Long Pond, Pennsylvania
Organic CBD products and foods
In 2021, Walsh released her CBD product line -- which includes tinctures, salves, bath bombs and body oil -- made using "the first -- and only -- regenerative organic certified hemp in the world." In addition to hemp, Pocono Organics also grows food crops on "one of the largest Regenerative Organic Certified farms in North America."
But what's Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) and how does it differ from USDA Organic certification? Walsh notes how the former "goes above and beyond the USDA-certified organic" (incorporating a host of other types of certification under its banner) to ensure soil health (as well as increased carbon sequestration), animal welfare, and social equity.
Proponents of ROC include socially-conscious companies like Dr. Bronner's and Patagonia, as well as the Rodale Institute, which describes itself on its website as being "widely recognized as a founder of the modern organic movement."
It was the nearby Rodale Institute that Walsh contacted when she conceived her farm. Walsh wanted regular, direct access to premium organic produce -- better than what was being shipped, for instance, from California to the East Coast. And she wanted to create CBD tincture from organic hemp, as well. The need was of grave importance to her.
"I can't digest most fruits, vegetables, and meats," says Walsh, who suffers from gastroparesis. "Essentially, I have to eat like a toddler and puree, [make] smoothies, soups, those kinds of things, to be able to get all my nutrients." In her personal health quest, she learned to treat food as medicine, and CBD products became part of her wellness arsenal. "I saw my quality of life improve -- undeniable results," she says. "I went from being sick five days a week to maybe five days a month."
Walsh knew where to acquire the land, in order to realize her vision for herself and the community: The 380-acre farm is situated next to -- and leased from -- Pocono Raceway, one of the largest NASCAR tracks in existence. Pocono Raceway is owned by her family, and was developed by her late grandfather, Dr. Joseph Mattioli.
The Rodale Institute has spent the past three years as a "strategic partner" of the farm, assisting 25 year-round employees (and another 25 seasonal staffers in the summer) and using it as a "satellite research location." For instance, this year's 10 acres of CBD hemp (grown using Charlotte's Web Lindorea seeds) is providing the Rodale Institute with data on how much nutrients the hemp takes from and returns to the soil, its ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and how it assists with weed suppression.
After the hemp is harvested and dried, it's sent to a nearby, organic-certified processor which uses organic ethanol to extract the full-spectrum hemp CBD oil. Another business does the nano-encapsulation, which makes the CBD water-soluble and able to enter the bloodstream quicker when it's contained within a tincture. "I take the nano-particle tincture and within four minutes I'm not nauseous and throwing-up anymore," says Walsh. "Within eight minutes, I can eat and have some ginger ale. So, for me, no pharmaceutical was ever able to do that."
The CBD product line, which was launched this year, can already be found at about 50 different retailers spread across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York: food markets; spas; and bike, ski, and running shops. And given that Pocono Organics is presently the only source of Regenerative Organic Certified hemp, Walsh says, "Our phones are ringing off the hook with different organizations that either want to source from us or collaborate with us and use it as an ingredient in their product lines or to carry ours."
The hemp products are also sold at the organic produce market -- which offers tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, potatoes, melons, and broccoli -- within Pocono Organics' 30,000-square-foot main facility. It's the same building -- attached to 40,000 square feet of greenhouse structures -- where its CBD products are formulated. And it's the location of Pocono Organics' cafe, which is overseen by Chopped champion chef Lindsay McClain. Pocono Organics also provides classes for kids and adults (including an intensive program for veterans transitioning into farming) on how to grow and cook healthy food.
The operation also provides produce for local school lunches: "In our region, 76 percent of the [school] lunches are subsidized," says Walsh; so, for the students Pocono Organics is helping to feed, "this might be the best meal they get all day."
Additionally, Pocono Organics educates tourists who visit the Pocono Mountains in order to bask in outdoor activities, giving them a tour of the farm and offering meals at its cafe. The same goes for NASCAR fans visiting the neighboring Pocono Raceway. And given that the racetrack offers camping on-site, Pocono Organics also brings its mobile farmers market there, vending its produce, as well as CBD products.
Walsh says, "I always tell people we're not a CBD company: We are a health-and-wellness organization that grows lots of nutrient-dense crops for human health. Hemp just happens to be one of those plants we grow. But, in our heart, we're a global center for research, education, and discovery. We teach people about regenerative organics, human health, planetary health -- what we can do to help in our corner of the world. And to be more preventative in our healthcare."
Challenges: "Finding out the best ways to engage and educate the community and visitors to our farm," says Walsh. "Coming up with new and innovative ways to teach them in a fun way, a relatable way."
Opportunities: Pocono Organics plans on making its own biodegradable hemp-based plastics in order to fabricate eating utensils and other products. Walsh sees large potential when it comes to the manufacturing of hemp-based plastics: "It's this huge opportunity to create a new industry, bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S."
Needs: Grant funding, so that Pocono Organics will be "able to support the research and get more machinery we need to be more efficient," says Walsh.