getting started because people didn’t understand the products we were offering,” she says. “But now, with increased education of consumers and policymakers, the market potential continues to improve.”
Millan educated herself about the positive benefits of nonintoxicating cannabinoids when she was experiencing health issues. Her firsthand experience with pain relief without the need for opioids convinced her to learn more and to offer similar relief to the people in her community.
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“When I first started, the average customer was age 50 and older and they are still my strongest customer base,” she says. “They are interested in pain control for knee and hip replacement and similar issues. They come in and say they want to be prepared for an upcoming surgery. It’s now part of their plan, not just a consideration. The biggest feedback I get is they didn’t realize what they were missing.” Millan says it’s rewarding to be able to help people with something natural and effective.
As for the future, she sees more innovations coming to the market, such as blended products that include green tea extract, magnesium and other ingredients.
The bottom line, she says, is know and trust your source.
“There are counterfeit products out there, even with counterfeit lab reports,” she says. “It’s important to follow a product to the source. Ethical businesses provide that information even before you ask for it. I can tell my customers that I know the farmer, like Llew at Haygood. That’s an important connection.”
Building trust is grounded in science at Landrace Bioscience, a science-and research-driven hemp ingredient manufacturer and technology supplier. Landrace aims its innovations at improving consumer benefits.
“Being a part of the scientific advancement of our industry during its infancy is an incredible opportunity,” says James Dawson, vice president of marketing. “Early last fall, we patented a self-emulsifying cannabinoid delivery system that drastically increases the body’s ability to absorb hemp oil extracts, as well as creating a stable water-soluble ingredient.”
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Dawson says he sees a bright future for the industry, even with some hurdles along the way.
“Our industry is here to stay, and the CBD tincture boom is just the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “Cannabinoid products are poised to grow into all areas of the consumer health care industry, and we are thrilled to be a part of that growth.”
If you'd like to learn more about the greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.