Osakis hemp farmers partner with new Alexandria business to focus on health and wellness – Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA — Sauk River Hemp of Osakis and Alexandria’s newest business, MN Releaf, is working together to sell products they say are focus on health wellness and community.

Kevin Helm, 47, and Mike Massman, 55 — lifelong farmers — were interested in the prospects that growing hemp would bring them, from both the business side and the health benefits of the plant, so they applied for a grower’s license and made a business out of it —

Sauk River Hemp


“There have been many things I passed up in life,” said Massman. “When (Minnesota’s hemp program) came along… We jumped in with both feet and gave it all we have.”

The two, along with members of their families, have been growing and harvesting hemp just outside of Osakis going on three years. Once it is harvested, they send it off to be processed into oil, which is then turned into CBD products like tinctures (herbal extracts) and edibles. Recently, Helm’s wife began making CBD soap out of the oil and milk from their goats.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, industrial hemp and marijuana are both types of the same plant, Cannabis sativa. They differ by the concentration level of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) within the plant.

Like THC, CBD is a chemical also found in hemp but it is not psychoactive. According to the Mayo Clinic, while further research into CBD is needed, it is effective for counteracting seizures.


Hemp harvested on Oct 17, 2022, by Sauk River Hemp awaits to be shipped for processing into CBD oil.

Contributed photo / Sauk River Hemp

According to Peter Grinspoon, MD, a contributor for Harvard Medical Schools Harvard Health Publishing,

CBD is effective in treating epilepsy

syndromes like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) — “which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications.”

“In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, stop them altogether,” Grinspoon wrote.

His article went on to say that CBD may also help with anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain and addiction: “CBD can help lower cravings for tobacco and heroin under certain conditions, according to some research in humans. Animal models of addiction suggest it may also help lessen cravings for alcohol, cannabis, opiates, and stimulants.”

Grinspoon listed possible side effects of CBD:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

“People taking high doses of CBD may show abnormalities in liver-related blood tests,” wrote Grinspoon. “Many non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), have this same effect. So, you should let your doctor know if you are regularly using CBD.”
It is important to note that CBD is not a medicine. It is a supplement, which means it is not regulated by the FDA.

To ensure their hemp is of the best quality with the highest potency, Helm and Massmann grow their hemp outdoors using carefully selected good quality seeds and only organic fertilizers. They pull weeds and cut down the hemp during the harvest season by hand.

“We are not certified organic as of yet, but everything we put on it is organic,” said Helm. “Natural is the way to go.”

During their first year of growing, they grew 10 acres of hemp during a drought with no irrigation system.

“We worked our tails off that first year,” said Helm. “We did a lot of watering by hand. Had the kids out there too… Our plants still turned out OK. They actually turned out to be high quality. They didn’t get as big as they should have but the quality and the potency of the plant turned out really well.”

Massmann explained that the hemp plant is very absorbent which is why they have to be careful with the plants.

“A few years ago I was talking to someone out in Colorado who grew hemp. They said the smoke from forest fires in California drifted over and the plants absorbed that smoke and they could taste it in their product,” Massmann said.

One of the biggest challenges is making sure the hemp’s THC levels are below the state’s required 0.3%. A state tester comes out within 30 days prior to harvest. Plants that have more than the legal limit will be destroyed. Helm and Massmann have not had any of their crops test above the limit.

ReLeaf 7473.jpg

Sauk River Hemp products on display at MN Releaf in Alexandria.

Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

This year, they will be only growing at most two acres because of the amount of work it takes to manage 10 acres of hemp. They were also able to accumulate a large supply of oil.

When they first started producing CBD products, they would sell them on their website and at craft/vendor markets. Recently, however, Sauk River Hemp partnered with

MN Releaf,

located at 4961 Sanibel Drive in Alexandria.

The store first opened its doors on Saturday, April 1. It offers CBD, THC, vape and hemp products with the philosophy of providing customers with products that benefit their health and wellness.

“Community is everything,” said Len Worthington of Brandon, COO of MN Releaf. “We are a community-based company wanting to work with our community. And to help our community by providing the right product for the right needs and the right purposes.”

With the community in mind, the team of MN Releaf got to thinking about how they could help even more. That’s when they heard about Helm and Massman.

“(Sauk River Hemp’s) whole approach was identical to how we see it, which is health and wellness. The efficacy behind it, the research, the diligence, all those things that we take pride in ourselves when making sure that what we are putting out to the public is the real deal,” said Worthington. “If we work with them, they get to build their business… they get to hire more local people which then benefits our community because we keep the money local, which is bloody cool.”

On top of being a local hemp grower with a similar philosophy, Worthington was also impressed with their product.

“They have proven that they can produce a very high-quality product… That’s what blew me away is how incredibly impressive the quality of their product is and it’s down the bloody road and nobody knew about it,” Worthington said.

ReLeaf 7488.jpg

MN Releaf is located on the backside of Boulder Tap House at 4961 Sanibel Drive in Alexandria.<br/>

Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Helm and Massman attribute the quality of their plants to the time, effort and diligence they put into their hemp.

The two businesses say they both believe in providing natural remedies for customers but want to make it clear that their products are not medicine that can cure or treat ailments, they are supplements with benefits that differ by user.

“This stuff can change people’s lives if it is done right,” said Worthington, who added that he will work with customers to find the right product that benefits them the most.

For those who are anti-hemp, Worthington, Helm and Massmann all had one thing to say, “educate yourself.”

With the idea of being transparent with their customers, MN Releaf has what Worthington calls a “THC bible” for customers to look through. It is filled with “at least 500 hours of research” assembled by Worthington and his Releaf partners. The research comes from various doctors and universities. It covers everything from research statistics on the effects of CBD and THC to how each variant of cannabinoids may affect a user.

“We made sure that the research was legitimate research and not just some pot-head’s concept. We wanted to quantify absolutely everything so that it is done ethically,” said Worthington.

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