Cypress Creek ads pulled following investigation - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Cypress Creek ads pulled following investigation

James Lawhorne and his supporters during an interview with WAFF. James Lawhorne and his supporters during an interview with WAFF.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

The BBB issued an alert on Cypress Creek Organic Farms last week when the company failed to provide proof of claims made in their radio ad.

Since WAFF's investigation and after talking with his attorney, the head of Cypress Creek Organic Farms, James Lawhorne, pulled the claim of a $25,000 profit from the company's website.

The BBB says that claim violated Federal Trade Commission rules. Specifically, the "Business Opportunity Rule," where in short, businesses can't advertise an earnings claim until those earnings have been realized.

The changes came after WAFF was scheduled to interview Lawhorne, who was backed by a roomful of supporters. 

During the interview, he announced plans to step down as CEO because of his criminal history including a stint in federal prison for bank fraud and pending charges for forgery in Tennessee.

Lawhorne's supporters said they don't care about the past and that Cypress Creek Organic Farms is creating jobs.

"In think it's going to be a $100 million dollar company. We've had exponential growth," said Lawhorne.

James Lawhorne is the head of Cypress Creek Organic Farms. He told the crowd since March the company has gone from two employees to more than 70 and has more than 250 affiliate farmers.

The company asks prospective farmers to submit to invest $12,950 dollars for a greenhouse, 300 tomato plants, training and organic certification.

Up until Tuesday, the company's website claimed farmers would earn $25,000 to 40-thousand growing organic tomatoes.

No one in the room of supporters has made that kind of money yet.

This isn't the first claim the company has made on its website.

Lawhorne admitted the website used a USDA seal when they didn't have approval. "We didn't have our organic certification when we put that up, they made us take it down," said Lawhorne.

Lawhorne claims the company should have it's own organic certification by next week.

The company promotes the use of greenhouses.

According to Dr. Rick Snyder, a Professor of Horticulture and Extension Vegetable Specialist out of Mississippi State, "USDA NOP standards don't have any provisions to have greenhouses certified organic. Currently it's not allowable. High tunnels are different matter."

When asked if any of his affiliate farmers are organic certified, Lawhorne replied "zero."

Lawhorne was also asked what research had he completed on organic farming and where did he study horticulture.

"When I don't know something, I hire someone with a PhD. in it," added Lawhorne.

Lawhorne did provide WAFF with a folder with a New York Times article of a greenhouse in Maine being able to grow year round, information from the University of Kentucky on best practices of greenhouse growing, an article on hydroponic growing and an NPR report on tasty winter tomatoes. Lastly, he provided a Power Point presentation from North Carolina State University with a budget.

[Watch the raw interview with Lawhorne in its entirety.]

Copyright 2013 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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