Out in the Mojave Desert, a hemp farm is stirring in the dry wind. After inking a partnership last year and trying out a small-scale crop experiment, the teams at Glass House Farms and Cadiz Inc. are watching their first real attempt at the industry come to fruition.
Together, the two companies formed SoCal Hemp Co.
Graham Farrar, president of Glass House Farms, says that hemp offers many relatively inexpensive opportunities to learn more about the cannabis plant.
“I look at things through the lens of cannabinoid products,” he says. “We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what cannabinoids are all about.”
Hemp, of course, is legally defined to exclude anything higher than 0.3% THC content. But every other cannabinoid is fair game. And while CBD has the spotlight right now, Farrar points to minor cannabinoids like CBC, CBN and CBG as notable compounds that will play a role in new product innovation. Zooming out further, there are untold possibilities for additional cannabinoid development (alongside breeding hemp varieties for specific terpene and flavonoid profiles). The opportunities are vast.
To accomplish that, Glass House Farms partnered with publicly traded water supplier Cadiz Inc. in 2019. The company owns 9,600 fertile acres in the Mojave Desert, all sitting atop a natural aquifer. Farrar says that Cadiz boasts the land, water and sunshine required for agriculture on this scale; Glass House brings the operational expertise. The two companies will split proceeds from future hemp sales.
Last fall, the company harvested its first trial crop, answering an important question: Can hemp thrive in the Mojave?
Turns out, it can.
“We are pleased with the results of our research trial this quarter as it served as an important proof of concept for our new hemp-focused venture,” Scott Slater, CEO and president of Cadiz Inc. and member of the SoCal Hemp board, said in a public statement at the time. “We sought to test whether we could farm a sun-grown, organic hemp product at Cadiz and we now are confident that hemp can be successfully cultivated in this desert environment.”
This spring, the SoCal team planted 250 acres of nine different hemp varieties with an eye toward harvest in August or September. Farrar cites Legendary Blend as one variety that holds a great deal of promise. Other varieties, like CBG-dominant
For Farrar and Glass House Group, the SoCal Hemp venture represents a chance to hone outdoor cultivation skills and cannabis genetics selection that may help them back in the THC-rich cannabis market. Hemp regulations—including the federally blessed USDA interim final rule—offer a more wide-open landscape for experimentation. License applications are less involved; the cost of participating in the market, at a scale like Glass House Group’s, allows for more risk.
The idea is to develop new products from these hemp crops: smokable flower, fresh-frozen extracts, tinctures and more. The long-term plan harkens back to advice that a farmer once gave to Farrar: “Crops aren’t grown. They’re sold.” He says it’s vital that cannabis companies consider the end game for their crops.
But before all of that, he and the SoCal team need to learn more about growing hemp at a large scale in the first place. “You can’t do that until you figure out how to cultivate, harvest and process [your crops],” Farrar says.
Even just working with the cannabis plant in an outdoor setting—that’s something different from Glass House’s 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space over in Santa Barbara.
Once this current hemp crop comes out of the ground in August or September, the SoCal team plans to start on another autoflower crop for the end of this year—a perk of the Mojave Desert climate in late fall.