Anavii Market interviews Chelsea at Headland Homestead about how growing hemp on a homestead as given them the freedom they were searching for.
Tell us about Headland Homestead.
Headland Homestead is a small scale hemp farm and family homestead located in Durham, Maine right along the Androscoggin River. We are currently managing our third harvest season and are working hard to bring in six different hemp strains from the field to dry and cure in our 30' x 60' barn. Since our first year, we have continued to source our seeds from Oregon CBD and have never been disappointed. We function as a farm completely based on what we can accomplish by hand. We start all our plants from seed in the spring within our own wood frame greenhouse and they each get transferred outside and into the ground by hand. When they need to be watered, fertilized, weeded, and trimmed over the course of the summer, this is all done by hand. When it comes to harvesting all the flower in September, yes you guessed it, this is also done completely by hand with a small team of friends and family.
Our guiding principle has always been a straightforward focus on quality over quantity. We don't bother with harvesting biomass, but spend our limited time on the best hemp flower in the field. Similarly, the full-spectrum products we make with our hemp are also intentionally kept paired back to only the ingredients that are necessary to be impactful on the body. And while we have used essential oils (like lavender and lemongrass) in our CBDA salves over the past several years, we have started the process of growing our own botanicals to infuse into our products with the intention of eventually cutting out one more outsourced ingredient. Overall, we want to keep all of our handcrafted small batch products as natural and whole plant-based as possible.
What inspired you to start Headland Homestead?
The inspiration for Headland Homestead's creation was founded in being gifted beautiful Maine land that I love and a desire to simply spend as much time on it with my family as possible. My husband Pat and I knew we wanted to farm something on the land. One day I came across an article in a Maine newspaper that featured a farm that had made the decision to grow hemp. The way Pat tells it, I asked him if we could do that (grow hemp). And the way I remember it, he simply replied, "Sure!". So, we figured it out.
We had to do a lot of research and we spent many evenings planning. Homesteading and farming felt perfectly suited to us because of our desire to enjoy time together as a family as much as possible. We knew that it was going to take a massive amount of time, effort, and energy to accomplish, and honestly, that it might never work out exactly like we originally hoped. But what better time than your thirties, and perhaps simply just the present, to start a big undertaking that has an unforeseeable future? So, we went for it! We have had some significant challenges and setbacks since the beginning and we still don't know exactly where Headland Homestead is heading, but we are okay with that for now. The experience is worth the uncertainty.
What is it like being on a hemp Homestead?
It definitely is a challenge! Farming hemp and maintaining a homestead often feels at the mercy of nature and other factors we have no control over. The level of success we have any given year is often impacted simply by how much rain we get or if pests are particularly bad. I don't think I could ever look back on the past three years of homesteading and farming and look at any of them as either "bad" or "good" because they have all been such a rollercoaster with massive ups and downs. And while it is primarily a lot of hard work, the long hours and tough physical impact feels like reasonable compensation for all of the joy we gain from being outside working with nature together as a family. Plants, fresh air, sun and rain, our animals...they all contribute to keeping us grounded and healthy.
I think the other aspect of homesteading/farming I'd like to share is how much juggling it takes. As a family, we decided that I would stay home with our little one. So on any given day, I'm generally balancing being a mother, a preschool teacher, a small business owner (and that requires its own juggling act), a farmer, and a homesteader all within a 24 hour period. I've had to learn to not feel discouraged and defeated when certain tasks aren't done at the end of the day or even when entire weeks don't go as planned. And I'm fortunate that this lifestyle can work with fluctuating adjustments, but it definitely isn't for everyone. Even with determination and set goals, it requires a bit of a "what will be will be" attitude. When things don't go as planned, being ready to shift gears onto another path makes the adjustments less jarring. It's all just a lot of balancing!
What are some of your favorite uses of CBD and hemp?
While there are many applications for hemp in daily living, I think I've grown to have two favorites; skin health and relief from physical discomfort. As a family, it feels like we use our own Full-Spectrum CBDA Salve for absolutely every physical affliction. Farming takes a toll on our bodies, so my husband and I find ourselves applying the salve to our backs and joints on a nightly basis. We also end up with quite a few itchy bug bites, poison ivy and heat rashes, and bee stings throughout the year that we will use our hemp salve on. Basically, we just always have a jar of it on hand for whenever our body is experiencing inflammation due to being overworked or injured.
My second favorite is for skin health. I've been using our own Full-Spectrum CBDA Facial Serum as the last step in my nightly skincare routine and have seen such an improvement in the health of my face. We infuse our hemp, along with calendula and helichrysum flower, into rosehip, jojoba, and red raspberry seed oil. I use just a dropper full each night after a good cleansing and the application of a retinol and a hyaluronic acid serum, and can feel the warmth the increased blood flow to my face creates. When I wake up in the morning my skin is insanely hydrated and soft. The anti-inflammatory property of hemp is the perfect addition to any skincare routine!
What are some of the daily challenges that you face on the homestead?
Challenges that often surface on a daily basis are often very simple, elemental ones. For instance, the incredibly hot summer we had proved to be very challenging for functioning safely on the homestead. Having to perform simple tasks like picking calendula for 2 hours just can't be done safely with a little 4-year-old by my side when the temperature is over 90 degrees and the humidity is through the roof. So, at this point, the challenge is arranging my life to still fit in those hours of harvesting. Because not keeping up with picking calendula isn't really an option. A solution has to be found. I'd say just prioritizing what is reasonably able to be accomplished within a 24 hour period is the most regular challenge we face on the homestead. Something always has to be pushed to the next day or the next week. And I think this all stems from the sense that a farmer's work never is fully "done". It is all so cyclical and seasonal. So often the change of seasons will create the most challenges just because it's when a growing project begins or needs to be finished. And just planning ahead for these shifts in tasks and workloads is what we are challenged to complete on a daily basis.
What do you see for the future of hemp?
Although I've been asked this before, I still don't feel confident in its trajectory because there is so much we can't predict right now. Like any industry, I think it will have its highs and lows, fluctuating with the economy and large-scale social and environmental events. I definitely think the future looks bright for hemp in general. However, I would like to see its perception grow to be considered as respected and valued as its close relative, marijuana. It can be emotionally (and financially) tough as a hemp farmer who very literally puts blood, sweat, and tears into our hemp crop to hear that, by weight, our flower is of less value in comparison to marijuana. While I understand that THC content is at the heart of this difference in value, I think hemp with its lack of significant THC provides more versatility to a greater population of people.
And to be completely honest, I don't think indoor marijuana grows are going to be as environmentally responsible as they need to be within the near future. I'd love to say that I see all growers promoting sustainable farming practices, prioritizing the production of less waste, and utilizing techniques and energy sources that lower impact and decrease embodied energy levels. But where there are customers who are willing to pay high prices for a product regardless of how it is grown, there will also be growers who aren't interested in making adjustments to their facilities, infrastructure, and practices. The incentive isn't there for them right now. But how bizarre is it to have a livelihood and an entire industry based around the health and innate power of a plant, but care so little about maintaining the health of the plant life on this planet that sustains all of us? I don't intend to be a "Debbie downer" with this line of thinking and I know that there are indoor hemp grows that are just as problematic. But when it comes down to visualizing the future of hemp, I see amazing possibilities to lead the entire cannabis industry towards a much more "green" existence within society. This industry has influence and power in today's culture, and I hope to see us all use that to propel our efforts toward an ethical, sustainable future and assume proud responsibility for the relationship we maintain with our plants.
Any advice you'd like to give our readers?
Oh goodness, as someone who often experiences extreme imposter syndrome, I'm not sure how qualified I am to give advice. But I suppose, as just a fellow human who is happy with their little place on this earth, I'd just advise readers to live the life that makes them fulfilled and happy regardless of what our society directs us towards. I've never been so unhappy as when I was comparing myself to other young women who were celebrating the "girl boss" life and what they were attaining through those endeavors. I got so wrapped up in wanting what someone else had (the expensive home, the lavish lifestyle, the latest, greatest purchase) that I ended up feeling miserable. And then I found myself holding my father's hand while he was on his deathbed and it hit me incredibly hard how little time we are truly gifted with. What an incredible waste to spend any moment of my time trying to achieve a replica of someone else's life. I want to spend time outdoors, getting messy in the dirt, with my little family and friends, with good food on hand, and a sturdy roof over my head. Add a good book in the evenings, growing as a person and learning new skills as I age, having the mental health to stand up for anyone who may need me, and the health and happiness of the ones I love. That sounds like an ideal life to me.
And this life of mine will not resonate with all readers but that's the point. The advice is to be honest with yourself enough to discern what will truly leave you feeling fulfilled at the end of this life. Not that any of us should live just preparing for the end, but I hope we would all consider the experience of looking back on our lives and if this would be a moment of contentment and joy or deep regret. I can't imagine that I'd ever look back one day and think, "Thank goodness I worked all those extra hours, days, and years amassing money and material things." And maybe this is someone's life goal. But it is important to note here that my advice comes from a place of privilege and an experience of never wanting for food, health care, or basic human necessities. I am incredibly blessed by the path I've been placed on and the childhood that began this journey. But advice is personal right? It comes from our own experience. So, my words are based on the hope that maybe one day we would view a happy, healthy, fulfilling life as being contingent on everyone also being able to live with health and happiness. That some people have to work hard and strive for it while others experience it all from the start feels like a massive stumbling block to my advice, for sure! Therefore, let's just all take away that striving for our own happiness shouldn't involve the sacrifice of someone else's. We can all lift each other up on our way to building a life we love.
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