The primary authorized hemp farm in Texas presents an interactive have a look at the plant

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This article first appeared on Texas Highways. Click here to view the article in its original format.

On a rural farm road on the outskirts of Bergheim, 40 minutes north of San Antonio, lies the green pasture where the first legal hemp farm in Texas is operated. At Texas First Hemp, visitors can peek inside the farm, demystify the stigma, and buy samples on the way out.

Owners Jennifer and Austin Ruple were some of the first to get a permit to grow hemp after Texas law passed House Bill 1325 in June 2019 that legalized hemp growing in Texas. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, a compound known to cause psychoactive effects. The Ruples mainly focus on cannabidiol, or CBD, a naturally occurring extractable compound found in hemp plants. Hemp has been used in everything from soaps, clothing, and diapers to paper, food, and building materials.

Licensed in the spring of 2020 shortly after the COVID-19 hit, the Ruples were the first in the state to plant seeds that grew into the first legal hemp plants in Texas.

“People think of this industry and they think of long hair and hats, but it’s all about integrity,” says Austin. “It’s all overboard. It’s getting more popular and so much more mainstream. “

Now that these seeds have bloomed into 8 foot plants with leaves and buds, they are ready to be harvested, and the Ruples have opened the farm for touring. While nearby Fredericksburg draws wine lovers, those with an appreciation for hemp get a behind-the-scenes look at the process.

Austin walks guests through the plant’s life cycle from seedling to harvest and explains the differences in THC levels between hemp and its cousin, marijuana, which contains up to 30% THC. He tells visitors how the plants are cultivated, as well as the Texas Department of Agriculture’s strict standards that must be met to stay in business. “Our goal is to serve and educate,” says Austin.

The tours that began this summer draw a diverse crowd including motorcycle clubs, parents with their young children, and other hemp farmers looking for tips and tricks. Throughout the harvest season, which runs through late October, guests can help select and cut stems ready to hang and dry on the property.

New plants will go into the ground in November. Austin says he’ll continue the tours year round so people can follow the process and see where their hemp products are coming from.

He demonstrates techniques to kill unhealthy plants and to grow and prune the plants properly, and he shares some of the challenges he faced in the first year, such as worms and bud rot. Guests can touch and smell the difference between cannabis strains with names like Titan, The Wife, Trump 2, and Cherry Bubblegum. And the Ruples encourage people to bring their own picnic to enjoy under the farm’s sprawling oak trees.

The Ruples have been in the CBD business for years. Through their company Pur IsoLabs, they have formulated custom CBD products with hemp from Kentucky and Oregon. Now this farm gives them the opportunity to grow and manufacture purely Texan products.

Austin says they intend to dry several thousand pounds of hemp at a time, and other local hemp farmers have agreed to bring their crops to Ruples Farm for drying and processing. The farm received their processing license in September which allows them to extract on site. It will likely be the first fully vertical hemp and CBD operation in the state to grow, harvest, dry, extract, formulate and manufacture CBD and hemp products in one place.

After the tours, guests linger in the shop, which sells CBD lotions, hemp flowers, balms, oils, beverage tinctures, and candy bars. Dizzy laughter echoes through the air as people taste the previously forbidden fruits. But Ruple, who began his career as a peanut farmer, is happy to answer questions on his mission to destigmatize the industry and distribute products he believes will promote the health and wellbeing of the Texans who need them.

ESSENTIALS

Guided tours are offered from Monday to Saturday. At 11am and 5.30pm, call (830) -755-8000 to pre-book your tour or shopping appointment.

46 FM 3351, Bergheim

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