November 30, 2021

Hemp industry grows in Cortland

Former Main Street lumber business gets new life as processing plant

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Allan Gandelman stands in front of his property on south Main Street in Cortland with a future in hemp processing. Gandelman, an owner of Main Street Farms, sees a booming industry for hemp processing here in Cortland with farmers across the state already lining up for his business.

What once was home to a lumber business on the south end of Cortland will see new life with a new industry — hemp processing — adding up to 45 jobs by the end of the year.

The former JTS Lumber Inc, at 185 Main St., has sat vacant since it closed in February 2017. In December, Allan Gandelman, an owner of Main Street Farms, bought the building. His plan: expand his growing business.

“The little farm office was getting too small,” Gandelman said.

However, besides expanding office space, Gandelman has other plans — turn the existing four buildings, around 40,000 square feet, into a hemp processing site.

His announcement follows the recent announcement of a 300,00-square-foot processing plant planned for Kirkwood, Broome County.

The new jobs created at Gandelman’s processing plant would be entry-level warehouse and processing jobs. All employees would be trained, Gandelman said.

Gandelman contracted Lyme Disease in 2017, and began using cannabidiol or CBD oil from a hemp plant to treat pain.

Shortly after, Gandelman acquired permits and began growing hemp at Main Street Farms’ location at Reed Seeds on Route 215 in Cortlandville.

There are three types of industrial hemp, Gandelman said:

• Grain, which is grown for the seeds to use in food products and hempseed oil.
• Fiber used for fabric and clothing.
• CBD oil used to treat certain pain and inflammation.

The CBD oil is the type of hemp Main Street Farms is growing on Route 215 in Cortlandville. It’s also the type that the hemp-processing business will work with.

Processing the plant begins with drying it out and stripping all the leaves and flowers from the stem. The flowers and leaves are ground down and soaked in ethanol to draw out the CBD oil. The ethanol is then filtered and evaporated out, leaving the pure oil.

Industrial hemp is the same genus and species as marijuana, but has less than 0.3 percent of THC, the chemical that causes the high. Hemp does look and smell a lot like marijuana, but will not provide a high.

“First off we’re very happy the JTS building is being repurposed in a way to generate jobs and tax dollars,” said Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency.

The building could have stayed vacant for years, if Gandelman hadn’t shown interest in it, VanGorder said. Using the building opens up a specialty agricultural crop and centralizes it in Cortland.

The former JTS building is being renovated. The streetfront part of the building has been refurbished as office space. A room to the side will serve as bathrooms and a locker and clean room.

Employees will have to clean and wear scrubs before heading into two processing rooms, Gandelman said. While not mandatory yet, wearing scrubs helps meet similar regulations used in nutritional supplements manufacturing.

“It’s to not only get ahead, but for quality and safety,” he said. “We want it to be the best.”

Farmers have already contacted the business to arrange for processing, Gandelman said, both locally and across the state.

“From the Catskills to the Tug hill,” he said. “Even the Hudson Valley. Across the state.”

Gandelman said the business is a benefit to all farmers. “We should, as farmers, build a facility to help other farmers,” he said.

There is also an economic impact. Gandelman expects by the end of the year — once the facility is up and fully operational — to add around 45 jobs. He did not have projected revenue.

He has already put several million dollars into the project and his hemp business. He expects the return to be much larger.

“The hemp industry will be bringing in this year anywhere from $50 million to $100 million” statewide, he said. It could become one of the state’s top 10 agriculture commodities.