When it comes to the fast-growing hemp industry, the Murphy-based Doyle family does it all. They farm, press seed, breed hemp strains, buy, sell and trade hemp seeds and crops, develop products, facilitate online sales — and sell CBD products from their three Murphy Hemp and Wellness stores in Josephine County.
The family is also deeply committed to educating both producers and consumers about hemp cultivation and the myriad uses for CBD products. For the Doyles, hemp is a passion that’s personal.
“We’ve seen a lot of our family members transformed by CBD hemp healing properties,” said 21-year-old Luke Doyle, who grew up in the business and now runs the farming operation. “So we want to help others succeed in this industry, and we want the community to be in good health.
“We take pride in growing high-quality hemp and producing best-in-class CBD products — though our goals aren’t about becoming a huge money-making machine, “ he added. “We mainly want the products to be available to people.”
“This past year many retailers raised their prices, but we lowered ours,” said Eli Doyle, older than Luke by two years, who manages sales and oversees the stores located in Grants Pass, Merlin and Murphy.
“We stick to hemp-related products because of the wider customer base,” Eli said. “Only 20 percent of the population enjoys the feeling of a THC high. Also, people who can’t tolerate THC, the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana, usually do fine with CBD products, which just has tiny traces of THC. Pretty much everybody can tolerate CBD.
Stronger marijuana strains might have 20 to 30 percent THC content; and ‘one-to-one’ cannabis strains have equal amounts of CBD and THC. But government-sanctioned CBD hemp must test at 0.3 percent THC or lower. “Typically all our products are below .3 percent THC,” Eli said.
The father of the clan, Kit Doyle, was one of the first to grow hemp in Oregon after the prohibition was partially lifted in 2014, according to his sons.
“We started in agriculture in 2009, after the housing market collapse,” Luke said. “Dad was a home developer and there wasn’t any work.”
Doyle initially started a seed-pressing business: growing or buying and then cold pressing pumpkin, camelina and sunflower seeds. “That company is still going strong,” Eli said. “I ran our first single-head cold expeller press at 13.
“That business got us into hemp,” he added. “We learned how hemp seed oil is really good for you, with all the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.”
Now, many of the Doyle’s CBD products have a hemp seed oil base.
“Research tells us that CBD works better when taken with omega 3s and 6s. A lot of people use MCT, alcohol or glycerin as a base for tinctures, but a cold-pressed oil base works better with the body. You just get more out of it.”
“Dad founded the business, and he passed it on to us to run,” Eli said. “He works behind the scenes now, but he’s involved with the big picture and is always there to advise us.”
Lisa Doyle, mother of Luke, Eli and three more children, handles finance and bookkeeping; while Seraiah, one of the sisters, works in the stores. Luke’s wife, Zaruba, is involved in production; and the farm itself is located on another family member’s land.
“The business helps keep the whole family tied together,” Luke said.
The farm crew, which includes family friends, swells to a dozen people during busy periods; and the stores employ another six people.
So how do the Doyle’s make decisions?
“We have meetings when there’s time. It’s pretty much consensus-based, but we really just have these rap sessions and try to respect each other’s opinions,” Eli said. “It’s family, so we can be really honest. It’s like a mini-democracy in a lot of ways. We try to help each other.”
The Farming Operation
The Doyles cultivate and produce their products organically. They grew about 80 acres of hemp this year on an old hay and cattle farm that, according to Luke, tested clean for pesticides.
“Our soil is really fertile, and we’ve found we don’t need synthetic nutrients or pesticides, the plants do better without them,” Luke said. “The plant doesn’t need anything that man makes, it can get it all from the earth — and hemp naturally has the oils that repel most pests. These plants are working with us.
“Hemp plants aren’t like other plants,” he said. “And I still have a lot to learn, but I do know the plants are smarter than we might think they are. They communicate very strongly to you when they need water or nutrients. There’s just something special about the plant, and we’re very grateful.”
The Doyles are seed specialists. “We’re breeders,” Luke said. “That’s what my father focuses on. We also supply many local farmers.”
“Last Oct. 31, the United States Department of Agriculture put out new regulations that say how much THC is allowed in hemp products, and that number is a little lower than what Oregon state law had specified, which is kind of too bad, because a little THC helps the medicine work better, without getting you high,” Eli explained. “So we’re working on breeding strains that will be compliant with the new federal laws.”
The Doyles don’t use single-season plastic sheet mulching that many hemp farmers utilize. While plastic mulching is standard agricultural practice, Luke says bees and other pollinators lose out when the ground is covered in plastic.
“And black plastic can leach chemicals into plant roots and cause the roots to overheat. The plastic breaks apart when you try to lift it out of the ground, it’s not recyclable, and disposal is a problem. Plus deer can get tangled up in the piles of discarded plastic on the edges of some fields. We just don’t need the plastic to make a living.
“To handle weeds, we usually plant cover crops, like clover in fall, or rice straw in spring, and sometimes we’ll weed whack between the rows,” Luke said.
Murphy Hemp Exchange
The Doyles buy, sell and trade bulk hemp, hemp seed and hemp extract — both in the stores and online at MurphyHempExchange.com.
“With so much new hemp farming, prices have come down,” Eli said. “We offer farmers the best prices for their material.”
Farmers provide a certificate of analysis from a reputable lab (the Doyles use ChemHistory, located in Milwaukie), which discloses both CBD and THC percentages. A “good test” also shows terpenes and major cannabinoids, as well as pesticides, herbicides and molds.
Bulk biomass sales involve mulching the entire plant, which is then typically sold to extract companies, or those who make their own products.
The Doyles’ three Murphy Hemp and Wellness stores are located at 154 Merlin Road, Merlin (541-916-8407); 405 NE F St., Grants Pass (541-761-5944); and 6890 Williams Highway, Murphy (541-862-7420). Plans to expand into Jackson county are in the works. Products are also sold online at MurphyHempCompany.com.
“When people buy online, there’s a lot to choose from, but in our stores, you can have conversations and learn about the differences between isolates, broad-spectrum, full-spectrum CBD products and whole-plant extracts, which is really the highest quality you can get. It’s the best,” Eli said. “Whether it’s a tincture, candy or capsule, we recommend whole-plant extract products.”
The Doyles place primary focus on full-spectrum and whole-plant products and are phasing isolates out, “because isolates are much less effective. And if you’re drug tested for your job, then we recommend broad-spectrum products, which has all the THC completely removed.”
The stores also sell oils, extracts, pet products, topicals, creams and salves.
“We have our own in house brand, Bodies Best, and we also carry others people’s brands. We also do blended teas and infused honey sticks, plus little chocolates — all at different strengths,” Eli added.
Hemp flowers — by the gram or by the pound — are also sold.
“Some people smoke hemp for relaxation or for medicinal use, like for insomnia, arthritis, pain or anxiety. It’ll treat those conditions without getting you high.”
The Doyles acknowledge that most hemp products on the market — like most herbal and vitamin supplements — currently provide no solid guarantee that what’s on the label is actually what’s in the bottle.
“You should always ask questions: about where the hemp was grown, was it grown organically, and if there was batch testing. Feeling comfortable that the company you’re buying from is willing to answer questions is important,” Eli said. “A good company reputation happens when people try products and come back and say, ‘Hey, this really worked.’
“And there’s a lot of products out there that don’t. Which is why we give out free samples, so people can try it out.”
Whether it’s farming advice or product selection, information is shared both in the stores and through the company website.
The Doyles also initiated What the Hemp, an annual trade show held at the Josephine County fairgrounds, where industry experts share information, display products and advertise services. Held in the spring, hemp starts are also sold and teaching forums are offered.
The family also does outreach to senior care centers to help seniors learn about the benefits of CBD hemp — and they offer senior and veteran discounts.
Luke stresses that CBD hemp is gentle medicine and recommends that people “try products out to see if they work for you. Your body will tell you if it’s something you need. We all need to learn to listen to our bodies.”
Going back to the beginning of recorded history, hemp or cannabis was used for medical purposes. The late astronomer and renaissance man Carl Sagan said “hemp was likely one of the first crops ever cultivated.”
In 2737 BCE, Emperor Shen-Nung wrote about using topical hemp oils and teas to cope with pain; and Egyptologists cite evidence that ancient Egyptians used hemp or cannabis to relieve hemorrhoid pain and to treat sore eyes.
So while modern regulatory authorities and most medical practitioners are not yet on board, and much more independently verified research is needed to determine efficacy and set consistent dosing standards for CBD hemp, there’s no denying the millennia-old anecdotal knowledge that hemp, indeed, is a powerful, yet gentle medicine.
“And, it’s a beautiful plant,” Luke concluded.
Reach Illinois Valley freelance writer Annette McGee Rasch at firstname.lastname@example.org.