David Lonsdale, CEO of CanaFarma Corp., at the Dutchess County hemp farm.
Photo courtesy CanaFarma Corp.
David Lonsdale is not a farmer – he has a B.Sc. in physics and mathematics from Britain’s University of Leeds, an MBA from Cornell and a career in the financial services industry. But listening to Lonsdale discuss the intricacies of growing hemp on a 55-acre farm in the town of Wappinger leased by CanaFarma Corp., where he holds the CEO position, it becomes clear that he did his homework on all things agricultural.
“We all know the vagaries of New York,” he said. “We have a growing season of five months from planting the seedlings to harvesting the crop. We plant about 2,000 seedlings per acre. That is a total of 110,000 seedlings. And if you think that’s back-breaking work, you’re absolutely correct.”
Unlike other crops, the fully-grown hemp plant doesn’t easily fit in one’s hand.
“When it is time for harvesting, you are dealing with plants the height of a man,” Lonsdale said.
The 2018 federal farm bill ended a longtime prohibition against industrial hemp farms and gave states the right to apply for regulatory authority over local hemp farming. Today, New York is home to more than 400 hemp growers spread across 56 of the state’s 62 counties. For Lonsdale, a key to CanaFarma’s business strategy is a partnership with a facility that can extract the CBD oil from the dried hemp plant.
“Many farmers cannot find extractors,” he said, noting that the rush to get hemp planted was not met with an equal number of extraction facilities being readied to handle the new crop.
Hemp is derived from the sativa cannabis plants and contains almost no high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in marijuana. Instead, it offers high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive compound that is increasingly touted by consumer wellness companies for providing health benefits. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only given its approval to one CBD product – a prescription drug product created to treat two rare forms of epilepsy – and the agency’s website warned that “some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality.”
CanaFarma was launched in New York City in March 2019 as a fully integrated hemp company that covers the spectrum of hemp product creation from seed to the retail delivery of consumer items. Under the Yooforic brand, it is now offering a chewing gum, tincture and skin cream infused with hemp oil. While the initial product offerings featured CBD oil harvested elsewhere, Lonsdale stated that within three months of the company’s launch, “we were selling three-quarters of a million dollars of products,” adding that additional products were in the works for a near-future launch.
Lonsdale stressed that the hemp being grown at its Dutchess County location will be chemical-free.
“As an ingestible oil, it has to be non-GMO and organic as a starting point,” he said.
Looking forward, Lonsdale is hopeful that he can renew the farm’s lease and expand on the available acreage for growing. He said his company would consider adding farmland in other states to keep up with production needs.
“We think very expansively and quite acquisitively,” he said.