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Hemp Grower Spotlight: Natascha Neptune

Natascha Neptune is the CEO and founder of Citadelle Green Mountain, a hemp farm based in the southside of Chicago that focuses on cannabinoid hemp research and industrial uses for hemp.

Neptune has a background in mechanical engineering with experience in automation engineering. After her father passed away from cancer, she turned to urban farming as a form of therapy, and that interest extended to hemp once cannabis was legalized in Illinois.

With the new opportunities in Illinois, Neptune was initially interested in growing high-THC cannabis, but she faced difficulties that led her to industrial hemp and hemp research instead. “Based on my experience, it has been very challenging and very difficult for African Americans to enter into high-THC cannabis, so I pivoted and started doing a lot more research into all the things you can do with hemp, not just growing hemp flower, but the industrial uses for the plant,” Neptune said.

Neptune now acts as a grower-cooperator in research through the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An educator at the university received a North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) partnership grant, which funds the research.

As a grower-cooperator, Neptune sources hemp seed from a variety of companies and evaluates the varieties’ performance in the Midwest. The data from the grower-cooperators is sent to the researchers where it becomes part of the Midwestern Hemp Database (MHD), which anyone can freely access online.

“It’s a way to build standardization across the industry when it comes to sampling hemp plants and understanding THC levels,” Neptune explained. “Farmers had the opportunity to select from a list of different strains to grow on their property, and they follow the plant along the growing journey and document which plants did the best.”

Neptune advises others interested in growing hemp to do some personal research before entering the industry. Determining factors such as whether to grow indoors or outdoors, what seeds would be best suited to the location and what the best growing plan is are key to being a successful hemp grower.

She also encourages others to explore the various opportunities with industrial hemp, such as using hemp fiber for commercial goods like flooring or furniture. “I think the sky’s the limit with what you can do with hemp,” Neptune said.

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