As winter wages on, we dropped in on Dennis Kulesza, the owner and operator of Green Mountain Grown CBD. Green Mountain Grown CBD is an industrial hemp farm, committed to sustainability, nestled in the Green Mountain Forest of Vermont where we source CBD for our delicious signature VT Full Spectrum CBD Oil.
Dennis is the human embodiment of our values of sustainability, integrity, quality and passion. He works tirelessly to not only grow the highest quality organic hemp plants but also to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing CBD laws and regulations. Which is no easy feat!
Winter certainly doesn’t mean Dennis is twiddling his thumbs – quite the opposite! When he’s not in the fields, Dennis is spending countless hours innovating his packaging method, educating himself on sustainability best practices, how to stay compliant in the CBD space, and preparing for Spring and the exciting germination process.
So much time and energy go into creating world-class CBD – it’s stressful just thinking about it! Thank goodness we can harness the power of plants with benefits as we digest it all and relax a bit.
Join us on a journey into what happens in the “off season” at Green Mountain Grown CBD.
Dennis how is winter in Vermont treating you?
It’s a winter wonderland here, you need to see it for yourself to appreciate it. I’m one of those folks who say winter isn’t long enough. Being from the Northeast and living here, I love having all the different seasons. The weather is never boring.
We’re really fortunate that this year we have had so much snow, I’m taking full advantage of it and snowmobiling whenever I can.
But more importantly this snow fall really helps to solve the drought we were experiencing last summer. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the spring on the property go dry. It’s about half full now and the snow hasn’t even started to melt yet. That could be a big help in replenishing the water supply.
How do you winterize the farm?
Once we get the plants harvested, bucked and trimmed and we get everything out of the field, there’s a lot of work to be done.
The first thing we need to do is take the irrigation system out of the field because it will freeze. Then our machinery has to be winterized with oil changes and maintenance done prior to storage, so that it is ready for the spring season. We store everything in tip top shape.
From there the greenhouse has to be closed up for the winter. Right now the snow is halfway up the side of the building! Our bucking and trimming machines inside all have a final clean and sanitation before we wrap it up and put it to bed for the winter.
We also have to do all of our soil sampling prior to winter. Plants use up certain nutrients and we need to keep track of the nutrients in our soil so we can keep them balanced. We don’t want to deplete the soil – this is why we also do crop rotation. We don’t want to put any more nutrients in that soil than it needs. It’s not only about producing a quality product, it’s about always practicing sustainability and protecting the environment.
We use all organic certified nutrients, not run-of-the-mill stuff you buy at Home Depot.
The plants themselves last for one year only and then it’s the end of their life cycle. We’ll start in the spring from seeds. We let seedlings grow to 6-10” tall and then get them in the field and start the process all over again.
You have a very innovative method of packaging – tell us more about that!
After the harvest, when our plants are dried and cured, we put everything into nitrogen infused vacuum sealed food quality bags. I don’t know of anyone else that does this. We take it a step further and we assign a number for all of these bags, so we can track it from seed to packaging to sale. Absolutely everything is catalogued.
This makes it easier for us to be compliant with the USDA, because they want to know where product is going and how much we grow, how it was produced and so on. They track everything. There’s so much more than meets the eye!
Packaging takes until the end of January. I’m not twiddling my thumbs and I don’t get a chance to get out on my snowmobile as much as I’d like. There’s no down time.
What’s the most exciting part of the arrival of spring?
Without a doubt the germination process. We have a really cool set-up with a vacuum seeder machine. We use trays with 72 cells that are 1.5” x 1.5” – the seeds need to be centered in each cell and go down to a specific depth (about ½ an inch). Doing it manually is not only time consuming but also isn’t accurate. The machine offers a precision that can’t be done by hand.
From there, we see these things growing right before our eyes. It’s amazing how they pop in 3-5 days. We keep them in the greenhouse for 3-4 weeks and then slowly climatize the plants through a process called hardening. This is when we roll up the sides of the greenhouse to let the cool air and natural breeze in. It’s like exercising the muscles in your arms – the plants actually get strong enough that by the time we put them in the field they’re pretty much climatized.
Why did you start using CBD?
I have a severe ankle injury, to the point that doctors have wondered how I’m even able to walk. I fought it all my life – I first injured it when I was 6, and I hurt it again several times after, and it was never properly treated.
It got to the point the pain was so bad that I was consulting with a doctor for an ankle replacement. A replacement is a three-year procedure that would only work if I was sedentary for 6 months, I’d to have three different surgeries, and if I didn’t follow the rules, I could lose my foot. The pain was so bad, I was ready to do it.
How do you consume CBD?
I started using CBD for the pain in three ways – I smoke it, use it as a tincture and use it as a balm. Smoking is the most efficient way to get CBD into your blood stream and endocannabinoid system. The body produces its own cannabinoids, but doesn’t produce CBD because CBD is a phytocannabinoid and only produced in plants not in the body. If you smoke it, it gets quickly into your system and gives your whole body a feeling of wellness.
A tincture (sublingual) is also very efficient. You have to let it sit under your tongue and absorb – don’t swallow it – and it will be very effective and gets into the system right away.
The right balms that have the appropriate amount of CBD that you apply topically directly to the injured area are tremendously effective. CBD has absolutely has helped me – I could be a poster child for this product.
Is it safe to say CBD has worked for you?
I have more steel in my body, scars all over, a torn rotator cuff, you name it. Over the last 3 years since starting using CBD regularly, I’ve never felt better in my life. I wouldn’t be running up and down those fields like I am. Towards the end of the season I was using the aid of a stick to walk through the fields, and I’m almost off of that by now.
The pain I had in my ankle was changing my whole quality of life. I got used to the pain, I lived with it for years, and I could suck it up. But it got to the point where it wasn’t so much the pain that was getting to me, it was the fact that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. What’s the sense in having an ankle if you can’t walk on it?
Are there regulations on what CBD products can & cannot say for marketing?
FDA is still of the stance that it isn’t lawful to put CBD into edibles or dietary supplements. Well if it is “not lawful,” then it is illegal. They aren’t actively enforcing it – edibles are everywhere – but the only thing the FDA is enforcing right now are claims about CBD that are not substantiated. For instance, a brand or grower cannot say “this product can help with arthritis or diabetes or any kind of disease.” A brand can talk about how it may help with relaxation, inflammation, sleep issues, but nothing more medically specific.
I appreciate where the FDA is coming from, in this particular instance. They don’t want people to ignore conventional medicine because they’re using CBD. If you look at this mindset in relation to COVID – CBD helps boost your immunity, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear a mask and take other steps to prevent COVID. Same goes for people with diabetes – they can’t say “oh I won’t take my insulin, I have CBD.”
But CBD is definitely something to use with the other medicines to encourage overall wellness. I strongly believe CBD helps your immune system. I’m as healthy as a horse and my ankle has responded incredibly well since I started using it.
How quickly did you see an improvement when you started taking CBD regularly?
For the degree of pain I had, I saw significant improvement in 6 months. It takes time, but people today want instant gratification. Two things happen that negatively impact opinions on CBD. One: people take an oxycodone painkiller that works almost immediately in terms of masking the pain, but not treating the problem. Two: they use CBD in the wrong dosage – 500mg in a topical or tincture, is just not enough.
Some brands charge $120 for a 1oz bottle that might have 500-1000mg of CBD, and it’s never going to work for anyone. People get disenchanted with it and they call it snake oil and abandon the entire concept of CBD.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of snake oil out there, and this is what we as an industry need to combat and spread the word about. And we need to create products that are effective.
Overall, we need a trade association and to organize CBD as an industry. Right now it’s the wild wild west. We are having growing pains. But where there’s money, there’s a will – and there’s money out there. It’s just going to take time.
When are you most in your flow state?
When I get into my flow state, you’ll be the first one to know. Because I haven’t gotten there yet. I’ll send you a text message! Don’t expect to get it or see it anytime soon. We are going 24/7, we are constantly adjusting, we are constantly fine tuning and educating ourselves about the laws and sustainability, and trying to produce the best product that is out there. Until we get all of that accomplished there will be no flow – just go!