North Carolina Tobacco Farmer Finds Success with Hemp
A fifth generation family farm in Carthage has its roots in agriculture and sights on innovation. When the McLeod family first started farming, they focused mainly on our state’s popular cash crops: cotton, tobacco, corn and sweet potatoes. While they continue to grow those crops today, Martin McLeod began venturing into a new avenue in 2014 with the emergence of the Farm Bill and the creation of the N.C. Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. “I have always loved agriculture and can remember working on this farm at only five years old,” Martin said, “and while all of our crops are necessary and important, my mind has always gravitated toward innovative and non-traditional crops.”
In 2017, Farm Life Hemp LLC obtained a license to grow hemp and started its journey with just 30 acres of hemp. Today, they grow over 200 acres and offer a variety of products, including oils, salves and pet products.
A typical day for Martin depends on the season but, according to him, looks a lot like the life of a tobacco farmer. “We have a field crop mindset and the way that our hemp is produced often mirrors the way our tobacco is grown,” he said.
The growth process of hemp starts in the greenhouse with seed trays before they are transplanted in the field to grow to maturity. Once the plants are harvested, Martin and his crews use ethanol to extract the oil for their products. “We built our own extraction lab on the farm in early 2018,” Martin said, “where we use ethanol to extract the crude oil for our products. Crude oil is the only type that we use because it is a mirror image of the plant itself.”
Recent research has shown that hemp products may help the body in a variety of ways, including acting as an anti-inflammatory and helping with anxiety and sleep. “Our bodies naturally produce some of these compounds anyway, but as we go through life things get out of line and you can supplement with our products,” Martin said, “I am passionate about it not only because I have seen is affect my own life, but I’ve also seen it help my family and my customers.”
Products from Farm Life Hemp can be found online at their website and in a variety of retailers in the Moore County area, including Nature’s Own Inc. Martin’s favorite is the cinnamon-flavored CBD oil for its taste and ease of use. All products from Farm Life Hemp are lab tested by a third party for potency.
Although pest management can be a challenge in the hemp industry because there are a limited number of products available for hemp at this point, Martin says the greatest joy is found in providing a good product to your customers that you take pride in. “There is definitely an art to it but at the end of the day we take pride in a job well done,” Martin said, “I encourage people to buy their hemp products locally not only to help support the economy but to ensure you are getting a healthy and honest product.”
In the future, Martin and his family hope to expand the business and continue to provide hemp products for people across our state. When he is not working in the field or the greenhouse, you can find Martin and his family flying their plane from the airstrip on their farm to a variety of tourist destinations across the country.
Source: Taylor Parrish, In the Field, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services