Farmers, entrepreneurs betting on hemp

Green Toad Hemp Farm begins production

Candler County has always had an agricultural economy, from tobacco and cotton farming in the past to today’s Vidalia onions and peanuts. 

The arrival of the Georgia Southern University incubator in 2019 introduced some new agricultural processes and crops to the area. 

Better Fresh Farms is making a hit improving the local food scene in a sustainable, environmentally conscious manner. Now, a nontraditional crop has also come to Candler County via the Georgia Southern business incubator. 

Hemp production is coming to the area with the new Green Toad Hemp Farm located near I-16 at exit 57.

What is ‘hemp’?

When most people hear hemp, they are confused. Hemp is a plant that has been grown for industrial purposes for thousands of years. It can be used to make paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food and animal food. 

More commonly, people know at least a little about the psychoactive effects of hemp in the form of cannabis. Green Toad Hemp Farm will produce hemp for CBD use.

The hemp farmers who have brought Green Toad Hemp Farm to Metter are nontraditional. 

Dwayne Hirsch comes from Chicago, and his business partner Reginald Reese hails from Florida. They now live in Lithonia, Georgia. The men first became aware of Metter via Heidi Jeffers, Metter’s director of economic development. 

They were searching for a place to begin hemp production, and the property available “on the Aline-side” was perfect for the hemp farmers. Says Reese, “Hemp is a perfect plant to grow in South Georgia.” His partner, Hirsch says, “Hemp is going to be ‘better in Metter.”

Production begins

The duo’s first crop has been planted on a 17.5 acre farm they purchased. They have planted five acres of hemp and have three greenhouses. The men are being assisted in their agricultural foray by the Handy Kennedy family.

One of the reasons the men were interested in entering hemp production is to educate the public about the benefits of hemp. Hirsch spent time researching the plant and its properties. Reese experienced the healing properties for himself and became a believer in hemp. 

“Over the course of four years, I had several surgeries, including spinal surgery, hand surgery, and two hip replacements,” explains Reese. Following all of these surgeries, he was in constant pain. Following the advice of his medical team, he was taking prescription drugs to deal with the pain. 

“I took hydrocodone, morphine and muscle relaxers,” he enumerates his medicines, “but, I couldn’t function on all of that medicine.” After some time, he learned of the healing benefits of CBD oil. He tried it and it worked!

“Before long, I was off drugs and my body healed!” he exclaims. He began to meet people in the CBD business in several states. 

“I want to share my experience and help others who are in pain,” he adds. According to Reese, “God put CBD here to help us.” He points out that the pharmaceutical industry wanted to make CBD illegal so that they could make money off of prescription drugs. In fact, CBD in the form of hemp was illegal for 80 years until the Farm Bill changed that in 2018.

Because of the gap in hemp production, many people don’t know much about hemp or CBD. 

“There is a big gap with consumers,” says Reese. He adds that it is important to know that hemp has over 50,000 uses. “There is no other plant that has that many uses!” he states.

Educating 

a community

The goal at Green Toad Hemp Farms is two-fold. The young men want to grow a great product and educate the public about the plant and CBD. They are both believers in natural healing, which is a benefit of CBD. 

“CBD reduces inflammation, and CBN is one of the greatest sleep providers available,” explains Hirsch.

To get the hemp from the field to the consumer, Green Toad Hemp Farm will be opening a dispensary in Metter. The dispensary’s location is the corner of West South Broad and Flynt Streets in Metter. 

“The dispensary is about 80 to 85 percent ready,” says Hirsch. He says the post-harvest production work will happen there. “It could be as soon as 30 days,” he anticipates.

Workers needed

As Green Toad Hemp Farm grows and produces, there will be a need for workers. 

“So far, we have hired some part-time help. We hope to have some interns from Georgia Southern, and we will be hiring to help with the harvest and in the store,” Hirsch explains. He cautions, though, that the farm work is not for the casual worker. He needs people who take careers in hemp seriously.

Hirsch himself takes hemp production very seriously. He was a suit and tie worker for about 20 years. 

“Now that I am doing physical labor, I am using my own products for recovery,” he states.

Hirsch and Reese have big plans for hemp in Metter. “The industry is set to explode,” the two agree. They hope that Green Toad Hemp Farm will bring business to the City of Metter, and they are already planning for the first annual Hemp Festival to be held in 2021.

Green Toad Hemp Farm’s agricultural site is at the Highway 57 exit of I-16. They have offices located in the Georgia Southern University Incubator center where Better Fresh Farms is located on South Terrell Street.

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