business

Hempstock Pharms: Unlocking the Powers of a Hemp Co-op

Cindy Kleh
Cindy Kleh 11 May 2020

Note: This profile was written as part of a paid business partnership.

Hempstock Pharms is a small-craft farm that grows premium organic hemp and produces hemp flower, CBD concentrates, edibles, and topicals. Located near Woodstock, Illinois, Hempstock plants are grown outdoors, then barn-dried, hand-processed and cured with care to bring out the full spectrum of naturally healing cannabinoids and terpenes. 

“My wife and I bought the farm last May,” explained Stacy McCaskill, CEO and Farm Manager at Hempstock. Their vision was to produce premier, farm-to-table CBD and to turn the farm into an experiential destination for people who are itching to gain hands-on knowledge about hemp farming and producing various CBD products. 

Besides a small amount of wholesale hemp and oil sold to manufacturers, Hempstock Pharms offers flower and pre-rolls, as well as CBD extracts, ointments, gummies, hard candies, capsules, and pet treats, all grown organically and handcrafted in a “cottage industry” kitchen. 

“The Chinese are big consumers of American Ginseng, and we want to sell American grown CBD to them as well!”

Advocating for holistic homeopathic health care, Hempstock also offers a variety of other powerful natural plant products and extracts such as Moringa oleifera, rich in vitamins A, C, B2, B6, magnesium, and iron; and Mitragyna speciosa (kratom), which is known to interact with opioid receptors and is widely used for pain relief and addiction recovery.  

Last year, the farm was able to harvest 1,000 mature plants out of 3,000 originally seeded. The season started late for most Illinois hemp farmers, as licenses were not issued until the end of May. 

“Our yield was due to a variety of factors, including some first-season rookie errors and rushing the seedling and grow setup process,” said McCaskill, adding that she is optimistic about achieving successful germination to full harvest rates of 95% or higher based on Hempstock’s successful indoor trials done this past winter. This year will see 10,000 plants take root with plans to build a new commercial kitchen. 

“Ninety percent of our sales were county fairs, food festivals, and farmer’s markets last year, but Hempstock is now working toward more online presence and we are exploring international markets,” claimed McCaskill, who speaks Chinese and is trying to open up that market. “The Chinese are big consumers of American Ginseng, and we want to sell American grown CBD to them as well!”

The Power of Many Growers

In addition to her job managing the 13.5-acre farm, McCaskill serves as Vice President of Field Operations and Marketing for Sulcanna Co, an industrial hemp research, extraction, and white-label production facility in Hanover, Illinois.

She also leads the Sulcanna Hemp Cooperative, the only farm-managed hemp cooperative in Illinois. She helped organize the co-op to address the challenges of farming a specialty crop with little history as a legal crop and almost no clinical scientific testing done on it. 

Co-op members enjoy access to farming advice and high-quality, feminized seeds, and help marketing their finished products. Members gain access to leveraged negotiating power for all sorts of inputs from nutrition to growing supplies to laboratory testing.  They annually contribute a small portion of their harvested flower to the Cooperative which then develops farm-to-label branded CBD products and smokable flower. 

“Frequent testing with fast turnarounds helps us make better harvest decisions and ensures we are selling safe and accurately formulated products to our customers.”  

The profitability of the Cooperative-branded products goes back to contributing members, enabling farmers to tap into healthy retail margins. Additionally, Sulcanna offers members access to extraction and helps farmers develop their own branded farm-to-table CBD line of products.   

McCaskill, the former Executive Director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center Network, is considered the state’s leading expert on industrial hemp and continues to be a frequent speaker at hemp educational forums and events around Illinois. As a registered Business Valuation Expert and a Certified Business Consultant, she currently advises dozens of hemp farms and CBD businesses in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

McCaskill currently serves as the Vice President of the Illinois Herb and Flower Association and is a Board Member of the Illinois Specialty Crop Association. She was key to establishing the Illinois Hemp Growers Association (ILHGA), and she continues to collaborate and support their work. All Hemp Cooperative members get a free paid annual membership to ILHGA.

Science and Medical Knowledge

McCaskill’s wife, Ronda DeVold, is a well-known small-animal veterinarian who serves as Hempstock Pharms’ Lead Microbiologist, Chemist, and Agronomy Advisor.

With degrees in Agriculture and Microbiology, she helps to keep the farm sustainable and productive while taking care of the farm’s rescue horses, Winter and Ruby (who are very efficient compost producers).

Dr. DeVold is also supervising research into pet treats and the use of post-extraction hemp biomass made into pellets for horses. Like most vets around the country, she is still cautious about giving hemp products to animals until more studies are conducted and national veterinary organizations endorse it.  

Brothers Rolan and Noel Velasquez work as Farm Managers and Strategic Partners for Hempstock. They come from a family of migrant farm workers, and they have a keen interest in the business of growing, processing, and distributing hemp. 

The brothers are also heavily involved in seedling and soil trials, as well as Hempstock Pharm products’ marketing and labeling. They will assist in decision making in 2020, and will share in the harvest profit this year. 

Lab-Tested

All of Hempstock’s CBD hemp flower and products are third-party lab-tested, and results are posted on their website. Hempstock takes advantage of the Cooperative’s relationship with the Universities of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Purdue extension services, who have formed a hemp research coalition and are making $25 potency testing available to Co-op members only. 

The Co-op has also negotiated discounted soil, tissue culture, and CBD product testing at Rock River Labs in Wisconsin and ACT Labs in Illinois, both state-approved testing facilities. Testing is critical for quality, consistency, transparency, and purity, and can lead to thousands of dollars in added costs for small-craft growers.  

“Frequent testing with fast turnarounds helps us make better harvest decisions and ensures we are selling safe and accurately formulated products to our customers.”  

Open Door Policy

Hempstock Pharms welcomes visitors at any time (text or email to schedule a visit). They will also be holding events throughout the growing season, such as work days for the public, with farm store credits given to volunteers. Their open-door policy allows the public to see the full growing and harvesting cycles of organic crops while getting their hands in the dirt and learning by doing.

Heady Vermont members get free shipping on any size order, with no minimum purchase, as well as free sample gifts.

 

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