A new hemp processing business is coming to Gaffney to meet growing demand for the product.
Jimbo Martin plans to open 33 Farms in June. He’s working to find more investors before opening.
“CBD oil is taking the world by storm,” he said “Our bodies like it and it absorbs in the body well.”
Martin of Gaffney anticipates more farmers across the state will be growing hemp over the next few years but there aren’t enough processors to move the product through the supply chain.
Over the past year, he’s visited hemp farms in the state and developed a business plan to ensure success.
“The big problem we are having is some farmers are having to wait up to nine months to have it processed,” Martin said. “The demand is going to continue to evolve.”
It takes about 24 hours to process a large batch. A single processing machine costs about $1 million, he said.
Martin said there’s about 100 hemp farms across the state and the number is increasing. He’s already had interest from a farmer in Pennsylvania to process hemp in Gaffney.
33 Farms has been licensed with the Security Exchange Commission, he said. Martin, 62, is a retired logistics executive who was in the shipping business for 30 years.
Hemp is a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa that is low in the chemical THC and is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, clothes, food, paper, textiles, insulation, supplements and biofuel.
In March 2018, Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law a bill that expanded the state’s hemp farming program.
The hemp plant is put through a process to separate the flour from the plant. It’s then returned to the farmer to sell to a broker or co-packer. A co-packer then dilutes the CBD flour to useable products such as lotions, creams and CBD oil.
“Majority of South Carolina farms are having to store their 2019 crop awaiting a spot to complete the processing,” Martin said. “We anticipate having to purchase a second processor in the near future to keep up with demand.”
Justin Powell, Carolina Hemp Company – Landrum general manager, said processing hemp is capital intensive requiring major investment for those who enter the business.
“It’s (processing) the most expensive part of the process and hasn’t kept pace with growers and the retail side,” Powell said. “Hemp grows so quickly and some growers don’t have anybody to buy and process it.”
Powell opened Carolina Hemp Company- Landrum at 118 E. Rutherford St., with his wife Amy Powell in November 2019. The store has experienced steady sales growth each month by at least 20 percent.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has caused a disruption in sales at Carolina Hemp Company beginning in April. Powell anticipates sales growth to return once the outbreak ends.
“Sales are down 20 percent this month,” Powell said. “This time of year we should see 100 percent growth but with travel down, sales have declined.”
Powell said some customers are also having to make a choice on whether to spend any remaining expendable income on hemp products but he remains optimistic the industry will rebound once the coronavirus outbreak is over.
Formed in 2014, Carolina Hemp Company’s headquarters is located in Asheville, N.C. It’s a wholesale distributor of hemp products. The store offers a variety of hemp flower extract products including oils and edibles.
As the hemp industry continues to expand, Powell anticipates hemp processors to catch up with demand.
“Our organization processes hemp in-house so it’s not shopped out,” Powell said. “Hemp farms are planting now. It can be farmed inside all year.”
Most hemp grown outdoors is used for oils while hemp grown indoors is used for smoking products, Powell said.