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Hemp business grows like a weed in De Pere

By Lea Kopke

DE PERE – The Coffeen family’s small farm has been the home to several cows and a few vegetable crops since the family first moved to De Pere almost 15 years ago.

Starting last year, Peggy Coffeen said, the farm is also now home to more than 300 hemp plants.

“Ever since we’ve lived here, we brought that farm heart with us through cattle and growing things like hay,” Coffeen said. “We diversified last year with industrial hemp through the pilot program with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.”

According to DATCP, the pilot program allows both hemp growers and processors to receive a year-long license during which they can harvest hemp while submitting reports and undergoing hemp inspections.

Coffeen said when she and her husband, Kevin, first learned about the pilot program, they intended to plant hemp as a cash crop and simply sell their harvest to a processor.

She said the plan changed when the two started to learn more about the cannabidiol (CDB) industry.

“We started to understand the benefits and challenges of finding locally grown, quality, traceable products,” Coffeen said. “This opportunity opened up to take what was growing in our backyard and change it into something we could share.”

Hemp plants, like these at the Coffeen family farm in De Pere, are tightly regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Lea Kopke Photo

Now, she is the owner of P’ri CBD, a line of CBD products which includes hemp extract oils for both humans and pets, salve and bath bombs.

“Pain relief, relaxation, clarity, mental focus and sleep are all benefits that people can experience and cater their use of the oil towards,” Coffeen said.

She said the name “P’ri” comes from the Hebrew word for fruit which is used in the Bible translation of Galatians 5:22, a verse about the fruit of the spirits.

“There are so many things people are missing and longing for which are holding us back from experiencing the fruits of the spirit,” Coffeen said. “If we can provide that with backyard growth, that’s incredible.”

To begin the business, Coffeen said there was a process unlike other crops she’d grown.

“One of the first things you have to do is go through the process of becoming a licensed grower,” she said. “This includes a background check… The regulations around who can grow are pretty tight.”

The next step, Coffeen said, is to ensure a crop is under the federal THC limit by seeking out seeds bred to be low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, and high in CBD, a non-intoxicating agent found in cannabis.

DATCP says hemp is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L and any part of that plant with a THC concentration of no more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

Then, Coffeen said there is reporting that goes on throughout the growing season.

Finally, the Department of Agriculture sends out someone to collect buds and perform a verification test on each strain of hemp the farmer is harvesting.

Coffeen said only after a crop is approved can she harvest it and send it to Ledge Rock Hemp, a processing plant in Greenleaf.

Dan Wiese, the business development partner of Ledge Rock Hemp, said the business formed in June 2019 when himself and Brad Hanson, the operations manager, realized there was a lack of processing plants in the area.

“We started hemp growing because of the craze,” Wiese said. “We wanted to diversify, but when we started growing we found there was a lack of processing. We purchased machinery and partnered with a guy with tech knowledge in order to start producing our own products and have something to do with our hemp.”

Now, he said the company works with around a half dozen local farms.

Coffeen said she chose to process her products through Ledge Rock Hemp because she wanted to keep her product local.

“People are provided with quality assurance,” Coffeen said, “because they do third-party testing on every bottle batch through a lab in Colorado, and also a connection to where the oil comes from. It’s exciting and rewarding.”

Wiese said he felt it was important to use local products, and wanted to use his business to encourage others to do the same.

“People utilizing CBD are utilizing products that are not made locally,” he said. “We’re working pretty hard to try to change that. I believe we can get there eventually, but Wisconsin is late to the party. There’s a lot of catching up to do.”

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