Robert Elliott says he’s eager to help military veterans become farmers while, at the same time, educating people on the benefits and uses of the various products derived from industrial hemp.
Elliott served in the Marines from 1997 through 2002 before working as a Department of Defense contractor for a decade.
Nowadays, the 40-year-old Louisburg native is touting the versatile hemp plant and how its many uses can change the world. He farms five acres of the controversial plant. CBD is federally legal as long as it doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets people high.
On Sept. 10, Elliott opened the Broad River Hemp Company at 102 Robeson St. He doesn’t want it to be seen as just another CBD store.
“The mission of our store is to provide better industry in North Carolina,” Elliott said Tuesday. “To make North Carolina hemp more potential for sales and for building North Carolina farms. (Partner) Josh Biddix and I are both farmers. We both grow hemp as cooperative farmers.
“We honor hemp. We wanted not only a place to sell our stuff, but a showcase for North Carolina products. We want to show what North Carolina can do. North Carolina is trying to catch up (with the likes of Oregon in the emerging hemp industry), and we’re trying to help.”
Biddix, a fellow Marine veteran and a former law enforcement officer from Shelby, is the founding owner of Broad River. Biddix owns the original Broad River Hemp Company store in Shelby.
As for the Fayetteville location, Elliott likened it to more of a partnership with Biddix than a franchise. “I don’t like to use franchise because we’re not a franchisee store. We’re trying to meet customer demands for products out there and educate consumers in the area. Josh and I got together and decided how we can develop our businesses and take everything to the highest quality possible.”
Though the hemp-derived CBD seems to get all the love in the media, use of the plant, over time, has evolved into a multitude of products. These include health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels and plastic composites.
It has been said that more than 25,000 products can be derived from hemp, a strain of the cannabis sativa plant species.
“He actually went into it (the business) because he noticed how CBD helped him,” Elliott said of his partner, Biddix. “I decided to go into it to offer products for veterans. I deal with programs that better help veterans become farmers.”
He said he’s been doing that for five or six years.
Those programs, including the Veteran’s Farm of NC and the Soldier to Agriculture Program at Fort Bragg, teach military retirees basic agriculture skills and how to network with each other to assist veterans with their agricultural pursuits, as well as make partnerships with statewide corporations. Through the corporations, they seek to obtain such farm machinery as tractors and cultivation equipment.
“They (the programs) are available to transitioning soldiers from Fort Bragg,” Elliott said, “and the nonprofit Veteran’s Farms of NC is available to all veterans.”
As for his Robeson Street store, Elliott said customers will find everything “from CBD products to the (hemp) flower, which is in the middle of all the controversy. Clothing items, fiber products, soaps, tinctures, jewelry. We’re even making home decor items out of hemp. We’re working pretty hard to develop a fiber line of products, like flags and such.
“We grow to stock our stores,” said Elliott, who now makes his home in the Sanford and Fayetteville area. “It’s not just our product. Our product is maybe 3 to 5 percent of the (store’s) product. Almost all of it is from North Carolina. There are a few things not just from North Carolina. Like a few clothing items because North Carolina fiber production and infrastructure is just not there.”
Store hours at the Broad River Hemp Company are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Staff writer Michael Futch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-486-3529.