I had the pleasure to interview Rae Edmiston Co-founder of Kentucky Green Grass. Deeply rooted in Appalachia, Rae Edmiston’s family tree is filled with coal miners and moonshiners, neither of which is environmentally sound or provides a sustainable future. As a first-generation graduate, she never would have imagined she’d one day be organically grown hemp and making hemp-derived CBD products. Rae’s goal as Co-founder of Kentucky Green Grass is to leave a better future for my son than my parents left for me. Her work allows me to heal the earth, ease the suffering of its people and cultivate partnerships with other like-minded businesses that will ensure there is a clean, beautiful environment for our children to enjoy.
My husband’s brother has been growing medical marijuana in Oregon for the past 10 years, and as soon as Kentucky started its Hemp Pilot program, we began researching hemp seed in Oregon through him. We knew the rich history of hemp in our state; the first hemp that was ever planted in Kentucky was planted about 20 minutes from our home. Therefore, we knew hemp was a plant that would grow well in our climate. We drew upon several generations of farming in my partner’s family to begin creating a plan that would ultimately form Kentucky Green Grass.
One of our marketing campaigns took us to the green room of eight festivals in Kentucky and Virginia, where we provided CBD lollipops for those performing on the stage. We got to meet some national acts and even brought on a few artists as Brand Ambassadors. We gave out over 1,000 suckers along with education on the anti-inflammation properties of CBD, which are extremely useful to touring bands.
We had been under-watering our seedlings, thinking they were more saturated than they were. At the time, we were just inexperienced. After we figured out the symptoms, we got more aggressive with watering, but then realized the soil had been packed too tightly when we planted them, thus becoming overwatered due to lack of drainage! Somehow we managed to incorrectly water some of the first batches in every way possible. Thankfully, plants tell you what is going on very quickly and we were able to easily recover. This challenge makes you feel so unqualified because it’s something as basic as planting and watering!
I had been working my “real” job as an IT project manager and during a department meeting, we went around the room saying something about ourselves that most people in the room didn’t know. When it got to me I said: “ My husband and I grow hemp and make CBD oil from it!” For a second it was all still — you could have heard a pin drop and my heart sank — finally, one of my subordinates snickered “Rae’s growin’ weed!” and the whole room collapsed in laughter. I corrected that statement after we all had a good belly laugh about it, but to this day, I think they believe I’m growing more than hemp!
I would have to say that we were very inspired by Skyy Brown, my brother-in-law who taught us all about growing organically, how to make compost tea, and helped us be wary of the pitfalls of a large production. His years of experience in the industry also gave perspective on forming alliances in the community and appropriate wariness when brokering deals. True to form, he always let us have enough rope to hang ourselves, because like most things you don’t learn the lesson if you don’t go through the experience.
Actually, we are knee-deep in our latest addition to the company — a partnership with a processor who is helping us achieve ultimate control over our final product. This vertical integration is a natural progression for small farmers who want to stay competitive in a market that is quickly becoming saturated. We believe that bringing our processing in a house means that our customers are going to experience the best product our strain can produce.
Remove the social stigma. The hemp industry is in the process of creating itself and there is an opportunity to collaborate on standards and best practices, which should mean diversity across the board. Gender aside, there’s a whole generation of black and brown men who have been targeted by law enforcement and locked away who have a lot to contribute to the conversation as well.
Women have to stop selling themselves short. Research what your pay should be and then stick to that when negotiating salary. Ask for raises when appropriate and discuss your pay with your peers. By keeping that information in the dark we are unable to assess the fairness of our wages.
Strategize. We, as women, need to strategize where we are in the industry, especially when working with investors because most of the investors are male and the investing field is male-dominated. Any farm and any business can rupture with a poor choice in who you bring on to finance you.
The most exciting thing to me is that the doors to researching the compounds in cannabis are flinging wide open. A lovely side effect from Cannabis sativa L. national legalization is job creation: all the support roles and infrastructure in each state allows people from all walks of life to start a new career.
In this burgeoning industry that has historically relied on steady hands, attention to detail, and creative minds, women are uniquely positioned to transition into leadership roles more easily, and with less friction than in other more traditional male-dominated industries.
Federal legalization with record expungement would return access for federal student loans, voting rights, and good-paying jobs which would be life-changing for many people in America. This process would ease the capacity pressure on our jails and prisons by removing non-violent cannabis offenders, not to mention the impact of housing these offenders with hardened violent criminals. Additionally, more job talent, currently unavailable to recruiters, would open up if cannabis wasn’t a part of the drug screening process.
Coming from a tobacco-growing state, I argue Cannabis should not be regulated like tobacco. For one, cannabis is not a poison. Access to it should not be restricted, whether it’s growing your own plant or owning a business involving it. I believe that third party testing is necessary to verify what you are consuming and should be included in an insert or online via QR code or website. I feel like anything we consume should be regulated to some extent, and taxed like everything else in this country. However, heavy taxes encourage people to stick with the black market which is less than ideal for consumers and governments alike.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Every day I read something new online, whether it be from social media, news articles, journals, academic papers, the amount of information coming at us can be overwhelming. As you begin to look into any particular aspect from buying seed to selling your harvest, it can feel a little like a tea party in Wonderland with simultaneous and opposing perspectives, experiences, and language. And yet, there’s also a great deal of hope in this quote, which is very necessary in the tumultuous life of a hemp company. You never know from one day to the next what is going to happen!