One Generational Farm’s Shift into Hemp
By Olivia Carter | Photos courtesy OF HOLLOW OAK HEMP FARM
On one farm in Gladys, the soil has witnessed generations of farming—today with a young married couple and their four-year-old son, Elijah, growing hemp.
At Hollow Oak Hemp Farm, Dane and Carrie Harrison are not only keeping alive a generational legacy but also redefining the agricultural landscape with its embrace of hemp, particularly CBD (Cannabidiol), a natural remedy with a growing reputation for its health benefits.
The Harrison family has owned the 175 acre farm land since 1917 when it was primarily used for tobacco farming.
“It’s been passed down throughout the years and now belongs to Dane’s parents,” Carrie said. “When Dane was growing up it was used for tobacco farming.”
Hemp is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is among the fastest growing plants on Earth.
Its usage in the United States dates back to the first American settlements in Jamestown in 1616 when it was used to produce clothing, rope, and sails. In 1631 it became a legal form of currency and could be used to pay taxes, the Harrisons said.
After centuries of being grown in North America for its fibers, hemp was banned in the United States because it is made from one of the same plant species as marijuana.
The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill created an opportunity for the Harrisons to begin farming hemp, opening the door to a new era of farming that focuses on the cultivation of industrial hemp, or hemp for medicinal and industrial purposes.
Both Dane and Carrie studied at Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg) and have degrees in business marketing and graphic design and they had always wanted to go into business together.
“We had kind of been watching hemp for several years and we’d always been natural-minded and dependent on natural remedies,” Carrie said.
She said this decision was spurred on by personal experience, an appreciation for nature’s gifts, and a strong desire to provide a holistic alternative to traditional healthcare.
“CBD is really known for its anti-inflammatory effects and it’s good for pain and anxiety,” Carrie said. “We started using it before we started growing it.”
Their journey with hemp started when they began using CBD on their dog’s arthritis.
In 2019 they planted 12,000 hemp plants on the farm, with their 17-day-old son, Elijah, alongside them. These first years were a learning curve, teaching them the intricacies of hemp cultivation, the impacts of weather, and farming life, Dane said. Dane’s brothers and father worked alongside Dane and Carrie during those first few years—the whole family learning the intricacies of hemp farming.
In 2020, they invested in a greenhouse, which allowed them to start their own hemp plants from seeds, providing a more controlled environment and a better start to the growing season.
“It’s a lot of work,” Carrie said. “So we’re always taking care of plants during the growing season, harvesting and drying plants, making products, creating labels.”
Their product line includes CBD tinctures as well as a range of CBD-infused offerings such as hand and body creams, sugar scrubs, roll-ons, bath bombs, bath salts, wellness gummies, lip balms, and slow-cured hemp flowers.
The Harrisons said it’s important to know that hemp, although related to marijuana, does not have the psychoactive properties associated with its cousin. Hemp contains high CBD and low THC—the psychoactive compound—whereas marijuana contains high THC and low CBD. This means that CBD, the active ingredient in hemp, does not produce the “high” associated with marijuana.
“It’s non-psychoactive and so a lot of people do get confused with that and automatically think it’s marijuana,” Dane said. “Things are changing all the time and people are starting to realize but there are still a lot of people that still see it like that.”
They said there is a common misconception that hemp and marijuana are one and the same. Hemp is primarily cultivated for its industrial and medicinal uses, while marijuana is primarily used for recreational and psychoactive purposes. Hemp’s CBD-rich content has been found to offer various health benefits, including relief from chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, seizures, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
Hollow Oak Hemp Farm sells its products at the Lynchburg Community Market, the Appomattox Farmers Market, and the Rustburg Farmers Market.
The Harrisons are continually exploring new offerings based on community needs and feedback.
“We’re always looking to make new products,” Carrie said. “We really keep an eye out for what people are looking for and are always taking that into account and trying to grow based on what people’s needs are.”
Dane said many customers have shifted toward natural remedies for a variety of ailments, finding relief from inflammatory issues, pain, anxiety, and sleep problems.
“It’s really rewarding,” he said. “So many people are getting help and healing and are really getting a lot of relief from products they didn’t realize were there.”
He said coming back to the farm has given his family flexibility to spend time together even through the hard work.
“Our son is a big part of what we do,” Dane said. “He’s the driving force for us and is included in everything we’ve done. He’s grown up on the farm and has been here through it all.”