At Flora Sophia we pride ourselves on having control of every part of the process that begins with the hemp seeds and ends with you enjoying our full spectrum CBD products. There’s a lot of work and a lot of care that goes into our process. We’d like to share that with you.
Even before our hemp seeds went in the ground, we had to decide the hemp genetics we wanted to use to get the right seeds. There is a wide variety of hemp strains that all have their own concentrations and expressions of the hundreds of cannabinoids in the plant.
When we began back in 2017, there were only a handful of people making seeds. They were mostly in Colorado and Oregon. Our process started by identifying the most trustworthy source: plant scientists working at the University of Oregon who were exceptional specialists at plant breeding.
Seed breeding is nuanced and challenging and it was well worth all the time, effort, and other resources we dedicated to getting this right. Especially since the market subsequently became flooded with descendent generations of seeds from breeders focused on volume rather than quality or concentrated strains for distillate rather than top quality hemp for full spectrum product. The result was a host of exceptional strains with top quality and meaningful diversity. That was our humble beginning.
Let It Grow
Once we have the seeds, the next step is germination. Germination is the planting and sprouting of the seed. Flora Sophia uses a local greenhouse in Ashland, Oregon to germinate.
The seeds spend about four weeks or so at that location until they begin growing and the plant reaches a few inches high. These are called “plant starts”. We don’t ever direct seed, which is planting the seed directly in the field. We prefer to coddle our plants at the beginning to make sure they get off to the right start.
The plant starts are then ready for planting in the field. This part is done by hand. It takes a couple days and is a careful time because it’s a shock for a plant to get transplanted, and it is still vulnerable. In the ground they are fed organic nutrients such as kelp mixtures, fish (for nitrogen), among other nutrients and water. We manage mold and pest control carefully, ensuring an organic approach to the control process. The plants are tended to in this way for about four to five months, at which point they are ready for harvest.
The plants are harvested by cutting them from the lower stalk and then are immediately dried. We slow-dry all our hemp plants over a four-to-seven-day period for each batch. We do this in greenhouses to further protect the plant. This is like curing the plants in a slow cooker. In contrast, many producers use large machines in order to dry their plants in 24 hours or less. That is an efficient process, however it risks burning the plant or changing the chemical composition.
Once our plants are dried, they are shucked to remove the leaf and the bed from the plant material. The plant material is then discarded and just the leaf and bud remain, called the “brown plant material”.
Extraction is the process of removing the cannabinoids from the brown plant material. We begin by grinding up the brown plant material. That ground material is placed into a wash. At Flora Sophia we use a cold wash ethanol system to extract with chilled ethanol (alcohol).
Once placed in the wash, the alcohol reacts with the brown plant material in a physical reaction that naturally separates the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes from the brown plant material into the alcohol. These materials are alcohol soluble. We use chilled alcohol because we don’t want things like chlorophyl, fats, and waxes to be extracted as well, which happens in a heated wash.
Next, the alcohol is evaporated so that only the components we want remain. We use a low temperature process that maintains a temperature sufficient to evaporate the alcohol but not so hot that it changes the plant constituents, decarboxylates it, or burns it. This is an extremely slow process that can take days.
This is in contrast to other methods that are faster but risk the quality and integrity of the compounds. This extracted material is then heated to a certain temperature and agitated over a prescriptive period of time. This is called decarboxylation. The resulting compound is called FECO.
As an aside, before the oil is decarboxylated, it is in the form of CBDA. CBDA is an acid form. It is the decarboxylation process (heating and agitation process over time) that results in CBD and CBG. Both are active and both have different properties to the cannabinoids—it’s just a different molecule. The same is true for THC, which is in the form of THCA before decarboxylation.
Back to FECO. FECO is what we dilute into organic MCT oil and put directly in the tincture bottle, mold into gummies, or make into salve in the right dilutions to get the product that we have ready to deliver to you.
As you can tell, everything in our process happens slowly, with care, and at lower temperatures. Heat can speed up operations and it dries plant materials faster and decarboxylates faster and allows for greater throughput. But it has consequences. It can evaporate terpenes or toast and burn the oil, among other negative consequences. And when this happens, modifications are needed down the road, further taking the final products away from the original compounds found in the hemp plant.
At Flora Sophia, our job is to bring the plant directly to you as close to the way we found it as possible.