From left to right: New York State Senator Skoufis, New York State Senator Metzger, Dan Ahouse of the Orange County IDA, and Mike Anagnostakis, senior advisor to Senator Skoufis, handling Hemp biomass at Hemp Farms of New York in New Windsor on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

By Edie Johnson

New Windsor – Growing hemp for profit, as a source for CBD medicinal products, as a farmer, and as a socially aware teaching team for others to join in this growing business is a very multifaceted proposition to begin with.  Add the legal challenges of a product that was used for thousands of years, then banned, and only became legal in New York last December.  CBD is federally legal, but only in some forms. Today, most people have come to believe CBD products are a safe and useful supplement, especially for pain or anxiety, and sometimes for more serious illnesses such as epilepsy.  Other people still believe it’s  a foot in the door toward drug use, while many feel it offers a safe alternative to medicines and substances that are addictive. It’s available in tablets, tinctures, salves or so-called “vape’ content.  The matter is further complicated because hemp and marijuana are two varieties of the same plant family, so some forms are legal while others are restricted.  A Cannabis Sativa plant, for instance,  can be either hemp or marijuana. The difference comes down to the percentage of  THC (the psychoactive component) in the cannabis plant:

  • Cannabis with 0.3% or less of THC content is classified as hemp
  • Cannabis containing more than 0.3% of THC is considered marijuana

In New York, where carefully produced CBD products are now legal, the process requires incredible business, farm, and scientific acumen.  Hemp Farms of New York, founded by Michael Kandhorov and Michael Geraci has tackled these challenges, along with some of the thousands of other  hemp uses made from the “Biomass” which is the remaining plant material after first extrusion. The biomass can produce thousands of products which include: clothing with antimicrobial qualities, animal feed & bedding , concrete, paper, fuel, and biodegradeable plastics, as well as a hemp version of concrete called Hempcrete. Geraci began exploring the business when a relative needed treatment for epilepsy. He is a former veteran, auxiliary policeman, City of New York employee and farmer.  Kandhorov  is a former financial markets trader & New York real estate developer with extensive experience in construction and related executive and operational affairs.

This week Senators James Skoufis and Jen Metzger (who heads the legislature’s Agriculture Committee), along with Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, myself and several others, were invited on a tour of the sprawling facility which includes an original Farm Stand that has been expanded (and will be open in the future AS a Farm Stand),  a large Conference Room, a Seminar Room with a teaching video and panels describing the variety of chemical compositions of the ingredients.  From room to room it leads though each stage of production along with an enormous storage room where plants are either hang or machine-dried . The 100,000 sq. ft. of greenhouses covers much of the 33 acres they own.  The good news is that the entire facility is already very productive, and is already marketed by some distributors.  They would like more.  They would also like to share some of their product (mid-process) with other hemp producing companies as this burgeoning market explodes.  Others may not have the financial wherewithal to develop the complex and expensive processors. And it will take new companies a year or two to understand the right way to develop each product.  If they are “off” just a small amount there are potential legal ramifications and definite quality ramifications.  So, why reinvent a wheel that has just been completed at over 97% perfection. If and when marijuana  becomes legal, Hemp Farms of New York will have already tested most of the necessary equipment and processes.

Help Needed From Albany
Committee.  Right now Hemp Farms would be legally liable if they sold partially completed product and the end producer did not follow each following step perfectly.  Then there is the issue of sales to other states or countries, some of which have tighter requirements, some much  less stringent.  What is needed is  a “Chain of Custody” and that requires  our local representatives like Senator Skoufis to understand every step.  Without this understanding the State Legislature is stuck in place, WITHOUT ANY GUIDELINES for those wanting to help with a business that can help both medicinal and environmentally friendly building and clothing needs.  Nike and Patagonia have already started clothing lines, and protective apparel for hospital use will have antimicrobial properties. Just a few of the steps needed for safety are:  1)Ensuring there are no pesticides, heavy metals or arsenic in the soil 2) Testing of plant material before and after harvest 3) Retest to confirm THC removal. Lawmakers who are not familiar with the necessary properties and processes will have to be walked through them in order to form both safe and fair regulations

The stakes are very high.  Michael Geraci  says the hemp plant is very smart.  It must be carefully managed to grow at its best pace and with the right nutrients and soil.  Otherwise, the balance of ingredients within it will be ‘off’.  He and his partner have spent $1.2 million just to design and have patented several rooms full of specialized equipment that separates the parts of the plant useful for CBD products from residual biomass that can be used for animal feed and bedding, and the stronger strand particles used for the industrial products. In the many-staged process, THC (the psychological component) is removed.  After processing through a centrifuge type machine for separation and another that evaporates out what is left, they have a product that is 97% pure. They believe that purity far outdistances them from any competitors.  And not only are they producing an extremely high quality product, they are doing it in an environmentally friendly way.  The harvested stems are used, the biomass is used, and even the leftover ethanol from the final evap/distilling step is routed to a 8,000 gallon storage container for reuse. The machine which processes with nitrogen and handles liquid at -60 C is insulated with the same wrapping as a space ship. And the room is Explosion Proof and has a high-tech  scientific “Sniffer” that would warn of any imbalance of air quality.

Hemp Farms of New York technicians James Fisher, left, and Clayton Balfe explain the differences between crude and third-pass CBD distilate in New Windsor on Tuesday, July 28, 2020.

You can tell whether the product has been through the evap/distilling machine by its texture and color.  The finished CBD liquid is yellow in color and crystallizing, while the container with THC is dark and fluid.

Co-Owner Michael Geraci shows Senator Jen Metzger a few of the many teaching panels in the facility’s Seminar Room

(Photos by Ryan Paraggio)
For more information and contacts, see: https://www.hempfarmsofny.com/

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