One Man’s Journey from Self-Sustenance to a Passion for Healing Others
Kyle Gruter-Curham went from science teacher to full-time farmer and is now is living the dream he never expected to be his calling. What is now Creek Valley Cannabidiol started when Kyle landed in the Northeastern Kingdom area of Vermont to study conservational ecology at Sterling College in 2006.
Here in the U.S., there are an estimated 2.2 million farms, covering an area of 922 million acres. There is agricultural activity in every state, but the bulk of it is concentrated in the Great Plains region. America is an agricultural mammoth that leads the world in seed improvement, hybridization and other modern practices in an effort to make agriculture sustainable for future generations to come. For Creek Valley Cannabidiol, Kyle started with an idea of feeding himself and his family with natural produce grown by the hard work of his own hands. Farming brings struggles, however. Sometimes the costs outweigh the returns, and there comes a time when farmers have to make a decision as to whether to continue working with their patch of earth.
Kyle explained his journey: “I began working for the Laraway School in Johnson, Vermont teaching science. During that time, I began raising my own food to become sustainable. This hobby-style farming quickly became a full-blown passion. I then moved my small farm on to 100 acres and attempted to make it economically viable. I tried many crops at this time, as well as raising various types of livestock. It was definitely a struggle to say the least. The overhead was super high, and the returns super low. I then started to gear toward crops that needed fewer inputs and had higher returns, garlic being the main one.”
Starting a farm may be relatively easy. It is the long run that decides how you grow and adapt to circumstances. Weather, pests, water supply as well as the land itself are among the many key factors that affect every farmer. Shifting from crops and including livestock can help support a farm’s growth. Kyle used all his available options to keep the farm going.
Kyle reflected, “It wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that CBD hemp caught my attention. I knew about hemp for seed and stalk production but didn’t feel it was economically viable for my farm. Large farms in Canada and other, better-suited larger and flatter areas were already farming for fiber and fuel on a huge scale. Again, as for most commodity crops, the returns were low, and overhead was high. At that time, I was watching friends harvest CBD hemp crops in Colorado. That had interested me, but I wasn’t committed to growing it yet. I began to do research on CBD as a viable product as well as the legality around it.”
For most cannabis farmers, the legal side of the business is always the first to watch out for. Although cannabis has been farmed in almost every state for a very long time, this type of venture is still not legal in many states. As of late 2018, 28 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to legalize herb in one way or another.
“I began to talk to many people about CBD and found there was a great need for it, but there were no local producers at that time. I even found a need for CBD in my family as my sister was having several seizures every day and not responding to traditional medicine. That was the the last push I needed. I then signed on to the Vermont Hemp Registry for one acre,” Kyle recounted.
The effect of CBD on improving the condition of Kyle’s sister further led him to his true calling. His sister is among the many Americans who have benefited from the natural healing powers of CBD. Growing research has shed light on its huge potential, and the U.S. FDA recently approved a CBD-derived medicine called Epidiolex as treatment for seizures.
Kyle explored and persevered. “I then began a journey to acquire the genetics I needed. They were not traditional European seed-and-stalk varieties but strains from Colorado that boasted high CBD but less than .3 percent THC content by dry weight. During the summer of 2016, I grew out 1,000 plants on one acre from clones. Clones allowed us to have a crop with no phenotype variations, ensuring our THC content would be consistent in every plant. At that time, we were also testing a few varieties to see what would do the best in Vermont. Our first crop was successful but was mostly for medicine for family and friends. After getting the medicine out, we still had quite a surplus of CBD flowers. After watching many farms selling commodities and being unable to control price points, I knew that if we wanted to be successful, we would have to create our own brand and have a unique product. I started to get amazing feedback from people using our oil and quickly knew my purpose. I then began to combine two things I was passionate about: solventless CBD oil and Kombucha to create a unique product.”
“Our goal is to increase the health of people, soil and the community through the uses of local food systems, probiotics, sustainable agriculture and cannabis. During the spring of 2017, between planting and taking clones, we started to market products, our main one being Ginger CBD Kombucha. Kombucha is also known as ‘tea mushroom,’ ‘tea fungus’ or ‘Manchurian mushroom.’ It is a fermented, slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drink, commonly sought out for its health benefits. Our Kombucha brings together the benefits of probiotics and CBD. It is handcrafted with 50 mg of solventless oil and is made from all organic ingredients. We are currently growing about 4,000 plants as a field crop and a feminized seed crop offsite in our greenhouse. We are also finishing the build-out on our CBD Kombucha Kitchen and gearing up production to move distribution to several stores.”
Creek Valley Cannabidiol has grown from Kyle’s very simple goal of self-sustenance to a full-grown passion and advocacy for healing. This only proves that when governments look at the medical and economic potential of the cannabis industry, people have a healthier, more natural option.
Kyle hopes to continue innovating and to pick up the pace with his passion for growing and healing. He has come a long way from the classroom to working under the sun, but he has always felt blessed about his decision. He concluded: “As far a hemp’s potential in Vermont, I believe it’s all about producing a crop that’s not a commodity and is marketed directly to consumers. Vermont is one of few places in the country where local food systems get tremendous support, however, it’s not just growing hemp that’s going to get farmers out of debt. It’s marketing a product from that crop and building their brand.”