A Virginia landscape architect thinks cannabis farms could be the state’s next tourist attraction.
On a farm in Loudoun County, Virginia, the first thing you might notice is the smell. Some say it’s citrusy, others say it’s piney, and still others say it’s skunky. Most visitors find it pleasantly earthy. This is the Cannabreeze Hemp Farm, nestled into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Like the wineries and breweries that have cropped up around the Northern Virginia countryside in recent years, luring patrons from Washington, D.C., and the surrounding suburbs, Cannabreeze hopes to one day become an agritourism destination—and destigmatize cannabis in the process.
Kirk Bereuter, ASLA, a landscape architect and the principal of his own firm in Alexandria, Virginia, designed a master plan for Cannabreeze that he says is an example of a promising new practice area for the profession. Bereuter’s portfolio includes residential and institutional work, as well as winery design, and he’s now worked with a handful of hemp farmers on visioning and planning for their facilities.
“When I saw the news that Virginia was moving to legalize marijuana, I thought to myself, ‘This is potentially really big,’” Bereuter says. “A winery is such an interesting animal in terms of a design project because it combines so many different things: the potential for passive recreation, the distinctness of each property, and each property having its own history. So I approached these farmers and said, ‘What would you think about doing something that potentially enhances your business model,’ taking all these ideas from the winery example, but applying them to a destination experience with a hemp farm.”
The cannabis plant has long been used in the making of marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD) products that are smoked, eaten, or used topically. The word “hemp” is often used interchangeably with cannabis, but hemp tends to connote the plant’s usage in fiber products such as rope, paper, and textiles. As marijuana has been legalized in various states over the past decade, and since the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the controlled substances list, hemp farming has exploded in popularity. According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the value of hemp production in 2021 was about $824 million. And the industry is still largely in its infancy.
Bereuter’s master plan for Cannabreeze includes a geodome amphitheater for music performances, a members-only clubhouse, space for Airbnb rentals, demonstration gardens, improved entrance and access spaces, and more. In addition to the financial benefits, making the farm more attractive as a tourist destination allows for more educational opportunities about cannabis as well, says Jeff Boogaard, the owner of Cannabreeze.
“We spend way more time educating than we do selling,” Boogaard says. “We thought, ‘How do we get people to like this plant again and feel like it’s something that should be embraced?’” To that end, Boogaard recently opened a tasting room, and “the park,” as Boogaard calls the event spaces, will be open to members later this year.
The value of hemp goes far beyond recreation, Bereuter says. “Hemp by itself could probably replace trees as a paper source,” he says. “It’s a far more renewable crop. It takes far less resources to grow. It’s used in so many different manufacturing materials. It creates so many different jobs—green industry jobs. I think the more people become educated about hemp, the more they’ll realize it’s such a beneficial material.”