Operator of plant nursery opens cannabis processing lab south of Lawrence, positions company for day medical marijuana becomes legal
photo by: Courtesy: Kaw Valley Cannabis
I took a year off from growing tomatoes, and Chris Black — owner of One Heart Farm and Nursery — took a year off from selling tomato plants, other vegetables, flowers and nursery items. Turns out, Black has a much better excuse for taking a year off than I do.
He was working to become the cannabis king of Kansas.
Before you call the FBI tip line, hold the phone. Certain types of cannabis are legal in Kansas. It is marijuana that is not yet legal in the state. Black doesn’t grow marijuana, but he does grow hemp, which is the type of cannabis plant that doesn’t contain THC, the chemical that makes you high.
In fact, Black grew about 10,000 pounds of hemp — about 10 acres worth — last year, which was one of the reasons he did not open his One Heart Farm and Nursery business in eastern Lawrence last season.
This year, Black plans to grow 50 acres of hemp, but he also has reopened One Heart Farm and Nursery at 1501 Learnard Ave., on the site that also houses the Sunrise Project.
Black has time to reopen the nursery because he completed one of his major hemp projects last year. He finished construction of a cannabis processing laboratory in rural Lawrence.
“It is probably the largest extraction facility and laboratory in the state,” Black said.
The lab currently is set up to process 150,000 pounds of cannabis per year, which will position Black and his new company — Kaw Valley Cannabis — to do a lot of work for other growers, if the state Legislature ultimately passes legislation that makes medical marijuana legal in the state.
Lawmakers haven’t yet advanced a medical marijuana bill, but there are indications the issue has bipartisan support in the Legislature. Early indications also are that any Kansas law would place significant restrictions on how cannabis is grown, and — importantly to Black — processed.
“Anything that would get produced in Kansas would have to go through a process like we do in our lab,” Black said. “We were betting on that. We are ready to go to town processing.”
Kaw Valley’s lab uses a method called “cold ethanol extraction” that produces temperatures of minus 40 degrees Celsius to flash freeze the hemp material. That flash freezing process allows Kaw Valley to filter out impurities, like lipids and chlorophyll, from the plant before it is turned into a liquid form.
What is this liquid form of hemp used for? Currently, it is a key ingredient in a variety of supplements and creams that are promoted as a natural remedy for aches, pains, headaches and more.
You likely have seen lots of stores that sell CBD products, such as CBD oils and creams. Kaw Valley’s lab is set to process that type of CBD material, but that isn’t what Kaw Valley has been focusing on for the last year. Instead, it produces something called CBG, which is a bit different from CBD.
CBG has gotten some attention for potentially being more potent in helping with certain conditions and with boosting immunity. (As always, I’m not a doctor, so I encourage everyone to do their own research.) As a result, prices for CBG extract have skyrocketed, Black said.
Kaw Valley Cannabis produces its own liquid version of CBG that it sells online and through other platforms under the Kaw Valley Cannabis name. For the first time, the company will have a booth at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market when it opens for the season this weekend.
Kaw Valley also sells its CBG material to other manufacturers outside of Kansas.
photo by: Courtesy: Kaw Valley Cannabis
As for the future, Black said he expects more people to start growing cannabis if the Kansas Legislature ultimately approves medical marijuana in the state. However, he said it is a bit uncertain how many traditional farmers will make the switch to the crop. While prices for cannabis can be good, Black said the crop is currently much more labor intensive to harvest.
“It is a different style of agriculture,” he said. “It will be an issue of whether farmers can manage that extra labor.”
But on the positive side, Black said the plant is relatively easy to grow. Compared to several other types of plants, it is less particular about soil quality and other factors.
“It really is a weed,” Black said. “We are growing it probably in the worst soil you could grow something in.”
Black doesn’t disclose the location of his fields or his laboratory for security reasons, but he said they are south of Lawrence, with several fields in the Clinton Lake area.
Planting doesn’t begin until June, and harvest generally happens in September or October. That gives Black and the other members of the family-run business time to run One Heart Farms and Nursery.
“It is great to see everyone again,” Black said of reopening the nursery business at 15th and Learnard.
The nursery continues to sell annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, shrubs, hanging baskets and other similar products.