With a big boost from its 531-acre Fauquier farm, a family-owned company aims to become Virginia’s top producer of hemp, legal for cultivation in the state only since March.
Just southeast of Warrenton, the property along Meetze Road will position Simply Good Hemp to grow one million pounds of crop per year by the mid-2020s, President Kamran Hakimi said.
“That’s the goal,” Mr. Hakimi, 39, said of the production target.
Through Uxbridge Holding LLC, the Hakimi family two weeks ago paid $2.6 million for the farm at 8721 Meetze Road.
Last year, the Ahmadiyya Movement Islam Inc. proposed conducting religious retreats on the property and had a contract to buy it. But, faced with fierce opposition, the group in January withdrew its special exception permit application.
Processed hemp has widespread uses, including paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable packaging, insulation, biofuel, food and animal feed. Human use of the plant dates to approximately 8,000 B.C.
Initially, Simply Good Hemp will focus on plant “extractions,” including oil, that can be incorporated into food, beverages, applied to skin and taken orally.
He uses a dropper of hemp oil per day under his tongue to ease anxiety, said Mr. Hakimi, who lives near Lorton.
“I really, truly believe in this product,” said the residential real estate investor, who in 2014 started and later sold a successful company that manufactures therapeutic prayer mats. “I use it myself and see the results of it.”
Founded in April, Simply Good Hemp has big ideas for the Fauquier farm.
Under a multimillion-dollar plan, the company early next will construct four greenhouses, totaling 17,000 to 30,000 square feet. The structures will be used to grow hemp plants from seed and clones.
It also will install a 2,200-square-foot structure for offices at the farm, where the business will be based, Mr. Hakimi said.
Next May and June, workers will plant up to 200 acres of hemp, he said.
The crop requires a state license but no county government approvals.
It will require about 40 workers to tend up to 200,000 plants. If the business expands as envisioned, Simply Good Hemp eventually could employ 75 to 100 people “on-site,” Mr. Hakimi added.
“Depending on your skillset,” workers will earn $15 to $21 per hour or more, said Business Development Director Joe Hakimi, the president’s cousin. “It’s a young company that’s willing and able.”
The farm should be a certified organic operation in three years, according to the company.
Two on-site wells will be used to irrigate the crops.
In phases over the next few years, the company plans to construct:
• A laboratory to test plants and create hemp extracts.
• A 5,000-square-foot drying facility. Hemp flowers, seeds, and portions of stems would be dried and packaged for shipment to processors.
• A 10,000-square-foot hemp processing plant.
Mr. Hakimi declined to estimate the total investment in the Fauquier property until it gets construction bids for the planned improvements.
“We have not done our due-diligence all the way,” he said.
Meeting the million-pound production mark in about six years might require leasing additional land and perhaps “partnering” with others who grow hemp, Mr. Hakimi suggested.
“This is pretty much a new venture — not just for us, but other farmers as well,” he said.
The family’s hemp farm off Route 29 in Prince William County just north of New Baltimore also will contribute to the effort.
Of the farm’s 64 acres, the company’s five workers cultivate about 10,000 hemp plants on six acres of flat land.
The family bought that farm last year for $2.2 million, Mr. Hakimi said.
Based on his research, hemp developed for cannabidiol products could generate $20,000 to $50,000 in revenue per acre, company Lead Project Manager Ryan Pirault explained Wednesday during a tour of the Prince William farm.
If those numbers pan out, the Fauquier farm could generate $4 million to $10 million in revenue during its first year.
At the high end, meticulously maintained plants — requiring intense hands-on care —could yield $100,000 per acre, Mr. Pirault said.
Using no pesticides or herbicides, workers at the Prince William farm pull weeds and pick bugs from plants, he said. They will harvest plants one-by-one with loppers and machetes.
“I’m still working out the numbers” for per-acre production costs, Mr. Hakimi said.
In December, President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp from the federal government’s controlled drug category.
To conform with federal law, the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly adopted and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in March signed legislation permitting the industrial production of hemp. That triggered a stampede to obtain state licenses to grow, process and sell the products derived from the crop.
As of July 19, the Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services had issued 897 grower, 174 processor and 45 dealer licenses statewide, according to the agency.
VDACS has issued 16 growers and four-processor licenses to Fauquier residents.
Simply Good Hemp has grower and producer licenses, Mr. Hakimi said.
“Generally, a significant number of Virginia’s hemp production fields are in Southside Virginia,” VDACS Policy Analyst Erin Williams wrote in an email. “Mecklenburg County has the most registered industrial hemp growers, with at least one production field in that county.”
Based on their applications, licensed hemp growers collectively plan to farm 10,000 acres of the crop, VDAC Communications Director Elaine Lindholm said.
“It used to be a very important crop in Virginia, until the 1930s when the federal government put it on the list of controlled substances,” Ms. Lindholm explained.
The plants’ THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) levels cannot exceed the federal government threshold of three-tenths of 1 percent.
VDAC nursery inspectors randomly will visit hemp farms and test crops, Ms. Lindholm said.
Plants that violate the THC limit must be destroyed, Ms. Lindholm said.
For that reason, hemp farming “is risky,” she said. “But, it has the potential to be a very profitable crop.”
The company will explore the gamut of hemp product opportunities, Mr. Hakimi said.
For example, he hopes to talk with Under Armour, the Baltimore-based manufacturer of footwear and sports and casual apparel about producing hemp for its products.
“We’re trying to find our path,” Mr. Hakimi said. “We want to see which road to take. Are we going to stick with tinctures? Are we going to create biodegradable straws?
“These are things that are unforeseen. But we’re working on them, slowly.”
Like many industries in their infancy, hemp farming presents unknowns, he suggested.
Mr. Hakimi likens it to the “Wild West.”