TWO HARBORS — When COVID-19 hit and the bottom fell out of the specialty herbs and microgreens market for restaurants, farmers Patrick Finnegan and Eric Pollard were more than ready. Friends for decades, they have formed and transformed Finnegan’s Farm several times since it started in 2006.
Outside of Two Harbors, not far from the shores of Lake Superior, this 31-acre farm sits nestled in the woods. Just over five of the acres are planted on the farm, all in sturdy and weatherproof raised beds made from recycled garage doors, thanks to Patrick’s father. Last year there were six beautiful greenhouses, but three of them were destroyed in a storm and are now being rebuilt.
Instead of bursting with Thai basil, sweet basil, Cuban basil, cilantro, purple sage, English thyme and French thyme, they now overflow with craft hemp plants, “the girls” as they call them. In the hemp world, it’s the unfertilized female plants that produce the buds and flowers that are the focus these days for their oil.
And the processing building that used to package herbs and microgreens, like rock chive, arugula, red Russian kale, sunflower shoots and pea shoots, now handles hemp processing…resulting in CBD gummies.
Patrick and Eric planted their first craft hemp in the spring of 2019 and packaged their first gummies in February 2020. It’s been a booming business ever since.
Who would have thought that far northern Minnesota would be a place where all this could flourish? Well, that’s part of the reason for writing this column. I’m telling the story of the amazing things that grow here, even in our short growing season. We have sunshine, long days and water, a very scarce resource in many other places.
Patrick and Eric are cheerleaders for locally grown food, locally-raised animals, and local farming in general. They’re also experimenting with Manitoba dwarf white sweet corn. The results look good for our climate!
Patrick grew up in a mining community, played professional hockey abroad and spent his off-time working in greenhouses in the Netherlands, developing his love of growing. When he retired back to the United States, he had saved up enough to buy this farm and pursue his dream.
Growing craft hemp for CBD oil is a booming business. Even in northern Minnesota, it’s possible to get two outdoor crops per year. It takes a special state permit to do this, and a fair amount of experimentation to get just the crop you want.
Patrick and Eric grew some 16-foot hemp last year and learned about the North
Shore’s wind capabilities. This year’s plants are much more stout and full of flowers on the
September day when I visited.
All of the hemp products sold by Finnegan’s Farm are grown, harvested, extracted, formulated and packaged on the farm. They are third-party tested and yield full-spectrum CBD oil complete with the essential oils. This type of hemp has a legally required and inspected low level of THC and is related to the “industrial” hemp grown for fiber.
This farm takes pride in using all-natural methods: soil amendments, excellent compost, and supplements like glacial rock dust. They know that soil health is where it all begins. They’ve experimented enough to climatize a number of varieties to this northern
Minnesota temperature range.
They buy all of their supplies as locally as possible, and they plant, harvest and extract by hand. Finnegan’s Farm uses ice water extraction to yield the CBD oil. It’s considered a purer method of extraction than extraction using butane or CO2. The only thing used is water and the well water at the farm is cold enough that they don’t even have to add much ice.
Finnegan’s Farm works with Oregon CBD, a hemp seed research and development company affiliated with Oregon State University. Founded in 2015, they operate with a federal permit in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. They specialize in research and in providing non-GMO hemp seeds for production.
They also produce CBG seeds (CBG stands for cannabigerol), which is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis plants, including the hemp plants used to produce hemp oil. It is thought to offer many of the same benefits as CBD (cannabidiol) and perhaps more. Stay tuned! Finnegan’s Farm is experimenting with this.
Patrick’s brother helped them clear an area of deadwood for more raised beds in June 2019. That wood may now provide heat for the three replacement greenhouses being constructed now. The three still-standing greenhouses aren’t heated, but they are well-ventilated to deal with mold challenges.
And they play classical music for the girls. Patrick tells me that the plant closest to the speaker in the largest greenhouse was stunted and bedraggled-looking when they started experimenting with music by playing “bad rock.” She recovered completely with classical music, so that’s what the girls get now.
Consumers buy CBD products for a variety of reasons, mostly related to relief from chronic pain, anxiety, PTSD and sleep challenges. If you want to explore the potential health benefits, Harvard Medical School has a good review of current research on CBD for a variety of conditions at www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-knowand what-we-dont-2018082414476.
Finnegan’s Farm customers give their gummies a thumbs up! You can find Finnegan’s Farm CBD Gummies at the main Super One in Virginia, the Super One stores in the Duluth area (at the service counter if you’re 18 or older), and Dan’s Feed Bin in Superior. You can also order them online at www.finnegansfarm. myshopify.com. Follow Finnegan’s Farm on Facebook at www.facebook.com/finnegansfarmtwoharbors.
Marlise Riffel lives in Virginia, but she grew up in Illinois with farming relatives. She is a board member of the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability.