The Agribusiness of Hemp
How one graduate uses all facets of her degree
Daysha Byrd is living a life her younger self never imagined: On any given day, she might find herself managing financial contracts, working in a lab, or threshing hemp.
Byrd, who received her degree in agribusiness management in 2016, entered Virginia Tech as an accounting major. In her sophomore year, she developed an interest in understanding where her food came from – an interest that became a passion for agriculture and the outdoors. She switched majors to Agribusiness and hasn't looked back.
All Things Financial
After graduation, Byrd did a summer internship for the vice president for finance at Virginia Tech that turned into a one-year fellowship, where she gained experience in procurement, budget and financial planning, internal audits, and “all things financial.”
As Byrd gained experience, she moved into positions of more responsibility at the university and eventually moved into a position as the assistant director for supply opportunity and contracts officer.
Six years later, she decided to leave Virginia Tech and work for a top-level domain of the Domain Name System used on the Internet known as .ORG. She is currently the procurement analyst with Public Interest Registry, a not-for-profit organization created by the Internet Society (ISOC), to manage the .ORG domain.
All the while, Byrd's passion for agriculture remained strong. She always loved an opportunity to put her hands in the soil.
Putting on Farm Boots
In 2019 Byrd's spouse, Jabari, collaborated with the Virginia Cooperative Extension while pursuing a master's degree in Plant Science from Virginia Tech, specializing in Cannabis Agronomy. During this time, Byrd frequently participated in fieldwork, a venture that evolved into their present undertaking at Paris Mountain Farm.
“I never thought I would be working on a farm and doing the things I love,” said Byrd, “It's therapeutic.”
The team rents land from Betty Hahn, daughter of Marshall Hahn (President of Virginia Tech 1962-1974) to grow hemp for their own business.
“My family has always recognized the importance of agriculture. Like the bumper sticker says, no farmers, no food! My mother, Peggy, grew up on a dairy farm, my father, Marshall, owned beef cattle for years, and since my husband, Doug Chancey, and I have taken over the farm, we have tried to learn about and implement various sustainable agricultural practices. We lease our pastureland to Ellett Valley Beef and with the help of Jabari and Daysha Byrd, have been raising industrial hemp as well. I feel lucky to live on this beautiful farm and it is great to have people like Daysha and Jabari working with us and bringing their enthusiasm, knowledge, and expertise to the work that goes on here,” Hahn said.
The Byrd pair cultivates hemp, conducts the harvest, and performs the shucking process. They then collaborate with a processor who extracts Cannabidiolic Acid, commonly known as CBDa, from the plants. CBDa is the precursor to CBD (Cannabidiol). The extracted CBDa is combined with magnesium to enhance its bioavailability, creating a Magnesium CBDa extract that serves as the foundation for their product line. Their products, which include ChyloRelief (a pain relief cream) and capsules, are available under the company Chylocure. Additionally, they've partnered with two other farmers, Delores Taylor and Thomas Brice, who are engaged in hemp cultivation at different locations in Virginia.
“The most we've ever grown was about six acres, which was a lot for two people,” Byrd said. “We needed a lot of help that year!” They scaled back and are currently growing around 500 plants.
May through July are their busy farming months, between starting seeds in the grow tent and then methodically planting each small plant in succession.
“Sometimes we'll plant before or after work.” Byrd finds this busy schedule fulfills her, though she could never have imagined being someone who owns (and routinely uses) farm boots.
Her advice to current students?
“Don't be afraid to try something new. In the beginning, I was hesitant because I didn't originally have a background [in agriculture] … most of what we do is hemp, but we also grow vegetables: I have younger siblings and can say hey, you can grow your own food! It's rewarding, and very exciting to be on this journey.”
By Hannah Martin