Published first on the Progress News, September 21, 2020

Betsy Gibson loves to tell the story of how she, a vegetarian from Pittsburgh, fell in love with Joe Gibson, a rural pig farmer.  We laugh as we imagine the “Green Acres” scenario, but I’ve always noticed something a little deeper, too: how two people who sometimes seem to have very different views and preferences have, in fact, very similar values and life goals.  Joe and Betsy both care deeply about the well-being of others and their impact on the world around them, though they have different ways of expressing it.  Joe is the epitome of the farm boy, always ready with a helping hand, a warm smile, and a beer when there’s hard physical labor to be done.  Betsy’s care comes across though her love of conversation and well-being, and she can always be counted on for a warming heart-to-heart or a soothing acupuncture treatment.

So, it was no surprise when Betsy and Joe, and the entire family, all shared that their main goal with this hemp farming venture was to help people.  Exactly how they do that might change over time – that’s adaptability.  When I asked about future plans, some members of the family talked about agritourism, some talked about companion field plantings, some talked about a larger product range, but they all talked about starting small, doing things well, and seeking out future opportunities.  That’s Redevelopment, and it works!

Right now, the Gibson family is focused on growing and processing the best medicinal hemp available and creating a small initial range of superior-quality CBD products that can offer people real relief.  For those comfortable with smokable products, Penn’s Choice offers hemp Pre-Rolls, which look similar to what some may recognize as a “joint,” but lack marijuana’s psychoactive effect.  Instead, the CBD in smokable hemp tends to have a calming effect, and current research shows that CBD can be effective in relieving chronic pain and anxiety, as well as more serious health problems.  For those who want the all-natural benefits of CBD without inhaling it, Penn’s Choice offers CBD Salve, which is simply rubbed onto the skin for on-the-spot pain relief, and CBD Bath Bombs, which allow CBD oil to absorb into the skin during a relaxing bath.  All Penn’s Choice products are made by hand, right here locally, with the Gibson’s own lab-tested, full-spectrum hemp.  Certificates of Analysis for all products are proudly posted on the Penn’s Choice website, as is a ton of information on CBD in general.

This wraps up our focus on the Gibson family farm and their redevelopment effort, Penn’s Choice hemp.  I would like to extend a very special “Thank You!” to Joe, Betsy, fAe, Steve, and Rebecca for taking the time to talk to me about their journey and their hopes for the future, and I hope all of our readers have enjoyed getting to know this local family business a little better.  If you are interested in learning more about their hemp products, please visit, or just stop Joe the next time you see him around the area.  He loves to talk hemp and he almost always has samples!

Next week we’ll be talking to one more farmer with a passion for hemp, Lee Ralph of Full Circle Fields.  I first met Lee through the Gibsons, and that initial connection led to an even greater understanding of and some potential paths forward for our local hemp industry.  We’ll be discussing the role of local universities, legislators, and organizations like the ORA in capitalizing on the connections and opportunities that are critical for successful redevelopment.  Join us next week to find out more!