Doug Fine is an author who got so invested in his subject matter – hemp and, more broadly, the cannabis plant – that he started growing hemp and developing a long term plan as an entrepreneur. With the 2014 Farm Bill ushering in a new era in American agriculture, the advent of the new hemp industry has given Fine a better understanding of the plant and its many possibilities. From New Mexico to Vermont, he had many adventures with culture during the first five years of his 21st– century of culture in the United States
His latest book, American hemp producer, presents a more practical guide for aspiring hemp growers who might be interested in an in-depth reading of the industry and its charms. Here, Fine talks about what he learned from the writing process and how he ‘walked’ as a hemp grower himself.
Eric Sandy: In the interval between Linked to hemp and American hemp producer, what did you learn about the plant from this previous book?
Doug Fine: It actually starts a little earlier than that. In 2011, I integrated for a year in the cannabis cultivation of the Emerald Triangle in California to write about nonprofit regenerative medicinal cannabis providers to see what the landscape might look like in the best possible way. case when legalization would occur. At this point, there was no guarantee that any type of cannabis would be legalized. Now, this isn’t just happening in many states, but it soon looks like a near-certainty at the federal level.
While I was working with these farmers, they were talking about the fact that their whole market is flourishing. They felt, at best, that they could compost the fiber. But they weren’t growing for the seed at all. They grew female plants. They planted the seed in my head, so to speak, that there was so much more to this plant. I participated in a multi-year research project which has become Linked to hemp, which came out on April 20, 2014, not knowing when I was researching this book that hemp would be legalized the same month this book came out. Hemp would be legalized at the federal level in the first Farm Bill of 2014.
It was time to write a book on how we are taking this booming industry and how farmers are benefiting. Let’s face it, farmers have not been the primary beneficiary of agriculture over the past century.
This is really what I wrote for American hemp producer: It is a convenient method, all season, start to finish, from preparing the soil and acquiring seeds to harvesting, packing and marketing – a way to keep the crop regenerative and independent of hemp as the leading hemp brand, so that farmers are the primary beneficiary of this billion dollar industry.
ES: For the active or potential hemp grower, what are the immediate challenges of the 2020 season?
DF: Two immediate issues to keep in mind: The first is, as Wendell Berry advised me, please tell your fellow hemp growers to avoid this wholesale trap. I’m paraphrasing here. It is important to control your industry. The way I put it in the book is to think instead of putting all your eggs in the basket as a wholesale merchandise serf, think about creating a value added product. This is, I think, still the advice I would give as the book hits the shelves. However, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s just a way to avoid what really happened, which is that wholesale prices for CBD flowers have dropped from $ 3,000 per pound to $ 4 per pound over the past few years. If you want to get there you have to take that extra energy and it takes so much more work.
Now you have to be an entrepreneur. You are not just a farmer, you are a farmer-entrepreneur. It’s a lot more work. The responsibility and the risk are on you. But if you have a passion, you have a real chance to make a good living while sequestering carbon and doing good for the environment.
The second is a matter of policy: we got a reprieve this year, in the 2020 season, where we can cultivate one more season as part of the Farm Bill 2014 (Ed. Remark: As many states do). It is imperative that before planting next year, we change the federal definition of hemp from 0.3% to, at least, up to 1% THC content. It must happen. For my part, if I want to be able to plant in the years to come, it has to happen. The plant wants THC, and there’s no reason to be afraid of THC.
ES: In terms of your own farm, what is your vision or your own end products that you are working towards with your culture?
DF: The product that I market is the product that I most want to use and that my family most wants to use. It’s called Hemp In Hemp, and that’s how it sounds. To this day, this is what I have grown in Vermont, a USDA certified organic hemp flower that is dioecious. It’s male and female. The seeded flower is infused in the hemp seed oil, so you get flowers and seeds. It has been marketed as a massage and bath oil, and I hope in the coming season to expand it into an edible product. The hemp seed oil side is a super food, and you get the cannabinoids from the whole plant. We do an extraction by decarboxylation, so it’s all the cannabinoids in very small numbers but in ratios that I like, with terpenes. It’s a very small lot, very high end. I try to walk and be a model. I try to take my own advice and have a multi-year business plan with slow growth. I’m trying to demonstrate that we, as entrepreneurs, have to be part of the solution, from a climate point of view.
ES: What does the learning curve look like in this industry?
DF: I tend to support newcomers to hemp cultivation and the entrepreneurship of hemp growers. The reason is: We need farmers. There is a school of thought, especially among some more experienced farmers, who say, “Oh my God, these newbies are rushing around and don’t know what they’re doing! And, yes, you have to be mature and start small and build slowly. But I say, put the seed in the ground! Learn as you go! It really is the best way to go. If you are a super young farmer who has the time and energy to train an apprentice with more experienced farmers, of course that is great. But if you’re a farmer who wants to move on and make a living from hemp, I would say, put the seed in the ground. Ask the experts. But you will never learn as much as you will by being in this field every day. I encourage people to do this: start small and have a multi-year growth plan.
ES: What did you like most about the process of writing this book? Something you could take to the field with you?
DF: For me, humor is always the root of maintaining sanity. I love any time I can relate some really funny things that happened. What comes to mind is the “Planting Day” chapter. The chapter deals with the faulty equipment — the planters in particular — when we were trying to sow our crop. Humor embedded in it all, angry customer service calls my coworkers and I to the people who rented the equipment to us, anything that could go wrong – from the planter not dropping enough seeds to the chute of all your seeds in one place – it’s funny in hindsight.
The second thing is when I’m in the field and I say, “Oh, this is a moment that I would like to convey in the book”. This tended to happen when I was with my family in the family field and it was quiet, we would hear a woodpecker or see a fox. We talk to the rabbits about treating our harvest like “food sometimes”. These are the times when I say, “This is a moment that means a lot to me. I’m going to pull out my phone and make a quick note for the book. These are the two most fun experiences for me.