Before Virginia adopted its 2018 Farm Bill legalizing the growing of hemp with a THC level of less than 0.3%, Breezy Meadow Farms raised water buffalo, rabbits, poultry and pigs. Water buffalo jerky was especially popular among county foodies.
But Jeff Boogaard, a U.S. Navy veteran and corpsman with experience in health sciences, finance and technology, immediately recognized the opportunity to capitalize on a burgeoning market and wasted no time in obtaining a license to grow the genetically sanctioned hemp as a cash crop. In July of 2019, he planted 420 cannabis plants, changing the name of his farm to Cannabreeze CBD Hemp Farm. (While more than a dozen licenses have been issued since the Farm Act, Jeff is aware of just three other active growers locally.)
Then in Christmas that same year, Boogaard’s commitment to growing hemp for CBD got personal. His daughter Julia, then a 21-year-old student at the University of Nebraska, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which had wrapped around her lungs and heart and moving up her chest. Combining chemotherapy and radiation with CBD, Julia licked the cancer in just six months.
As we explored in our very first issue in May of 2019, in a profile of fitness trainer and body-builder Sam Juzbasich, using CBD had a marked impact on shrinking his own tumors, and in combating the nausea and headaches from chemo. Jeff says, “There's really no scientific evidence that it cures cancer but what it does is that it gives the body an opportunity to survive the chemotherapy, so your body can fight the cancer.”
Jeff also believes CBD helped Julia with the emotional anxiety of having cancer. “Chemo not only destroys your body and your appetite, but it can also destroy your will to live. Definitely, [CBD] helped her in all those areas.”
Julia told us that July marked her second year of being cancer free, but that most cancer patients hesitate to take a celebratory lap until five years without a recurrence. Still, she is now excited to look forward to taking that lap in 2025.
The change in the farm’s mission, meanwhile, was instantaneous and complete. Jeff writes on his website, “We realized at that moment we were ‘all-in,’ and made the decision to phase out our livestock farm and turn it over to hemp. In 2020 we planted 12,000 CBD & CBG hemp plants over 10 acres to harvest into more premium grade products so others can experience the life changing results this plant has to offer.”
Canabreeze’s plants are grown from non-GMO seeds without the use of pesticides. The rich Virginia soil is fertilized with the help of another locally produced product from Silver Spring, Maryland: fish manure mixed with other organic products that is marketed as FOOP (http://www.foop.com). That makes Jeff’s crop not only 100% organic, but also gives his plants resilience to cope with fluctuations in climate. He also uses thousands of lady bugs and Praying Mantis to eat the voracious aphids and larvae that typically feast on hemp.
The plants and flowers all are managed by hand from germination to harvest, drying and curing. Buds are de-leafed by hand, then plucked off the stem where they’re dried and cured in a state-of-the-art, climate controlled drying center then trimmed, again by hand. So, not only are the plants selected and grown to exacting standards dictated by law, but extensive quality control occurs to produce a premium grade product.
We had the opportunity to take a personal tour of the operation during Loudoun’s Spring Farm Tour in May, with the help of Jeff and its director of cannabis cultivation, Justin Everhart. Born and raised in Lovettsville, Justin has his own personal reason for being drawn to the use and cultivation of hemp. He told us, “I've had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since I was 8 years old, and cannabis or CBD has really helped me with that. That's what got me into growing it.” He’s been on site for two years taking care of everything from “how we grow to what we grow and everything in between.”
He told Marketspread.com which markets Cannabreeze products online, that CBD weened him off of a regimen of steroids and pain medication. Using cannabis instead put his symptoms into remission. “I can use it without the high, so it’s great for use during the day.... After growing the first plant I ever grew, I knew this was the industry I was going to work in for the rest of my life.”
In May, Justin expected to plant five of the farm’s 10 acres this year with around 3,000 plants raised from seedlings, each divided into six strains according to their natural medicinal properties. They carry names like Special Sauce, Super Sour and Suver Haze, and include not just CBD- but CBG-rich plants, the latter cannabinoid having the effect of enhancing pleasure and motivation, regulating appetite and sleep, and alleviating pain, all with no psychotropic effects. Special Sauce offers relaxation, while Super Sour is more uplifting, aiding focus.
Cultivation begins in the farm’s “360 room” where the plants are germinated from seed and readied for transplanting. The climate is precisely controlled to contain between 70% and 75% humidity at around 83 degrees. Planting begins around June 10, and takes place through September, growing from around eight inches high to around six to eight feet tall. By the time this issue appears, the fields will be bare and the farm’s focus turns to processing.
Then the 360 room is converted to a harvest room; humidity decreases to 50% and the temperature to 65 degrees. “All things cannabis happen in this room,” says Justin.
All the commercial products that Cannabreeze produces literally start off as an oil. Jeff explains, “We squeeze the oil out of those flowers and it turns into this brownish liquid know as full spectrum oil, which is used in more than 95% of our products” Then the distillation machine turns it into a gold liquid, which is used in our vape products. From that form some of the oil is processed into a whole line of water-soluble products using an ultrasonic nano emulsifier. The process pounds oil to molecules that are smaller than 100 nanometers, and then wraps those molecules inside of water molecules. We can then sell products that are water-soluble like tea,” or in beverages that Lost Rhino Brewing Company is producing like Pineapple Dream and Let’s Mango seltzer.
Cannabreeze products, like its new Sleep Support Softgels, sometimes combine their various oil-based products with other natural elements such as melatonin to promote restful sleep. There are of course other types of gummies and tinctures, and pre-rolled smokes, but also bottles of their “beverage infuser” – the product most adapted to culinary use – pain relief balms and creams, face cream with collagen, bath bombs and CBD drops for pets. It’s helpful to start at the farm’s own retail store, if only to benefit from the knowledgeable input from the sales staff which can help differentiate between what products are best for anxiety, pain relief, stress relief or an uplift in mood.
Another reason to visit is the farm’s annual September harvest celebration. Aware of the prejudice that surrounds use of cannabis products, Cannabreeze uses such gatherings to try to normalize its crop in the minds of users, in much the way winemakers have done with their own harvest festivals. Jeff intends for the farm to become a kind recreational venue where customers can enjoy Cannabreeze products in a group of “likeminded people.”
The label is still necessary, despite the fact that all Cannabreeze’s products are sold legally in Virginia, and contain only a tiny amount of THC, the element that causes a “high.” While the company is a vendor at the Loudoun One EatLocal farm market, and has licensed its products for use in mass-produced beverages by the county’s most iconic craft brewer Lost Rhino, Jeff acknowledges that he’s had pushback.
With more education on the health benefits, he says the market for CBD in Virginia is “unlimited,” because, “everyone is born with cannabinoids in their system, but as they age they are depleted so we need to replenish them with this wonderful plant. We believe the plant normalizes you, so most people in some fashion can benefit from CBD.” He adds, “THC is only one of 127 cannabinoids, and, interestingly, not the highest in terms of medical benefit.”
Among the products sold by the licensed dispensaries for medical marijuana, he says it’s hard to find products that give users a full spectrum of plant-based cannabinoids. “Our products have a federally compliant level of THC, but what is cool about them is that they have all the other beneficial cannabinoids as well and they work naturally together in plant-based form.”
He declines to make any claims about the analgesic or healing properties of any of his products because he can’t on orders of the FTC. “But I can say that the hemp plant is a great plant and it has a lot to give us besides weed that people smoke. People have been led to believe it’s a different plant; in fact, it is the same, just in a strain that has been modified to be CBD dominant with low levels of THC. It’s as if you were growing green tomatoes and I were to grow red tomatoes; they’re both still tomatoes.”
Products also are sold online at https://cannabreezehemp.com/shop-now, at a second retail location in the Dulles Town Center Mall, at the EatLoco Farmer’s Market, and of course, at Lost Rhino Brewing Co.’s Ashburn location. There, you can even find the CBD seltzers on tap!
Matt Hagerman, CEO and founder of Lost Rhino, says he often serves the seltzer to patrons who want something that isn’t alcoholic, and that some people love the taste, though we found it a bit bland. More often, buyers mix it with a fruit smoothie or iced tea for more taste variety.
Matt, more than anyone, may be able to offer the most educated perspective on both the resistance to and the eventual adoption of CBD products locally. “Jeff is doing something very similar to what I had to do in Loudoun County before craft beer was acceptable. We were pioneers back in the ‘80s, one of the few people making it in the whole country. He’s in a similar place with respect to educating the public, so I’ve had him out here to do events, and to explain the difference between THC and other kinds of cannabinoids.”
“I think that people are becoming more educated that it's not just about getting high,” Matt adds. “Cannabinoids have “gotten people off of their heart medications and pain prescriptions. I think it just comes down to knowing what the boundaries are, just as with alcohol.”
His approach to producing a CBD seltzer is, “to keep them as clean as possible. The base is water, then we add mango flavorings to offset the raw taste of the cannabinoids. You don’t have much to work with, but at least it’s clear. A lot of CBD drinks are really rough looking – they’re greenish and a little chunky. Ours is virtually clear, which makes it much more approachable. Apart from that, there’s a lot of science behind it. We have a lab technician that works here at the brewery doing all the reverse calculations to make sure it meets the legal limits.” That means that each can of seltzer has 8 milligrams of CBD and 4 milligrams of Delta 8, a low-dose form of THC. “We offer complete transparency about the ingredients,” Matt said; “you can even scan the QR code on your phone and see all the lab results.”
As with all Lost Rhino’s alcohol products, there’s a 21-year-old minimum age restriction. And, the product is expensive – around $8 a can with a discount for a six-pack – but that is comparable to the price of some “high octane” beers. Matt predicts, “It’s going to continue to grow in adoption over the next five, six years. As it develops a following, investment will help to meet the demand. People are going to school now like they did in the days of craft brewing just to understand it better. There’s a lot to learn right now. It’s going to take people a minute to adjust.”
Jeff says, “We're all about health, wellness and recreation. We all can agree, statistically, that cannabis is much safer to use than alcohol, and Loudoun County pushes alcohol like crazy.”
When and if cannabis with higher concentrations of THC is approved for commercial farming, Jeff says, “naturally I will be on the front lines, but before then I think people have to be made comfortable with the concept of balance. With education, people will be more comfortable with trying CBD and using it as a product that has many healing properties.”