Santa Fe company provides help for hemp farmers
The number of stores selling hemp extract products in Santa Fe is growing like a weed. And now a new company in town is working with farmers to produce the hemp plants from which hemp extract is derived so it can be processed and turned into marketable hemp extract oil tinctures for medicinal use.
First Crop was founded just this year, says co-founder and CEO Dave Weir, and has its headquarters on Pacheco Street in Santa Fe.
“I live here, and I like it here,” Weir said when asked why they chose Santa Fe. He added that three of the five founding partners are from New Mexico (the other two are from Colorado), so “majority rules.”
While the company was conceived earlier, Weir said the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the commercial production of hemp and established it as an agricultural commodity, was a game-changer for the hemp industry, opening up opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs alike.
There are still things that need to be worked out with the federal law – for instance, the Senate Banking Committee met Wednesday to discuss current restrictions against financial institutions providing banking services to cannabis-related businesses – but Weir said hemp is well on its way to becoming a viable cash crop for farmers.
“It’s a really big change,” he said of the Farm Bill. “The outlaw of hemp and all of its forms goes back to 1937. It will take a while for the federal rules to be rolled out.”
Same goes for the state of New Mexico, which this year passed the Hemp Manufacturers Act. The state is currently taking public comment while working to create rules that protect consumers, and clear obstacles for farmers and budding businesses like First Crop.
“They are rapidly putting into place their own rules and regulations,” Weir said of New Mexico. “Colorado has been operating under a prior law that came out of the 2014 Farm Bill, so they have a few years head start in how they’re operating. New Mexico is running hard trying to catch up.”
Weir said that the 2018 Farm Bill helped shape First Crop’s unique business model. The company is set up as a public benefit corporation, which means that although it is a for-profit business, it is also designed to benefit communities and the environment.
“Our social and environmental mission is part of everything we do,” he said.
The company’s mission as stated on its website is: “Healing people and planet one seed … one soul … one regenerative action at a time.”
First Crop will work to achieve that, in part by providing expertise to farmers, who also share in the company’s profits. First Crop also provides them with seeds at a subsidized cost, facilities to dry and store their crop before processing, and teaches them regenerative farming practices to ensure quality and optimize crop yields, while rejuvenating the soil.
First Choice is working with about a dozen farmers, with farms scattered between Tesuque and Abiquiu in New Mexico and the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, Weir said.
Hemp farmers can earn as much as $20,000 per acre, compared to $800 per acre for other staple crops, like corn and soybeans.
“So it’s a very high margin cash crop for these farmers,” he said.
In addition, the First Crop Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, donates 10% of the company’s profits to social, economic and environmental goals, like reducing homelessness, and improving air and water quality.
Weir said First Crop will initially focus on processing hemp for hemp extract products, but will be looking to expand into food products for animals and humans, fibers and other products.
This article originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.