TWO RIVERS – A move from elected office to cannabis grower might be unusual, but the path made perfect sense to businessman David VanGinkel.
He served on the Two Rivers City Council for six years, losing his seat in the 2016 spring election. When that ended, VanGinkel said he had the time to investigate and begin growing cannabis to produce cannabidiol, or CBD. He started taking classes through the Cannabis Training University of Colorado to become certified to grow and sell CBD products.
His company currently sells leaf CBD, but VanGinkel hopes to expand into oils and edibles soon.
He’s had in interest since visiting Colorado, where medicinal marijuana is legal. As an entrepreneur, VanGinkel decided selling CBD products was a smart move. He also owns Two Rivers Clothing Company, 1422 Washington St.
Wisconsin businesses began selling CBD in 2017 under the state’s industrial hemp pilot program. A federal 2018 farm bill allows farmers in all 50 states to grow hemp. You can now find CBD products sold in shops from grocery stores to gas stations.
Industrial hemp is a member of the cannabis sativa plant family – the same family as marijuana. Although the plants look the same, industrial hemp has been bred to contain less than 0.3% of THC, the chemical that causes the “head high” in marijuana. On the other hand, marijuana seized by federal officials averages about 12% THC.
When people hear “smokable” hemp, they usually think of marijuana, VanGinkel acknowledged.
“They think hippies, Bob Marley,” he said with a smile. “But this is not recreational, it’s medicinal.”
VanGinkel said he saw firsthand how CBD helped ease crippling arthritis pain for Norbert Gallenberger, his wife’s 88-year-old grandfather.
“He couldn’t open his mail,” VanGinkel said. “Within five days of us rubbing CBD lotion on his hands, he was helping us on the farm. He spends days digging out there now, he’s one of our main success stories.”
VanGinkel grows cannabis on an outdoor farm he said is south of Manitowoc and at an indoor facility during winter. Growing hemp is more complicated than throwing seeds in the dirt and waiting for them to grow, he said. Specialized machinery costs around $1,000; irrigation systems run around $4,500; drying materials around $500 plus possible rental costs for land or space to dry the cannabis.
Expenses for growing indoors include light fixtures at $400 to $1,500 each (a large facility might have 72 lights and pots).
Some farmers have turned to growing hemp to dig themselves out of financial holes, but VanGinkel said growing hemp is so specialized, it’s not an easy – or inexpensive – transition. Still, he sees the trend growing in Manitowoc County.
According to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection, 247 licenses were issued to growers and 100 licenses to processors in 2018. The number grew to 1,405 growers and 692 processors in 2019.
Vote Hemp, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., which advocates for the growth of hemp farming throughout the U.S., says the national market for CBD is expected to grow from $618 million in 2018 to $22 billion in 2022.
“I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg,” VanGinkel said. “As people continue to see the benefits of using a natural product like CBD, I expect both my business and other businesses to continue to grow.”
Contact reporter Patti Zarling at 920-686-2152 or send an email to email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @PGPattiZarling.
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