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Northeast Hemp Commodities Takes Over Victory Hemp Foods Space: Interview With Michael Sims

Evan Johnson
Evan Johnson 23 Oct 2019

Following the closure of Victory Hemp Foods, Northeast Hemp Commodities has taken over the lease and plans to move their headquarters to the 11,000 square-foot space on Exchange Street in Middlebury. Chief Marketing Officer Michael Sims spoke with Heady Vermont about their plans for the space, why they’re relocating to Middlebury, and why they’re looking beyond CBD.

Heady Vermont (HV): First up, tell us about your plans for the new space. What’s going to go in there and when will it be open? 

Image courtesy of Northeast Hemp Commodities

Michael Sims (MS): We’re going to make that our corporate office. In the back there are seven or eight offices and a great room that will make a board room. That will be our office space and out front there’s an industrial space that we’ll convert to a retail space where we’ll sell our line of Method Organics brand goods as well as concentrates and smokeable flower from the Northeast Hemp Brand. We may do some infused coffee and baked goods that wholesale retailers aren’t ready to put out yet, so having our own retail space will be important set up and test new products with the public. 

There are three 2500 square-foot bays that we’re going to use for product fulfillment for Method Organics and eventually this fall we’ll end up doing some small scale processing of CBD and CBG oil as well as having an analytical lab set up to test our own products as well as testing for other growers around the state.

A lot of legendary Vermont businesses have started in that space and on that street. Vermont Soap, started there. Otter Creek Brewing started in the building next door and now there are the breweries and lots of retail up and down that street. We’re excited to have our footprint in the building and such a good retail presence.

We’re hoping to have staff in there by the first week in November. The retail space will be open shortly after Thanksgiving. 

HV: How many staff are going to be working at this space and will you be hiring more?

MS: Probably between ten to fifteen staff members will be working there on a daily basis. We have two or three other facilities that we’ll be working out of over the course of the winter. We have a green house and some fields down in Florence that serve as our main base during the growing and harvesting season but we’ll be winterizing that space so employees will be working out of that or the Middlebury space. 

We’re looking to expand our staff, but that will be determined by how successful this year’s grow was. We’ve used of 20 to 30 seasonal workers during the harvest, but they’ll go away and we’ll be back to 20 full time employees and looking to hire about five more by the first quarter of next year. 

We have about 200,000 pounds of biomass to process ourselves and a network of partner farmers who have also been growing. The material is here and is grown here, it doesn’t need to be trucked from far out of state.

HV: What are results looking like for this year’s harvest?

MS: We invested in a higher price CBG seed this year so 95 percent of our crop is CBG, a new cannabinoid that isn’t as well known as THC and CBD. So we’re moving that into a brand new market because it’s the next cannabinoid to come down the pike. Although the market hasn’t been set for it, we took a risk on a new cannabinoid in the hopes that the demand will be there as opposed to fighting it out with the rest of the CBD crop in the state because there’s a surplus of CBD this year. It’s a little slow as people wrap their heads around a new cannabinoid but we expect it to take off once people understand it’s around, how great it is, and how much stronger.

We cultivated about 200 acres on our own. We own a 15,000 square-foot greenhouse with 11 acres around it and we leased 180 acres from farmers in Clarendon and Florence this year.

Biomass ready for extraction. Picture courtesy of Northeast Hemp Commodities.

We did distribute about a million seeds to local farmers and taught them the basics on how to get started. We haven’t promised to buy anyone’s crop but we did set a bunch of farmers up to grow between 600,000 and 700,000 pounds in the area and we’re hoping they’re successful.  

HV: What is it about your plans for the space that’s giving you confidence?

MS: We have about 200,000 pounds of biomass to process ourselves and a network of partner farmers who have also been growing. The material is here and is grown here, it doesn’t need to be trucked from far out of state. As we expand, we’ll be looking to purchase some extraction and processing equipment that can go in the space in Middlebury. We needed extra square footage, and since we’re all from Middlebury, when the building became available we decided we wanted to make that our corporate space and processing space in the town where we’re from. 

We invested in a higher price CBG seed this year so 95 percent of our crop is CBG, a new cannabinoid that isn’t as well known as THC and CBD. So we’re moving that into a brand new market because it’s the next cannabinoid to come down the pike.

A lot of legendary Vermont businesses have started in that space and on that street. Vermont Soap, started there. Otter Creek Brewing started in the building next door and now there are the breweries and lots of retail up and down that street. We’re excited to have our footprint in the building and such a good retail presence. We supply Otter Creek and Long Trail with the CBD for their CBD seltzer so being neighbors with those guys is great. We hope to be a part of the community that we grew up in now that we have a presence here. 

Some call CBG the mother of all cannabinoids. It’s the stem cell cannabinoid in the hemp plant. Every cannabinoid is at one point CBG.

HV: Do you have any other projects in the works?

MS: We’re going to be launching another line of smokeable CBG flower by the middle of November and that’s going to be distributed by our retail brand, Method Organics. Having a new crop and a new cannabinoid, we’ll be the first brand in the country to add CBG to our line of CBD products and doing a blend. That’s something pretty exciting because prior to this year there wasn’t enough CBG for formulators and brands to consider putting into their products. We’ve grown about one tenth of the country’s CBG this year so we’ll be using that in our retail products as well as selling it to brands that want to do cannabinoid blends. 

Image courtesy of Method Organics.

HV: There are over 100 chemical compounds in cannabis. Why did Northeast Hemp decide to go with CBG?  

MS: There is not a lot of availability of cannabinoids except for THC and CBD until this year. This genetic strain out of Oregon became available to us so we took a gamble. Next year we know there will be CBG and CBN available if you can get your hands on the right genetics. We knew we had access to rare and proprietary genetics for this grow season and we worked with Seth and Eric Crawford and their company Oregon CBD. We grew their strain of CBD in 2018 and they liked how we performed. We were among some of the first this year to test their CBG outside of Oregon. We knew it was rare and we knew it would keep us above the fray of the vast amounts of CBD that’s out there. 

Some call CBG the mother of all cannabinoids. It’s the stem cell cannabinoid in the hemp plant. Every cannabinoid is at one point CBG. CBG turns into many of the other cannabinoids that we know of. The Crawfords were able to create this strain by inhibiting the transformation from CBG into the other cannabinoids. It has many of the same benefits as CBD. It’s non-psychoactive, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, but perhaps more effective. Additionally, it’s being looked at as a treatment for IBS and Crohn’s Disease and it’s beneficial for bone grown and cell growth. It’s also being tested for reducing pressure in glaucoma patients. Research is new on it.

If you smoke it, it feels different. We all know what THC feels like when you smoke it and we know what CBD feels like when you smoke or ingest it and now we as a company know the effects of CBG when smoked or ingested. It’s non-psychoactive, but it has a feeling of alertness and clarity of vision, whereas CBD is more of a relaxing agent.   

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