Podcast The Hemp Revolution

Cultivating and Processing High-Quality Hemp Products in Michigan with Patrick Trail

EP128-Patrick-Trail

Patrick Trail is a pioneer of his sector. He has studied chemistry and Business Information Systems in college. After college he went on to work for Conagra Brands as an information specialist, he started a software company over 20 years ago that specializes in agricultural software, that company specializes in inventory and traceability software for the life science industry. And that’s how he actually got started in hemp by creating a similar traceability program that would allow us to understand what’s happening from field to bottle. 

They started working with companies in Kentucky, and he started to buy products from them and actually ended up creating his own line of consumer products after testing and trying everyone else’s. When they moved into growing and processing in their Michigan operations, that’s when things really started to get interesting. Right now, he runs his hemp business, Blue Grass Island and T3 Tracking, a leading SaaS software company with a focus in food safety management as well as time and labour management.

In this exciting segment, Patrick is here to share more about his story and what’s keeping his hemp business successful in Michigan.


Understand what your company is going to be compared to, what they are and how you’re going to do it. And the best thing to do is to build a network of people that you can depend on and they can depend on you as well. – Patrick Trail


Download The Episode Companion For This Episode

 

Some Topics We Discussed Include

3:22 – Getting started in the hemp space
11:41 – Blue Grass Island’s product line
14:30 – Trials and tribulations along with the hemp market
21:02 – Ideal strategic partners
23:17 – Words of wisdom
28:11 – What’s next for them?
30:19 – Get in touch with them

 

People Mentioned / Resources

Connect with Patrick Trail

Connect with Sonia Gomez

Transcript

Sonia Gomez: What’s up guys? Sonia Gomez coming from Denver, Colorado, super excited to be here on another rock your socks episode of The Hemp Revolution Podcast, where we are sharing and telling the real story of cannabis from the eyes of the entrepreneurs and changemakers who are pushing this forward. As you know, it is our mission to enpower you with the truth about cannabis so that you can make educated decisions about how you care for yourself and your loved ones, or otherwise enjoy this beautiful gift of life. 

So if you’re someone looking for products that you can depend on, or easy to read digestible information on how to effectively use cannabis and hemp, and other natural remedies to improve your health and lifestyle, check us out at medicalsecrets.com. And if you’re a budding entrepreneur or established business owner looking to break through some glass ceilings and brick walls, let me hear your story shoot me an email sonia@medicalsecrets.com, and I cannot wait to connect. 

Guys, once again. You can thank me because I have found another best of the best. My guest today Patrick Trail is what I would consider a pioneer of his sector. He has studied chemistry and Business Information Systems in college. After college went on to work for Conagra foods as an information specialist, he started a software company over 20 years ago that specializes in agricultural software, The company specializes in inventory and traceability software for the life science industry. And that’s how he actually got started in hemp by creating a similar traceability program that would allow us to understand what’s happening from field to bottle. 

They started working with companies in Kentucky, and he started to buy products from them and actually ended up creating his own line of consumer products after testing and trying everyone else’s. When they moved into growing and processing in their Michigan operations, that’s when things really started to get interesting. So here to share more about his story and what he’s up to in the industry, help me welcome my good friend, Patrick Trail. What’s going on, Patrick?

Patrick Trail: Well, thank you. Well, you pretty much did a good introduction there. You took most My material so, butit uh, we’re we’re staying busy in Michigan and things are starting to finally pick up. 

Sonia Gomez: Whereabouts in Michigan. Are you? I have family out there too.

Patrick Trail: We are in Sturgis, Michigan which is right on the Indiana border.

Sonia Gomez: Okay, nice. And all my family is in Livonia outside of Detroit.

Patrick Trail: Yep, one of our employees is from that area too, as well.

Getting Started in the Hemp Space

Sonia Gomez: Nice. Well, I’ve done some pretty extensive and I would be brave to call it invasive research into you and all the things that you’re up to, but not everybody in my audience is so privileged. Why don’t you take a minute and share a little bit about who you are and what your background is and what you guys are up to in the cannabis craze? 

Patrick Trail: Yeah. So as you mentioned before my background, went to college, as many people do, and went to college with an idea of what I wanted to do and after the first year decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. So, then I got into chemistry was always good. I was really good at it. I liked it. I enjoyed it. So I went and finished chemistry degree. First college, I also played sports in college, I had some injuries while I was at college playing sports. And really, as a young guy, it didn’t bother me that much. But as I got older, I had some issues with hips and backs and things like that. 

How this all happened, as you mentioned before, I started a software company 20 years ago, and we deal primarily in the Produce Life Sciences industries. And we sell inventory control software with traceability primarily what you and your group would be familiar with was like E. coli in lettuce, those types of things, but our software tracks that all the way through the system. And that’s how I really got started into the hemp market was we have an office in Lexington, Kentucky, and as you know, they’ve been doing this for quite a few years now longer than everybody else. So we started working with some of the groups down there, started doing traceability work. And then as I was doing that, I started asking them questions about their product. And one day I was there, I said, Hey, can I just buy some, so I bought some brought it back and my wife and I started playing with a product in our house try to make things that we might like. She’s actually a pharmaceutical rep. 

So we sort of looked at some of the things that they were doing and what we possibly could do and ended up making some of our first thing we’re [inaudible], for my back, hips, things like that. And found that it really works. It was definitely great because it took the pain away. I had been nuisance pain for 15-20 years. So we started doing that. After that, the family started asking for products. So we started giving a family product. Then as a family got products and friends out there started asking for the product. And then we just have grown those products and it’s so, and we have now we have massage oils, we have orals, we have special oils for CrossFit gyms, we have pet oils as well. Those are two great products for us. 

As most of you know, Miss. state of Michigan started allow growers last year. So we really got involved looking at doing the growing up here. It was all one bad thing was that, as most people know, around the states that it wasn’t very well organized. So we ended up getting made aware that we could get a license in April to grow up here. Luckily, as you mentioned before that I worked for Conagra foods and we had a lot of contact with growers. 

So we started working with some of the growers around the area to grow, basically when we say working we rented their land from them. We had them help us plant the product. And then we went out and just, and we basically did 10 acres in the state of Michigan. And at the time, I thought 10 acres is going to be a ton. Knowing how much works into it, and that we wanted to have different all the all 10 of those acres over 10 different farming stops just to try to figure out how it’s going to grow in Michigan. As the year got going–

Sonia Gomez: You guys are going on 10 different styles so that you can figure out what was going to be best in Michigan. 

Patrick Trail: Correct, yes. 

Sonia Gomez: Yeah, so cool. That’s so cool. 

Patrick Trail: We were doing we did plastic, so we put plastic and ground put plants on plastic. We do that a lot with our vegetables up in this area. We’re also known as a seed corn area where I live here in Michigan. So we have a lot of center pivots and a lot of sands so we direct planted into sand and put water on those plants all year long. The nice thing about our areas we can water all day long, and within three or four hours go right back out and field the water just goes right through. 

As we went through the year, we found out that it really does like that. So these some of these plants got really, really big fields. And then, we didn’t start out with the one thing that was a problem, last years, we didn’t start out with some of the best seed because it was so late when we got started. So we had to get what we could was available. So we ended up going through that. And probably out of the 10 acres we planted from the different planning styles and everything else we probably ended up with about a good five and a half acres. And within those we started binding different plants, things like that we were in there trying to learn, so we did a lot of sampling. That’s been one thing that this year has that we’ve donate a lot of money to sampling to having testing done on our products so we can understand and learn. Learn about those products in the fields that we have in the soil we have up here. 

So as the year got going, we got contacted by many a lot more growers in the area that didn’t know what was going on. They just planted acreage, a lot of people just planted acreage had no contracts, didn’t know what they were doing with it. They just wanted to put it out. So, we started talking to them originally, one of my big things was to develop a processing facility up here in our area that we could process not necessarily our own, but the first year really was going to be our own. I really didn’t have any intent to process other people’s products. We were just going to do ours and figure out what’s best around the area, but we got contacted by quite a few growers. 

Ended up bringing some of their product and we’ve been processing that product in house. Inside our facility, we do use a butane extraction system. And then we have our own distillation systems within the house. And that’s been allowing us to process crude into distillate and then selling that distillate off. And we even did invest as well into some trimmings in the last year. So we trimmed quite a bit of bud. And that stuff’s starting to finally move for us. So we’ve been all over the place, now. What this is finally, allowing us to do now is since we’re not buying crude or full-spectrum oils, things like that from other people to develop the products that we can actually up the milligrams of CBD content in our products and keep the prices the same. So that’s really you know, ultimately we want to grow the business on that side, but we want to help people too as well because we know what it does for us. I know what it does for my parents I know what it does for my wife’s parents. So we just want to get the products out.

Inside our facility, we do use a butane extraction system. - Patrick Trail Click To Tweet

Sonia Gomez: Nice I’m so super excited for you guys. So you’re still cultivating and are you also processing and then making the products or do you outsource the processing? 

Patrick Trail: No, we do the process. We have our own processing facility here. So we’re licensed processor, Michigan. So we do it all in house. So even our products that we make them all in house too as well.

Blue Grass Island’s Product Line

Sonia Gomez: Nice, what is in your product line? What do you think it beyond the besides the fact that you guys are fully vertical, which, by the way, is like a really amazing unique differentiator, but I want to know separate from that which is the obvious. First of all, what’s in your product line, and what do you think sets you guys apart?

Patrick Trail: Our product line primarily is our massage oils we have in our massage oil line. We have a CrossFit what we call Athleta. It’s heavy on menthol. It’s a high thousand milligram product in four ounce bottle. We have a lot of professional weightlifters that actually use it in we have a lot of CrossFit gyms we private label for that, and that’s really a specially for us is private labeling that the companies really work good together because the, our T3 technologies company which is the inventory control and traceability. And a lot of labeling equipment which allows us to custom label for customers not have to order labels outside so we can make really small runs for people as well as large runs.

Our product line primarily is our massage oils. - Patrick Trail Click To Tweet

Sonia Gomez: Nice. On average, what kind of customer are you serving? You said you’re huge into the fitness and CrossFit area. Is that your primary demographic that you’re serving?

Patrick Trail: No. Well that’s one of the major ones now but it’s not a primary that we also are doing a full pet line of products that we are talking and working with local vets on. Whereas they can do their own line of products. All we do is it’s really our products. We’re just white labeling it for them. So and then we also have the tinctures and the oils, massage was sure. Another big market for us is the elderly and primarily the elderly around this area, so Southwest Michigan.

Sonia Gomez: Okay, amazing. I really enjoy Michigan. I thought you guys I have to give a round of applause for how they did in the In the medical cannabis industry, I know not everybody was a fan. But I think that they did a lot of things right. And for hemp too I know a lot of Michigan based companies who are really doing well. And I’m curious to know, from you, there’s no secret that there’s quite a few trials and tribulations and getting started, but also quite a bit of fun and in strategizing how you’re going to find the loopholes, loopholes so that you can grow and scale. 

Trials and Tribulations along with the Hemp Market

In your time in business for you getting started, what were some of the bigger challenges that you faced to get to where you are now? And then my follow up question for you is, what are you doing to grow your business right now? Like, where are you putting, and the reason why I asked this question, I have a lot of people who are listening in wanting to know like, Okay, how should I grow my business? Or how should I enter into this business? How can I apply my skill sets? So I’d love to hear what have been the challenges, and where are you putting time and energy and resources into growing your business? 

Patrick Trail: Really, the biggest challenge that I’ve had in what, and we’re going to associate this with the Michigan grow part and the processing side, that is bringing hemp processing to Michigan where there wasn’t a lot of knowledge to it, about it. And there weren’t, in at least our case for the first year. It was really hard to put the resources together. Because you don’t just buy an $80,000 / $100,000 machine start processing. You’ve got to have everything else that goes along with it that being the gas, they’re the butane. That being the dry ice, it took me to get beautiful. I thought one day I would call a company and I said I want to order this. I’d like to have it in a week, right? So I thought that next week I’d be processing oil right away. Well, three and a half weeks after that, I still hadn’t started processing oil yet. We were missing parts that weren’t readily available in Michigan, or we had to have some made for the machine. 

The next was is once I had that all done, and I was ready to go, I call up one of our local gas providers and ask for butane. He says, Well, we don’t have that at this office. I’ll have to order it, and I’m like, how long is that going to take? He says I’ll tell you about a week and a half. So okay, there’s another week and a half. Then I try to find dry ice. No, we need dry ice as well. And we actually have a very large dry ice facility within 40 miles of our office. But they won’t do business with hemp or cannabis companies. So we had to find an alternative to that. And finally, I would say probably in like the last two to three weeks, I’ve finally got our supply chain, where it’s dependable. Everybody knows I expect deliveries on certain days. And then we get it going. I mean, we’re sitting here. We can literally process the products that we have, or the biomass that we have when people are busy processing probably till about August. Right. So and then–

Sonia Gomez: That’s not surprising considering, there was, I mean, let’s be serious. 10 acres is no small amount.

Patrick Trail: No, but that thing is not a small amount. And it’s, if we looked in relationship to our consumer business, it’s more than what we need for our consumer business, really, right. So and that’s the other thing with the industry today is that we look at the consumer businesses that are out there and what’s been currently farmed, right. So we’re missing processing, we’re missing consumer sales. So we’ve got all this biomass is just sitting around right now that everybody’s trying to get I’m trying to get mine done so I can do others. 

So but that’s been a big challenge, once we got started in this and I was not one last year, when we got started, I didn’t think I was going to be a millionaire in November, December. Right? A lot of people did. I didn’t think I’d be pushing myself as fast to get all the things that I was planning on doing up and going. And the only reason I did that is because I got a lot of people that have products that needed to get processed. So it pushed our processing line ahead quicker and pushed us farther down the road to where we are today than what I thought I would be last year. 

And really what we’re doing now, so you’re asking about how we’re starting to grow. We’re finally to the point so after let’s say it was October about October 21st, I think we pulled out some of our last product field. So we finally got into towards the middle of February, end February, where I got a product that I felt good enough that had high enough quality that I felt good selling it and using it. Right. So I’m finally getting to the point now that I can start taking those next steps, which is what in our case, getting out, meeting people, just doing the typical sales, go out, meet people face to face, show them your product, talk to you about what you’re doing and why you’re doing a little bit different—and then understanding trying to find that niche where we fit in. We’re starting to find some of those. We’re starting to move product, which is good because we’re sitting there we’re sitting from about October to January going where are we going to sell this stuff to but we’re finally getting it’s starting to get sold. 

So this next year, really what I see, we’ll start growing our line our own consumer line a little bit more. Since we have plenty of products to develop new things marketed out there, we’ll start building our marketing platform as well a little bit more, and that’ll be more hands-on phone calls to processors, things like that meaning product or somebody that can’t get their product. One of the things we found is there are a lot of people out there that need products that grew this year but can’t get their product process. So we’re starting to help some of those guys out too as well. And it really the just to, for our future, trying to make business partnerships that are very important in all industries. And for guys that need help getting some of their stuff processed or we may need products to sell to somebody else because we don’t have enough of a certain thing. Those networks are starting to come together as well.

Ideal Strategic Partners

Sonia Gomez: And who are some of the strategic partnerships that you’re looking for? And I love that we’re talking about this right now because this is very much a relationship based business. And I love to know like, Who are you looking for? Who are the folks that you’re trying to attract to yourself right now that would help, you know, help take you guys make the quantum leap together. 

Patrick Trail: So we’re looking for consumer product companies that need CBD oil or distillate or isolate that we can sell our raw materials to. We’re also looking at dispensary’s of hemp and cannabis of producing product for them, whether it be ours or whether it be white labeled. And then also like like I told you before, gyms, things like that, where you’re just specific, veterinarians, just services. We’re also looking for those things that are a little bit different, right. So people that need, there’s a lot of products if you look at an analysis in of your hemp and your oils, you’re distillate. There’s a lot of different things and those products, and there’s a lot of things up until this point, we’ve wasted a lot because we just threw it away because the big thing was CBD. So we’re looking for those other potential partnerships where we have all this byproduct because the CBD was the initial intent, that maybe we can move some of that product to as well.

Sonia Gomez: Thanks, I love it. You know, I always ask this question, because I think it’s important to just like sort of share and I run an industry specific mastermind, The Emerald Circle where we were talking about growing and scaling your company. This is really for the folks who have already established themselves in business and they’re looking for the strategies to make a bigger impact and three x revenue. It’s a pretty important group of folks, for me just like as far as how I’ve grown to love each one of these people. And a lot of what we talk about is the words of wisdom, what are the big takeaways? 

Words of Wisdom

And so this is kind of my podcast is turned into somewhat of a teaser, in this community where we get to share these words of wisdom or key pieces of advice that we would offer folks who are listening and who may not be that far down the line and are still looking for what to do next. So I named this segment the words of wisdom, and I’d love to hear from you knowing what you know now coming down the line and accomplishing what you’ve accomplished, what would be some key pieces of advice that you could offer, maybe one or two key pieces of advice that you know, would help a budding entrepreneur hit that first or second milestone that they’re running after right now?

Patrick Trail: In this industry definitely keep your head down, keep going because you’re going to keep running into some type of business block or process block. Just about you’re going to fix one there’s going to be another one that comes up. That’s all based off of the your, bringing this you know the hemp into markets, at least in Michigan, let’s say we brought the hemp in where cannabis had been before, right? 

The people that are in cannabis know that they can do the hemp. The problem is the scale factor is completely different. - Patrick Trail Click To Tweet

The difference between it is that the people that are in cannabis know that they can do the hemp. The problem is the scale factor is completely different. And then that’s the other thing, though. You know, like I was mentioning before, one of the things that you’re going to have to take into account those resources that you can get, you need to check those out. They not just there like, I thought, I’m like, Oh, this bs will get dry ice with butane. Those will be easy things to get. Well, in our case, it’s not that easy. So, once you hit those, know you’re going to hit those and just keep going. It’s like building any other business. It was no different when I built my software business as well. Its software was bugs or things like that as software, and you just got to fix them and keep going. It’s the same thing here. Just keep your head down and do have a goal, have a niche. 

Just keep your head down and do have a goal, have a niche. - Patrick Trail Click To Tweet

One of the other things I’ll tell you too, from what we saw, what I saw a lot of this year is don’t just if you’re going to look at growing, don’t just go out and start growing, get a contract, find somebody that you can work with prior to starting growing. Make sure you’ve got a hold for that product. And then as every other business, you’re going to grow you’re beginning, understand who’s in this marketplace, and understand what their products are. Because there’s a lot of money behind a lot of companies out there, and understand what your company is going to be compared to what they are and how you’re going to do it. And those, the best thing to do that is to build a network of people that you can depend on and they can depend on you as well.

Sonia Gomez: Such good advice. So super key. One, one thing that I will add to that is in the process of planning, what I think similar to how you said about the farmers, not knowing where they’re going to sell it. You know, I recognize that a lot of brands and businesses don’t really think about aggressive marketing strategies. They think that if they, like with cannabis, they thought if I build it, they will come. And it’s not too often 

And that I emphasize this specifically, but I think it’s just such an important aspect in what I see making or breaking businesses right now is how many customers are you reaching? What does it cost to acquire a customer? Are you spending more money than you’re making on your marketing? Or are you at least breaking even? And in your plan? Did you build in an aggressive marketing strategy that would not only help you become relevant but would help earn you the respect that would keep you in business long after launch? And I think it’s really important that you guys as you’re starting out, and also while you’re evaluating how you’re going to survive or how you’re going to thrive past, whether it’s acquiring companies or adding new facets to the business that help you diversify your revenue streams. You really have to build in from the very beginning an aggressive marketing plan. And sometimes that looks like spending seven times the amount of money that you hope to make in the first six to 12 months. 

What’s Next for Them?

So, I just want to really encourage you guys to the message in all of that is be realistic about what kind of resources are going to be necessary to accomplish this phase of the business. If it’s farming, you want to make sure that you have someplace to sell your product, do you want to make sure that you have someplace to process the product, once it’s harvested? Those are the things you guys all have to think about. And then how you’re going to connect with and build those relationships with the people who are going to buy your product after that. So that would be the one thing that I would piggyback onto that. Patrick, what a pleasure to hear you and to hear about the growth of your guys’ business and the impact that you’re making. What’s next for you guys? What do you have to look forward to?

Patrick Trail: Well, we’re as Michigan is a legal cannabis state we’re actually going to our processors license that as well. So we can process product for people that are on there. We will be growing in Kentucky and in Michigan this year as well. Know what our process is then a little bit better growing, we’ll be growing probably about the same amount that we did this last year. No more than like 35 acres. And from there, really, as you brought it up now because our plans changed last year from where we were in the beginning. 

This will be a big year for us to market our own products. So that will be a big push for us as well. We want to have enough products that we can produce our own things next year. And that’s why we’ll grow again this year. Hopefully, the market will be a little bit better. If not, we’ll be selling it through our own consumer products. But that’s the way these, the AGS systems go. I mean, things adjust, prices drop down, competition comes in, and we got to be ready for that. And the nice thing is in Michigan we have the environment that will allow us to do that.

Get in Touch with Them

Sonia Gomez: Nice Well, I’m super excited. I’d love to come up and tour your facility while I’m in Michigan next time. Always love to get to meet people face to face. So that’ll be some good fun that I’ll look forward to. And where can people find you if they want to follow your journey or find out more about working with you?

Patrick Trail: If you go to our website is bluegrassislands.com. You can see our products on there in any of the links you can also look at one of our other website t3tracking.com. And then we have Facebook as well as Twitter page as well. Which, to tell you the truth we’re going to be doing a lot more on this year Now that we’ve got our head above water and we’re not drowning anymore, so–

Sonia Gomez: Well, good. We’ll be excited for those of you, thank you so much for spending your time with me today. And for those of you guys who are tuning in, thank you so much for being a part of our family and sharing in this amazing conversation. As you know, it’s our mission to share with you the truth about cannabis, the fun, the good, the bad, the ugly, all the things so that you can make educated decisions about how you want to care for yourself and the people that you love. Or otherwise enjoy this beautiful gift of life. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to get into the industry, shoot me an email or if you’re already an established business owner, I’d love to hear your story shoot me an email sonia@medicalsecrets.com. Let’s connect would love to find out more. Guys, I invite you now to like and share this content. When you like and share you are a part of the change that you’re helping me create in the world we’ve impacted over 200, and I think somewhere between 200 and 300 million people in the last few years, and I’m just so honored to have your guys’ support and help us spread this valuable and very precious message at the end of the day. This is about our freedom to choose. And I hope that you guys continue to share this information tag five people that you know this will make a difference for, and let’s continue to celebrate our success and impact together. I’m your hostess with the mostess, Sonia Gomez, and this is The Hemp Revolution podcast. We’ll see you at our next show, guys.

James Brinkerhoff: Thanks for listening to this episode, we took notes on this episode for you along with all the links and resources mentioned in the episode. Get them free on the show notes page here at www.medicalsecrets.com. If you love this show and our content, please subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you really want to help us get the message out there, please rate review and tell all your friends. With your help we can continue to reach the world with our message. And until next time, we hope you join The Hemp Revolution and we challenge you to dream big and live the life you live.

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