Lumberton native turns hemp products into business, way to give back

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Jessica Horne, The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.
·4 min read
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Mar. 13—LUMBERTON — A Lumberton native has taken his place as an entrepreneur in the cannibidiol industry, with the hope of giving back to his community, hometown and people like his father-in-law who battle debilitating health conditions.

Cannibidiol, or CBD, comes from the hemp flower, and lacks the ability to induce a "high" for users. The CBD derived from industrial hemp plants is legal under United States law. The product continues to be sold across the U.S., with claims of remedying health conditions and improving moods. And Lumberton native and 1996 Lumberton High School graduate Ron Elkins has joined the market.

In December 2020, Hobgood Hemp was born, and Elkins, a partner in the business, hopes its CBD oil products will make a difference in improving the "quality of life" of people in Hobgood, in Halifax County, and other areas, like Lumberton. The company is filling orders for products like CBD cream and oil, with the hope of making more marketing connections. Hemp grown at David Mayer Farms is used for CBD production.

Elkins said benefits from the hemp plant were realized after his father-in-law, David Mayer, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease more than a decade ago. He began using the oil, which helped with tremors, sleeping and anxiety, Elkins said.

Mayer continues to farm and enjoy time with his grandchildren because of benefits related to the CBD oil, he said.

"To me, he's the heartbeat behind why we're doing it," Elkins said.

In 2016, Mayer participated in the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program in North Carolina, when he began growing hemp, Elkins said. In May, Mayer began to speak seriously to Elkins about selling CBD oil commercially in bulk. After some debate and initially rejecting the idea, Elkins finally agreed to help lead a quest to make a difference in the lives of others.

"We've seen so many people get help from it," Elkins said.

"We've seen it firsthand in our family," he added.

"CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don't respond to anti-seizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and in some cases it was able to stop them altogether," wrote Dr. Peter Grinspoon in an article on Harvard Health Publishing blog for Harvard Medical School.

Grinspoon teaches medicine at the medical school.

Studies have been done to test the effectiveness of CBD oil on conditions like anxiety and chronic pain, and there is still much to be learned about the products, he said.

"Without sufficient high-quality evidence in human studies we can't pinpoint effective doses, and because CBD currently is mostly available as an unregulated supplement, it's difficult to know exactly what you are getting," Grinspoon said.

The production of oil doesn't rely on many hemp plants, Elkins said. That means a little hemp goes a long way.

For example, 50 pounds of hemp flowers can produce more than 1,200 CBD products, he said.

And while Mayer's farm has enjoyed success from BaOx and Sweeten varieties of hemp, interest in Robeson county has declined, according to Mac Malloy, Agriculture agent for field crops with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center.

Interest in the crop peaked in 2019 for Robeson County, with "drastic" reduction in production seen in 2020, Malloy said.

"There was a lot of disease and insect issues," Malloy said.

Some seasoned farmers and other growers also had issues selling the crop, he said. And outdoor production proved marginal, with 50% of yield anticipated.

"It's not as easy of a crop to grow as they thought it might have been," Malloy said.

At one time in 2019, there were 18 people who held a license to grow hemp in the county, he said. Interest in 2020 had fallen off, and Malloy hasn't received phone calls recently about licenses to grow the crop.

"It was like somebody turned a switch," he said.

But studies continue into fertility of the plants and diseases, Malloy said.

"We're still building research data," he said.

Fibers from the plant can be used to make "hempcrete," a substitute for concrete, and other materials used for construction, Malloy said. Some people also eat the plant's seeds.

As far as the reemergence of interest in the county, Malloy said there is "potential."

"I think the market will drive the production," he said.

And Elkins, too, is hoping for the best as he begins the process of networking, marketing and sales.

For he and his business, Elkins says "the sky is the limit."

Elkins lives in Hobgood with his wife, Amanda, and two sons: 16-year-old Andrew and 14-year-old Jacob Elkins.

Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]