OR: Western Innovator - Nursery Grower Ventures Into Hemp

Katelyn Baker

Well-Known Member
Barry Cook doesn't want passersby to get too excited about the new crop he's got growing at his nursery in Boring, Ore.

The distinctive palm-like, serrated leaves that identify the plants as cannabis are bound to attract some unwanted attention, which is why Cook has posted his fields with signs that identify them as industrial hemp, marijuana's non-psychoactive relative.

The signs clarify that hemp contains zero THC, the psychoactive compound, and will produce no mind-altering effects if smoked, so stealing the plants is "not worth the headache."

"If we get robbed, we'll probably only get robbed once," Cook said.

The name of Cook's new venture - Boring Hemp Co. - is a double entendre referring to its physical location and the crop's lack of psychoactive properties.

While the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has spawned a multitude of new businesses seeking to capitalize on the crop, Cook believes hemp also presents big opportunities with fewer risks.

"I don't have the same security concerns as medical and recreational growers have," he said.

For now, the Boring Hemp Co. is focusing on producing hemp seeds, which have been in short supply as the nascent industry finds its legs in the state.

Next year, Cook plans to begin segregating male plants, allowing the females to produce seedless flowers from which one can extract cannabidiol, or CBD, a medicinal compound used to treat pain, seizures and inflammation.

The stems and stalks of the plant will be dried and stored until Oregon's hemp industry becomes more mature, in the hopes that processing facilities will be built to turn these byproducts into textiles, paper, rope, building materials or other goods.

"The plant has multiple income opportunities," said Cook.

At this point, Cook is taking a conservative approach by growing hemp on land that's resting fallow between rotations of nursery stock.

This strategy will allow Boring Hemp Co. to get a sense of how much money can be earned from the crop and whether it's worth expanding.

"We're not quitting the nursery industry, but here is an annual crop that has a potential up side not only financially but environmentally," he said.

Research has shown that hemp's deep roots are valuable for soil structure and reduce the presence of undesirable nematodes and fungi. They're also used in "phytoremediation" of land by drawing heavy metals from the soil.

Hemp is already grown on a large scale in Canada for oilseed and fiber, but Cook thinks Oregon growers can establish a niche industry on a smaller scale because the plant's flowers are the primary product.

"We're doing it for different reasons," he said.

Boring Hemp Co. is starting as a family affair, with Cook's wife, Lee Ann, and three grown sons, Bo, Sam and Ty, involved in different aspects of the operation.

Bo is charged with growing the plants, Sam will be developing a business plan and Ty will work with vendors and customers.

"They all communicate really well with each other," Cook said.

Venturing into hemp isn't the first time Cook has reinvented his agricultural enterprise.

In the early 1980s, upon buying his property, Cook raised raspberries, strawberries and blackberries but eventually grew tired of insufficient labor and weather fluctuations that damaged the crops.

In 1996, he switched to growing various types of ornamental nursery stock while operating a hydro-seeding and erosion control company, Northwest Hydro-Mulchers, that continues to be the family's primary business.

Now, he's aiming to put his plant knowledge to use while exploring new territory by breeding hemp to maximize CBD while minimizing THC.

"We're hoping we can become more refined and accurate," Cook said.


News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Western Innovator - Nursery Grower Ventures Into Hemp
Author: Mateusz Perkowski
Contact: 503-364-4431
Photo Credit: Dwayne Yancey
Website: Capital Press
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