From best friends to CBG Gurus, these hemp farm owners find success in Harwinton

HARWINTON — Planting season has begun, and the CBG Gurus — Shawn Magill and Jacob Honig — are working their land for a late-summer crop of hemp.

Since the legalization of marijuana in Connecticut, allowing businesses to sell and grow the plant, products from hemp plants have also grown in popularity. The hemp and marijuana are both cannabis plants, but hemp doesn’t have the same the “intoxicating” levels of THC found in marijuana. Hemp does, however, have properties that can be helpful for people with anxiety, insomnia and trouble concentrating, Magill said.

Seeing an opportunity to invest himself in producing hemp to smoke or use in a tincture, Magill set about learning everything he could about growing it and creating products with his own crop. A graduate of Northern Michigan University, he has a degree in medicinal plant chemistry “with an entrepreneurial track,” he said.

“I knew I was going to go into the industry,” Magill said.

Honig attended George Washington University and studied international affairs.

“I was thinking about the Peace Corps, or maybe the state department … but I saw things happening, and I wasn’t sure,” he said.

Both men have known each other for many years, and are Lewis Mills High School graduates. When Magill approached Honig and asked him to join his venture, he happily said yes.

“For a while, I was saying I’d do this after I retired, but we decided to start this company ourselves, the CBG Gurus,” Magill said. “When Jake came on, it was pretty exciting.”

The hemp farm

The process of creating products starts on a half-acre of land on the Magill family property — an old apple orchard which is quite flat, with plenty of sunshine. Magill and Honig knew they wanted to grow their own plants and ordered several varieties of hemp seeds and seedlings from a grower out of state.

Their growing and irrigation systems are sustainable and organic, they said. They don’t use any chemicals to protect the plants from insects, choosing instead to introduce aphid-eating predatory mites, for example, to keep the aphids away.

Magill and Honig also decided not to till the soil with a tractor. Instead, they lay sheets of cardboard — collected from a nearby BJ’s. On top of the cardboard, the farmers place about 8 inches of wood chips, which is dropped off by local tree cutters and landscapers. When the baby hemp plants are planted, they draw nutrients from the soil below and the decomposing chips above, Magill said.

“This way, we’ve got a start on next year, and the soil will get better each year,” he said, as he scooped some soil with his hands and examined it.

“I see a worm in there, that’s great,” Honig said. “We love to see worms.”

To keep their plants well-watered, the partners also designed a drip-type irrigation system, using rain runoff from the roof of the house. Flexible plastic pipes were installed at the mouth of each of the house’s drainpipes, which drain the rainwater underground into the back yard and into two large water tanks. A small pump station draws the rainwater from the tanks into a maze of tubing on top of each bed of plants.

Magill and Honig dug every ditch, channel and hole for the drip irrigation and the beds, and distributed about 625 cubic yards of wood chips by hand, Honig said.

“The property has about 6 or 7 farmable acres, and right now we’re only using about a half acre,” Magill said. “There’s lots of possibilities, and we can keep making it bigger.”

Magill and Honig’s first harvest last year resulted in hundreds of buds, or “flowers” as Magill calls them, which are stored in special barrels until they are packaged for sale or used to make “bubble hash,” a powdered concentrate that is sold as a smokeable product. After buying specialized equipment to extract the properties of the plants, the partners began experimenting with different types of hemp and perfecting their methods of creating the powdery hash.

TheCBGGurus also sells “pre-rolls” in an easy-to-carry tube and containers of various varieties of buds for smoking. Packaging for their products was created by Calyx Containers and is selling well on their website, they said. They recently began selling products at Rooted Market in Winsted and aim for dispensaries around the country.

Hemp vs. marijuana

Understanding the difference between CBG and the more well-known CBD, Magill said, is understanding what each plant produces and what it does. Why is hemp different from marijuana?

Magill explained on, “CBG stands for Cannibigerol, a very unique molecule synthesized by cannabis plants. CBG is often referred to as the base or ‘mother’ cannabinoid because it is the first cannabinoid formed in cannabis plants. The other cannabinoids, of which there are over 100 known, are all subsequently synthesized from CBG making it not only an extremely unique molecule but one with lots of potential.”

He said when these cannabinoids enter the body, they interact with what’s known as the endocannabinoid system, which is linked to regulation of activities associated with the central nervous and inflammatory systems — systems which together span the entirety of a human body.

Some research has shown the potential usefulness of CBG in fighting anxiety, inflammation, irritable-bowel syndrome, glaucoma and pain, Magill said. CBG is non-drowsy and can be thought of as more “uplifting” compared to a “relaxing” large dose of CBD.

‘Trying to help people’

The CBG Gurus hemp farm is regulated by the state. The company had to apply for grower and manufacturing permits. They have also received their USDA Organic and Clean Green Cannabis certifications.

Local zoning regulations won’t allow them to convert the footprint of their property into a local marijuana operation, but that’s OK for now, the partners said.

The work to get the company up and running was back-breaking and frustrating at times, but Honig and Magill realized they were committed and driven to succeed.

“After we got started, we realized our product’s quality,” Magill said. “We both wanted to really figure out the best way to do this; if you don’t grow this the best way you can, why bother?”

“And we’re trying to help people with their health,” Honig said. “It’s completely worth all the hard work.”