When Andy Loughney was approached by Ben James with a new farming initiative, he was intrigued. Recently legalized in Vermont, James asked Loughney to try growing hemp plants.
In the three years since then the two men, who co-own Brattleboroâ€™s Bravo Botanicals, have forged a reputation for quality and affordability for their hemp-derived CBD products.
â€śAs a farmer, you are always looking to diversify,â€ť Loughney said. â€śI recognized hemp as an interesting opportunity and the newness was exciting as it had only been legal in Vermont to grow for about a year.
â€śSo, I got some seeds and started with about 30 plants and fell in love with the plant itself. It is really beautiful and smells wonderful so it can be therapy just being out in the field among the plants.â€ť
While the hemp plant may look lovely and smell delightful on its own, its natural beauty is enhanced by the farming practices Loughney employs. Loughney believes in using the no-till technique to protect the microorganisms already present in the soil.
By avoiding major disruption to the soil, Loughney said the carbon remains sequestered. In addition, he brews his own compost tea which can be sprayed on the leaves or directly into the soil.
â€śThe compost tea introduces beneficial microorganisms and there is a symbiosis where the plants will get everything they need from the soil,â€ť Loughney said.
In late September, the hemp plants are ready to harvest. The flower buds are dried in a barn and cured before being sent to a processor. As with everything else Bravo Botanicals does, the processor was selected with care and for the integrity with which they treat the plants.
â€śTo extract the CBD oil from the hemp plant, our processor uses the CO2 supercritical extraction method where they take CO2 and compress it to become a liquid and then it washes over the plant to pull out the oil. The CO2 is then evaporated back into a gas and it leaves the oil behind,â€ť Loughney described.
â€śWe have a processor we love who is very deliberate with the process,â€ť Loughney continued. â€śIt is a three-step process and they increase the pressure each time so the oil comes back super-clean with a nice taste.â€ť
From there, the CBD oil is either bottled directly for sale, or added in the appropriate concentration to either the Bravo Botanicals Coconut Oil or Shea Cream products. The care taken in production, that extends from planting to bottling, has resulted in high praise from customers, many of whom rave over the quality.
â€śFrom people who are well-versed in CBD oil, we have heard that they think ours tastes the best and is the cleanest,â€ť Loughney said. â€śCustomers also appreciate our affordability.
â€śThat is important to us as we think of this as a health supplement that should be available. People like that intersection of quality and affordability, while we also hope they learn more about out farming and how it supports the soil.â€ť
Beyond cultivating the hemp plants and producing the product line, part of Loughneyâ€™s job is as an educator. Since growing hemp only recently gained legal status in Vermont, many people are not familiar with the plant and how it can be used for a holistic approach to wellness.
â€śThe endocannabinoid system is part of our bodies and the CBD fits into the receptors we have,â€ť Loughney said. â€śIt can be a driver of other transmitters. Once the CBD is plugged into other neurotransmitters it can see that one is overfiring and dial it back, or add to another one that is lacking.
â€śI am careful to say it is not a cure-all, but CBD products are helpful to overall health.â€ť
As the CBD industry grows, Loughney is hoping for continued slow and steady growth for Bravo Botanicals.
â€śI want to continue to develop the soil and turn people on to our message,â€ť he said. â€śI would like to do more with education as empowering others is the name of the game.
â€śThe way to do that is through more sales and more accounts that will give us the latitude to continue to explore. I think as we improve the soil health, it will improve the vigor of the plant and the quality will also increase.
â€śGrowing consciously and being responsible with practices isnâ€™t exactly something that can be quantified, but it is very real and can spill over to other areas,â€ť Loughney added. â€śFor me personally, growing hemp has led me to ask questions and dig deeper and find things that resonate.
â€śFrom the time I spend in the field to talking to people who use the oil and appreciate it, it is evident to me that we are doing the right things.â€ť
Bravo Botanicals products are available at the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, the Brattleboro Food Co-op and Vermont Hempicurean in Brattleboro, The Guilford Country Store, Putney Food Co-op and Soujourns Community Health Center in Westminster, Vt. To learn more about Bravo Botanicals or to purchase online, visit bravobotanicals.com or follow on
Facebook at facebook.com/bravobotanicals or