The price of milk has been plummeting and although Kimball Brook Farm was named Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year in 2011, Cheryl DeVos and her husband JD wanted to try something different. The two continue to run the North Ferrisburgh farm and their Hinesburg-based creamery, but they have diversified by creating a variety of teas and lemonades infused with CBD and will soon be adding two-ounce energy shots to the mix.
Cheryl and JD purchased the farm from his father in 2001. Their first order of business was to expand the herd from 80 to 200 cows. After that, they built a milking parlor and got their milk certified organic. They decided to do their own bottling and in 2012, they opened the Green Mountain Organic Creamery in Hinesburg. But the creamery was only being used three days a week, so in 2016, the couple decided to add some new lines, starting with green tea with mint and black tea with lemon. Cheryl’s son-in-law had been working for Vermont Hemp Company and he suggested they add cannabidiol, or CBD isolate, to their products with all the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) removed. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. CBD is a natural remedy that is legal in Vermont and used to treat pain, anxiety and other issues.
The couple have since expanded their beverage roster to include CBD-infused maple, ginger, strawberry-ginger and blueberry lemonades. In addition to the two original teas, they have added an Arnold Palmer, which is half black tea and half maple lemonade, both with CBD isolate.
Now 55, Cheryl didn’t grow up farming. She was raised mostly in California and describes herself as a city girl.
“I really wanted to be part of farming,” she said, “and I got to make my dream come true.”
When Cheryl and JD married, he was working as a trucker but they agreed that working on the farm was more conducive to family life than having him on the road. Cheryl studied to be a teacher but raising the kids and working on the farm took precedence.
“I run the books,” she said, “and I help with cow health and move the cows around. I really love the rural life.”
Cheryl notes that Vermont has changed quite a bit over time. She and JD have decided to plant 40 acres of hemp this year.
“At one point, Vermont was all sheep farmers,” she said, “and then it was all dairy. Maybe now it will move to hemp.”
Kimball Brook Farm milk is sold across the Northeast and the company also has a distributor in New York City. Locally, their teas and lemonades are sold at businesses like Lantman’s, Shelburne Market, Healthy Living, City Market and small natural food and grocery stores. They are currently developing a new 2 ounce energy drink that will not need to be refrigerated. Containing 20 mg of CBD, it will come in four flavors: elderberry, apple ginger, orange turmeric and spirulina.
Cheryl notes that there have been a number of changes in laws pertaining to CBD so the couple has to keep tabs on states to make sure their products can be sold legally. Cheryl said Maine initially allowed the products, then had them pulled from the shelves and subsequently voted to allow their sales again.
“We’re looking for clarification,” she said.
Cheryl expects the CBD business to grow from $2.5 billion to $25 billion in five years.
“It’s the wild west out there,” she said. “It’s exciting and nerve-wracking.”