Industrial hemp farm in Lovelock resurrected under new company
LOVELOCK, Nev. — After being dark for months, the lights are back on inside two greenhouses in the Lovelock Industrial Area. The buildings glow at night as hundreds of hemp plants respond to the light.
The indoor hemp farm has been resurrected under the name of 5 Star Botanicals, a subsidiary of Seed Money LLC, which is headquartered in Incline Village.
Until it mysteriously closed last summer, the hemp farm was operated by Sierra Gold Hemp in the same greenhouse space on McDougal Industrial Complex Road, located just off Interstate 80 in the small city located an hour and a half northeast of Reno.
About 20 hourly employees lost their jobs when the SGH operation ended in August. Lovelock resident Dagny Singer said she and other workers were told they would not get their final paychecks due to alleged mismanagement by SGH executives.
Now, 5 Star Botanicals managers Rich Thompson and David Graves — two former SGH employees — have returned to restart the hemp farm for the new company.
Both confirmed the mismanagement allegations, saying SGH no longer exists and still owes them “five weeks and three days of pay” and at least two weeks of pay to the hourly employees.
“It’s an incredible amount of money,” Thompson explained. “David and I invested a lot of money in the company that we won’t get back. Long story short, they owe all kinds of bills.”
With new investors supporting 5 Star Botanicals, Thompson and Graves will continue to build the hemp farm they initiated at what they say is an ideal location for the greenhouse business.
“Our knowledge of cultivating cannabis, specifically hemp, made it to where it really made sense to acquire these buildings again,” Thompson said. “We’ve got funding and now we have a chance to get back on our feet.”
‘A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BUSINESS’
The new operation will be focused on growing hemp seed and seedlings for farmers, not extracting CBD, at least for now.
The new operation will be fiscally conservative, and only a few part-time employees will be hired as needed. The goal is to sell CBD hemp seed and seedlings to farmers in Pershing County, throughout the state of Nevada and beyond.
“It’s a completely different business. We are breeding hemp seed for our farm specifically and any other farms interested in buying feminized seed,” Thompson said. “The seed is for high cannabinoid production with a focus in CBD, CBG, CBC and trace minors, using our breeding techniques we can produce 99.7% feminized seed, giving us the ability to offer farmers many varieties right now.
“We are currently in the process of breeding eight new cultivars. These new cultivars will be available for contract buys now or direct sales after harvest in March.”
CBD hemp could be more lucrative than alfalfa, but farmers must know how to plant, grow, harvest and store the crop, Thompson and Graves said. The men are offering their cultivation expertise as free consultation services to growers willing to buy hemp seed or seedlings offered by 5 Star Botanicals.
“The price per acre for alfalfa for a profitable farmer who really has it dialed in is usually about $600 to $800 an acre,” Graves said. “A profitable hemp farm is closer to about $20,000 an acre. If you are a successful alfalfa farmer, you can grow hemp. But, I’ve seen tons of growers with amazing growing skills that didn’t get it in terms of harvesting and they’ve ruined their crop.”
OPENING THEIR DOORS
Thompson and Graves said successful hemp farmers are the key to their own success.
With this goal in mind, the men are reaching out to growers and will open their doors to all farmers and the public during a seminar and greenhouse tour early next month at 5 Star Botanicals.
The event starts at noon, Saturday, March 7, at the greenhouses in the Lovelock Industrial Area.
“It will be open to everybody,” Thompson said. “We’ll provide them with all the information they need to be successful. We have a couple of farmers here in Nevada because it’s easier for us to share equipment.
We have a 5,500-acre farm, and the farmer next to us does alfalfa as well, but he’s also doing 250 acres of hemp so right now we’re sharing equipment.”
For those who buy their products, Thompson is planning a “hemp cooperative” with the goal of sharing information and the machines needed to successfully plant, grow and harvest hemp.
“We’re going to show you what we do, explain how we are different from other breeders and how working with us gives you a competitive advantage,” Graves said. “If you purchase our seed, we’re going to give you the proper consultation. Being able to share equipment and utilize the tools we have helps farmers to be successful. We have to work with the farmers.”
ADRESSING HEMP CONCERNS
Nevada growers attended a regional hemp seminar hosted last year by UNCE Educator Steve Foster.
After the meeting, some farmers were skeptical due to the high cost of CBD hemp seed and seedlings, labor and machinery costs and the risk of elevated THC levels. If the THC content of hemp exceeds a certain level, the state can force the grower to destroy the entire crop.
Thompson and Graves said their plants are bred for low THC and high CBD. The seedlings will cost farmers $2.25, $4 or $7 each depending on the variety and how the plants are produced.
“We offer a couple different varieties of seedlings,” Graves said. “You’ve got a basic seedling grown from a seed and there’s not much field testing behind it. And then, you’ve got a clone with a little more guarantee behind it. Then you’ve got a tissue culture which is an exact replication.”
Demand for the CBD extracted from hemp continues to increase, and there are more and more farmers in Nevada growing both alfalfa and hemp, said Thompson and Graves.
“The thing about hemp, it’s medicine and a thousand other things,” Thompson said. “It’s very high in protein and is an excellent feed for cattle and horses and all kinds of livestock. Dairy farmers are getting a 50 percent boost in yield by adding 25 percent hemp to their feed.”
For more info and to RSVP for the March 7 seminar, contact Graves at email@example.com.
“We will let farmers know how easy it can be to convert over to hemp and how much more money you can make doing that,” Thompson said. “Hemp is about to be a multi-billion dollar industry. Hemp makes better paper than timber, it can make more fuel than all the oil you can dig up.
“It’s an extremely young industry and we want to educate the farm community about that.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.