Star 46 Farms
by Anna Ervin
When Hilary Campbell suffered a freak accident in 2006 which left her with a rare nerve disorder, she knew she would face a daunting road to recovery. Confronted with numerous surgeries and medical procedures, alongside a cocktail of pharmaceuticals prescribed to treat symptoms rather than the root of the issue, Hilary spent nearly two years bedridden. Fast forward to years later, when Campbell finally discovers and begins exploring the benefits of medicinal cannabis, and the healing that takes place is powerful enough to drive her entire family into the industry.
I drove out to Norman, Oklahoma this month to meet with Hilary, Head of Sales, and her husband Mike Campbell, Co-Owner of Star 46 Farms. Newlyweds of just 6 months, Mike and Hilary have built this indoor and outdoor operation from the ground up, with patient advocacy and education at the forefront of their mission. “We saw the benefits it provided for me and my family,” Hilary told me. “We just felt so strongly about helping other people and saw so many people that were going down the road that I was on.”
“When we started this,” Hilary began as she welcomed me into their facility, “this was an arena for horses. Last year my boys and I came down to visit for spring break. In the middle of their break, Covid happened, and we ended up staying for four months. It just happened to be the exact time that we need to do this.”
“I was in medical sales at the time,” Hilary explained. “Unfortunately, my department was shut down in January due to Covid and we needed someone to create a sales force and establish the sales team within our company, so I decided to step in and take on that role.”
Upon first meeting Hilary, I instantly knew we were going to get along. Though quiet and somewhat reserved, she is likely one of the most headstrong individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. After a quick glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that this woman spent nearly 10 years fighting to get her life back. Aside from a boot on her left foot from a recent broken bone, Hilary would appear to have led a fairly simple and healthy life, however her journey with health has been far from easy.
After her accident in 2006, a doctor in Austin managed to save her leg, but her journey to recovery had only just begun. “It took me nine months to be able to walk again,” Hilary told me. I could see that telling this part of her story was difficult for her, but she continued anyway, “I developed a nerve disease in my leg which is called RSD: Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, also referred to as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. That led to a lot of problems.”
“In a very small set of people,” she continued, “RSD can spread. Since I had other health issues at the time, I was just the perfect specimen for everything to go wrong, and everything did. I just spiraled downhill from there. It moved into the whole right side of my body.”
After over twenty surgeries, three spinal cord stimulator implants, and years of her life spent bedridden, Hilary began to feel like a test subject as her doctor fumbled through procedures he had little to no experience with. “Eventually I got sick of it,” she recalled. “I realized that they were just killing me, slowly, one surgery at a time.”
“I knew enough about my body to know that they were not treating the illness. They were treating the side effects. Because of my history in the medical industry, I knew enough about the medications I was given to know that they were not the answer.”
After investing years into research over her health issues, Hilary was beginning to understand that the medications she had been prescribed were just masking the side effects of other medications in a seemingly never-ending cycle. Quickly losing faith in her physicians, she knew that she needed to get off the slew of pharmaceuticals her doctors had placed her on.
“Obviously there is a place for medication,” she stated carefully, ensuring that she wasn’t sending the wrong message. “We all need medication and pharmaceuticals, but I think that the doctors have used it as a crutch for so long that they stop seeing the person that is standing in front of them.”
“My ex-husband was a pharmacist,” she explained. “My dad is also a pharmacist. I had knowledgeable people around me, and they helped me get off of the medication. I do not recommend anyone one to do what I did. It needs to happen under medical supervision because you can die from withdrawal, but I felt that I had nothing left to lose. So, I did it one medication at a time.”
“I didn’t make the immediate transition into cannabis until later in recovery,” Hilary recalled. “Once I was off of the medication, I could face the problem head on because I could identify what the illness really was. That is when I began researching alternative therapy. I understood integrated medicine, but finding an integrative provider is very hard to do. I just decided I had learned enough that I felt that I could do it on my own. Mike is actually the one that introduced me to cannabis.”
I found this interesting, considering that Mike himself informed me that he was not a cannabis user. “I watched several family members and friends really benefited from cannabis,” he explained before allowing Hilary to continue her story. My heart couldn’t help but flutter a little as I realized just how precious this couple’s story is. This man opened his mind and heart to a medicine that is so often shunned by society, when he saw that someone dear to him was running out of options for relief.
Hilary began researching the benefits of cannabis and what the different terpenes could do for each of her illnesses. Once she was legally able to medicate, she went all in. “I had searched for years to find pharmaceutical relief to no avail,” Hilary stated, “but with cannabis my life changed in an instant, and my symptoms began to diminish one by one. I started understanding what it was doing to my body and how it was affecting each of my symptoms in a positive way.”
“As patients we have to understand what the full spectrum of the flower can bring to us,” Hilary said when I asked if she had advice for anyone experiencing chronic pain or illness who might benefit from cannabis. “In my opinion, in order to get the most complete medical benefit, you need to try different variations of the product. Entourage effect, understanding your pain, researching terpenes, and understanding which products carry the terpenes for the effect that you are looking for are essential.”
“Go slow. Really know your body. You have to understand where the pain is coming from and why.”
“To this day,” Mike added, “we are still learning this and that about every little aspect of how everything blends together to create an entourage effect. On some of the online forums people will just ask how much THC it has. Well, for medical purposes it is not all about that. It is everything involved in the plant.”
“As the sales director of our company,” Hilary explained, “educating the budtenders is very important to us. It is very important for us to provide not only test results, but also additional product information that describe the terpenes in the flowers that we provide. We want them to educate their patients not just on the THC content, but also on how different terpenes can treat different ailments, and how they can benefit from those.”
“I wish that we could get further along with our education as a state,” Hilary continued, “so that we understand the full benefits of marijuana. It is not just about THC. Too many people do not understand that. It’s frustrating that so many people think it is just about getting high.”
“During harvest last October,” Mike chimed in, “we had a couple of strains that were at least 28% THC, and around 3% terpenes. We were also fortunate to have a strain that was 1:1 THC/CBD. That was my first real experience with flower that was high in CBD, and that really allowed us to dive into the benefits of consuming both cannabinoids together.”
I loved the holistic perspective Hilary and Mike seemed to adopt when it came to their medicine, and I noticed that their operation seemed to reflect that sentiment as well. Star 46 works with an Aquaponics system, utilizing the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish. This sustainable process means that the crew uses 85-95% less water than the average grower.
The system Mike has created for their indoor facility relies on a combination of nature and technology to sustain itself. From utilizing lady bugs to prevent pests, to Koi fish feeding the soil, and electronic irrigation systems to monitor water levels, seeing the way this grow had the capability to nurture and care for itself (under the watchful eye of its master, of course) felt familiar. I thought about Hilary finally being able to recover once she had created the right environment and regimen to support her body in healing itself naturally, but only after medical procedures and pharmaceuticals had served their purposes as well.
Sometimes it’s easy to end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. Either shunning all pharmaceuticals or considering natural remedies to be “hocus pocus.” Hating doctors or hating naturopaths. Allowing nature to take it’s course vs. fighting mother earth every step of the way. Meeting Hilary and hearing her story made me realize the need for balance between the extremes. Allowing both the good and bad, the natural or the man-made, the yin and the yang to flow equally, supporting and nurturing and strengthening one another. A symbiotic relationship, if you will.