What does it take to become a farmer? Those who are successful often exhibit grit, hard work and perseverance in the face of adversity.
For Anthony Sullivan, a television pitchman, becoming a farmer has also included a huge investment, a full TV production crew and an inspiration worth fighting for.
Sullivan, best known as the spokesman for Oxiclean, has made his name in television, both on-screen and off with his production company, Sullivan Productions. It’s only right, then, that his process of starting a hemp farm from scratch be documented in its entirety for a TV series set to premiere this summer.
Last year, Sullivan and his partner, Dave Christian, purchased a 116-acre farm among the rolling hills of Plainfield, Vt., that they named MONTKUSH to begin growing organic hemp for cannabidiol (CBD).
Though neither one of them had any farming experience, Sullivan was inspired by his 9-year-old daughter, Devon, to begin making CBD.
Devon was born with a genetic disorder so rare it doesn’t have a name, and it has resulted in numerous surgeries throughout her young life. When she was 8 years old, she began taking an anti-seizure medication that Sullivan says robbed her of her outgoing personality.
“The side effects of this drug were brutal. It almost brought me to tears,” Sullivan tells Hemp Grower.
After intensive research into alternative medicines, Devon's mom suggested they try CBD to calm their daughter's seizures.
“At first, I remember thinking, ‘No way our 8-year-old little girl is going to be baked,’” Sullivan says. “But I thought about it—not for very long—and I’m like, OK, we’ve got horrible pharmaceutical medicine, or we could try plant-based medicine.”
CBD has been life-changing for Devon. It calmed her seizures and helped her sleep at night. They’ve successfully weaned her off her seizure medication, and she now takes CBD every day.
Then, on Labor Day weekend of 2018, not long after Devon first tried CBD, Sullivan was visiting a friend who owns a hemp farm. As Sullivan rode through the blooming emerald fields just before harvest, it dawned on him: He could cut through the noise of the thousands of CBD products on the shelves by just making his own.
“It occurred to me that if I did this for my daughter, it would be great to understand the whole process,” Sullivan says. “I wanted to get into the weeds and actually tried farming it myself.”
Once Sullivan’s long-time friend, Christian, was on-board as his business partner, the two packed up and moved to the farm in Vermont to begin their latest venture.
The two have invested millions into the venture, which included not only purchasing equipment but also converting on-site and nearby structures for drying, processing and storage facilities. Christian used his industrial drying background to develop a unique air-drying system for the hemp, and the two struck a deal with a nearby ice manufacturing plant to use the facility for storage. They also invested into an organic press that squeezes the oil out of the hemp without using any chemicals, resulting in a full-spectrum CBD rosin for their tinctures.
With a core team of five other farmers, Sullivan and Christian got 75,000 hemp plants into the ground and
successfully harvested by Halloween of 2019.
“With our process, we’ve tried to go as close to Mother Nature as possible,” Sullivan says. “I think not having any experience has actually helped us. We thought we’d try something different.”
Their first year of growing in 2019 was filled with successes and hardships, all of which have been documented by a full television crew who lived on the farm with Sullivan and Christian. The footage will be condensed into a 14-episode television series that documents the process of two novices becoming hemp farmers. The exact date and television network have not yet been announced.
Thom Beers, a producer and television executive who has produced Storage Wars, Deadliest Catch, 1,000 Ways to Die and more, will produce the show. Beers says he signed on to help Sullivan do what he does best: tell stories.
“Anthony and Dave are such great characters, the Vermont farm is a great setting and the CBD world is fascinating. [It’s] an awesome combination for a highly entertaining TV series,” Beers says in a news release.
Sullivan says he sees an opportunity for the cannabis industry to market itself in television, especially now that hemp is legal on a federal level.
The show will, in part, be an opportunity for the crew to showcase what it takes to bring a brand to market. In addition to tinctures, they’re also exploring topicals, gel caps and gummies.
But Sullivan and Christian also see it as an educational opportunity not only for consumers, but also for the many first-time farmers in the nascent hemp industry.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion when the average person walks into a store and looks at the myriad of CBD products available to them. They don’t know who to trust, they don’t know what’s in it, and they’re confused. What we wanted to do is help with that confusion,” Sullivan says. “We also think with CBD, there’s going to be a big educational component. We are going to give a very, very raw look at farm life, what it’s like to grow hemp and live and work a farm and also build a brand.”