Dave Vanslyke is a new startup in the hemp space. They’ve joined forces with another farm last season to grow their first crop of CBD hemp. They will be growing CBG on their farm this season deploying regenerative organic practices. Currently, they’re reaching out to retailers who share their vision in order to form strong partnerships and will not be pursuing significant vertical integration at this point, but rather see themselves as a valuable supply vendor.
In this episode, find out how Dave faced all the challenges in this space and why regenerative agriculture is the best way to grow cannabis.
My model is to align myself with brands that share our values in terms of regenerative agriculture, and then to grow as they grow. – Dave Vanslyke
Some Topics We Discussed Include
3:29 – From carpentry to a hemp expert
9:20 – Vision and mission of his company
19:41 – Regenerative agriculture in their hemp farm
24:41 – Working on cannabinoid-rich genetics
31:35 – Challenges in the hemp industry
36:38 – Piece of learnings
46:29 – Where to find them
People Mentioned / Resources
Connect with Dave Vanslyke
Connect with Sonia Gomez
Sonia Gomez: What’s up guys, Sonia Gomez coming to you from Denver, Colorado, on another Corona episode of The Hemp Revolution podcast where we are sharing and telling the real story of cannabis and hemp through the eyes of the entrepreneurs who are transforming this industry before our very eyes.
If you find yourself looking and searching and looking at the same thing, by the way, just in case you don’t speak English. If you find yourself looking for products that you can depend on to deliver the results you’re looking for, check us out at medicalsecrets.com; we are happy to help. And if you’re a budding entrepreneur or a business owner in the space trying to break through some of the brick walls and glass ceilings, whether it’s merchant processing and banking, or marketing and advertising, we are here to help, we’d love to find out more about who you are and what you’re up to shoot me an email email@example.com and I look forward to connecting with you.
Today, guys, we have another amazing entrepreneur and change-maker in this space, who I’m super excited to introduce you guys. As you guys know, we are extremely committed to sharing the truth about cannabis so that we can make educated decisions about how we care for ourselves and one another or otherwise figure out how to enter into this industry.
So today’s story is going to be from a new startup in the hemp space, who joined forces with another farm last season to grow their first crop and CBD. Like so many of you guys who have been listening, they will be growing CBG on their farm this season, deploying organic regenerative practices. They are reaching out to retailers who share their vision in order to form strong partnerships. They will not be pursuing significant vertical integration at this point, but rather see themselves as a valuable supply vendor playing their part in the supply chain and showing a new face of excellence, help me welcome my good friend Dave Vanslyke. [crosstalk] Van Slyke, it’s like royalty. Dave, what’s going on?
Dave Vanslyke: I like the Van Slyke. I may go with that from now on. [crosstalk]
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, it should. That should just be like your stage name. Hey, what’s your name? Van Slyke.
Dave Vanslyke: Feels like Frankenstein from years ago. Right?
Sonia Gomez: Sir Van Slyke to you, my friend, Sir Van Slyke, to you.
Dave Vanslyke: Madame, my lady [crosstalk]
Sonia Gomez: Dave, tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and how you ended up in this cannabis craze?
Dave Vanslyke: Yeah, I’m an old guy learning new tricks old dog new tricks guy.
Sonia Gomez: There’s hope for us yet.
From Carpentry to a Hemp Expert
Dave Vanslyke: Yeah, I call myself a recovering cabinet maker. I stepped into my first cabinet shop in 1986 and went to work that’s 34 years ago for those who are doing math. And I kind of bumped around in that world doing finished carpentry and cabinetwork for a lot of years until 2010. When the market left me, I didn’t chase it. I guess I’ll do it that way because the cabinet shop had become a real toxic environment for me, because of the exposure to chemical lacquers all those kinds of things. For so many years, I started breaking out in contact dermatitis. And so every time in the cabinet shop, it’d be like having a bad case of poison oak or poison ivy. And that got really unpleasant.
So in 2010, I made a major pivot. And I started a company called Melrose Whole Grain, where I started this journey down the rabbit hole, this really esoteric journey of restoring heritage grains that had fallen along the wayside. So this has been a really weird experience for me because I’ve been in a world where there’s a handful of people in the world that are doing heritage grain restoration, and it’s kind of a nerdy group that’s really scattered all over the globe. And then in the hemp space where it is crazy busy, noisy bumper to bumper, trade, and paint. It’s a crazy world, and it’s just a go from a quiet cabinet shop for 30 some years and to kind of this quiet, nerdy small grain development thing into the hemp space, which is just with my hair, what the hair I have left is on fire and go. So anyway, that’s, that’s kind of a short story of where we’re at.
Sonia Gomez: Amazing. So what were some of the crops that you specialized in when the grain company?
Dave Vanslyke: You know, we’re still doing that too. I’ve kind of parked it on a side rail at this point, just because the hemp is consuming to me because I tend to really obsess. Anybody who knows me will laugh when they hear this because I really nerd out. And I do the deep dive on stuff. And so we were doing and still are doing heritage wheat, corn, rye, all those kinds of things.
And there’s a whole storyline about the green revolution and chemical farming and how that changed the face of nutrition, how that changed the face of whatever this thing called sustainability is that’s kind of a moving target how you define that. But when we introduced synthetics into our food system, it made some dramatic changes. And we’re paying the price for that. And so we started looking backward. And the older the grain, the more excited I would get.
Some people have moved into the ancient grain world, which is like einkorn and emmer those kinds of things. We kind of, our starting point is about the 1500s forward with what we’re looking at a lot of this stuff comes from the 1700s, 1800s in development. And needless to say, it’s kind of hard to get those seeds; we get them out of gene banks all over the world and start growing them out. And they’re completely antithetical to modern farming. It’s not about yield. It’s about quality. It’s about nutrition, about flavor. So we’ve taken those principles and applied it to how we view the cannabis space, and specifically the hemp world.
It's not about yield. It's about quality. It's about nutrition, about flavor. - Dave Vanslyke Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: Amazing. There’s a seed bank in Petaluma and nearby where I used to live, and it’s quite literally called The Seed Bank. And I’m not sure if you’ve heard of them, but they have a literal vault with heirloom seeds in them. Like one of the coolest experiences ever, they took this old bank, that’s like right on the corner of downtown, and you got to check it out. The Seed Bank also had in Petaluma, California, and they have all of these insane, like an heirloom, like flowers that you don’t find anymore. And variations of vegetables and ancient squashes and all these ancient grains and grasses. And it’s the coolest thing ever. My husband, who’s been in permaculture design and likes to build food forests, everywhere that we go. He’s the one that turned me on to there. And they sell these buckets of seats that I’m obsessed with. They’re like paint buckets of seeds there, and they’re insane.
Dave Vanslyke: I love these people already. I love them.
Sonia Gomez: Yes, it’s so cool. And I was just on the I was just on an interview with Morris Beagle, who is the founder of the NoCo Hemp Expo, as well as The Southern Hemp Expo. And they have just done some incredible alignments with the World Agriculture Expo, as well as World Ex or Earth Ex, which is the largest celebration of Earth Day as well as the largest agricultural expo in the world.
They’re really putting a heavy emphasis on the international industrial hemp industry and looking at the other facets of having beyond its ingredients or cannabinoid profiles, CBD CBG, CBN, all of these quote-unquote buzz words that are popping up all over the place as a part of an advertisement when in fact, there’s very little that the consumer understands about any of that how there’s very little that we as the business even understand about it.
Vision and Mission of his Company
For you, what was the attractive opportunity that brought you into the hemp revolution when you were already on set? Like how are you involved with the hemp industry? Are you releasing a CBD product? What is your vision and layout of your company?
Dave Vanslyke: Yeah, that’s a great question, Sonia. I’m kind of tilt window this conversation. There was a movie back in 2001 called the Heist with Gene Hackman. This character Joe Moore was asked how do you know how to do all this stuff? How did you get so smart? And he said, I tried to imagine I’m a fella smarter than myself, then I think what he would do? You know. And so for me, that’s really how I’ve had viewed everything for cabinet making to the small grains now to hemp. I try to surround myself in a constellation of stars that really have got their stuff together and learn from the experts and try to simulate all this stuff. And there’s a lot of noise in this industry.
My personal experience goes back to 1977 when I held my last joint of Acapulco Gold, you know, and that’s in full disclosure, and got away from cannabis all these many years. And then just fairly recently, in the last few years, have embraced CBD because I’ve got a couple of blown up discs in my back. And that has really helped to buffer that pain and become a user of those products, you know, tinctures, THC tinctures, those kinds of things.
So I believe in a personal and I’d say that, as far as the plant goes, I’ve always been fascinated by it and been frustrated like everybody else with how we view cannabis. And specifically, hemp. That’s a really curious, odd story. And there’s a lot of urban legends of how it got negative along the way. But anyway, I won’t bog us down there. I wanted to do something in the hemp space, but I was waiting for the federal government to decide that that was something that they could support because I just want to borrow trouble. I guess I say it that way.
And so with the introduction in the passing the last Farm Bill 2018, that was a game-changer for me. It showed an opening for me to enter the space in a way that was not going to be what I perceived to be adversarial with the federal government, that’s turned out to be not quite accurate with all of the compliance issues that we’re wrestling with right now. That it’s still a bumpy road. And we have a ways to go. And testing and all that, again, there’s whole episodes and a lot of research about where we are with the USDA and arm rules and on and on. But it’s a great plan, and I love it.
But I still don’t want let go of my roots with the small grains, because it’s really easy in the hemp space specifically to go all in and monochrome this to death. And it’s important to keep an eye on the fact that when you get away from all the noise and all the drama, it’s still a plant, it’s still an agricultural product. And it can run in concert with alongside other crops that are as important. Maybe not as diverse. I mean, there’s a lot of uses for hemp. But so it basically was to diversify what we’re doing. And obviously the profit stream. You know, the economies of scale difference between growing hemp and growing wheat and corn are astronomical. I’ll say it that way per acre dollars per acre is much more attractive in the hemp space.
The economies of scale difference between growing hemp and growing wheat and corn are astronomical. - Dave Vanslyke Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: Well, yeah, as the same argument around cannabis like people who have been in cannabis for a long time are like ideals meal, the prices are just Oh God, we’re only going to get $1,000 a pound or $500 a pound. And I was thinking to myself, like when was the last time somebody sold like grapes or strawberries for $5,000 a pound?
Dave Vanslyke: Our viable option on our property is $500 a year pay. That’s our option. And so when you look at making 500 bucks a year and hay off of a property, versus whatever the potentials are, and even with market correction and market saturation on the hemp space provides an astronomical, exponential whatever word you want to use potential for economic gain. It’s just it’s undeniable.
Sonia Gomez: That’s pretty interesting to hear a newcomer into the industry express themselves that way, and perhaps it’s because you still have fresh baby skin. But the folks who have chapped tides about it are concerned that there is an oversaturation and the market would express that there is too much supply and not enough demand. But you coming into the market now still feel like there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity.
Dave Vanslyke: I think that the market, and I think the whole industry is structured like an hourglass. I think that there’s an enormous amount of supply at the top end. I think there’s an enormous amount of demand at the bottom and a really narrow distribution channel for us to get our product into the marketplace.
And so as this becomes more mature, this is a brand new industry. We all know this at the scale that we’re talking about. I’ll say it that way. As those distribution channels open up wider and wider and as government agencies, alphabet agencies finally come online, the FDA and fill in the blank and decide that this is a viable product that needs support and needs the restrictions lifted, then I think you’re going to see that even out more, I think you’re going to see the uptake from the demand begin to gobble up and absorb a lot of that supply.
That’s my personal opinion. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but it seems reasonable. I hear a lot of talk about demand, especially CBD, which is the buzzword that everybody is focused on. We’re probably more focused on minor cannabinoids now and [inaudible]. But that will change over time as the industry matures.
Sonia Gomez: Oh yeah, this is going to be very similar to like an ingredient list that we’re going down folks are going to be hyped up the first we were all about the THC. Now we’re all about the CBD. And now we’re going to be all about the CBG. And what we’re going to find out at the end of running this race is that all cannabinoids are necessary to create the most change in anyone’s biological ecosystem.
All cannabinoids are necessary to create the most change in anyone's biological ecosystem. - Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet
So any mammal needs to have a full panel of and profile of these cannabinoids. They can be rich in one or the other. However, it will take the entourage effect and having all cannabinoids present in order to invoke the most change, which is fine. In the meantime, people can get rich off of anyone’s marketing scheme. Because at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s going to come down to is how you guys tell your story to whom and how you attract to that who wants to do the what in your business, you know, to hit that next level. And you’re that’s exactly what you’re talking about is the distribution. Folks have a b2b or b2c model. Yours is b2b?
Dave Vanslyke: Yeah, it is we see ourselves as a vendor. And you know, I have vertically integrated the grain business. And that’s a very difficult thing to do and do it well. And so again, maybe it’s old dog new tricks, kind of thinking, but I would rather slot back and become a valued supplier to people that are really good brand builders and build my brand within their paradigm, as opposed to creating you get another in vertical user integration, product out there or series of products. I want to be a good supplier. I want to be a good partner with other brands.
Sonia Gomez: And how many acres are you cultivating of CBG, which is your primary focus this year?
Dave Vanslyke: Yeah, you know, we’re. Still, I would say, technically, in pre-production in this whole thing. And so we started out with a raging one acre, last year, we put about 1400 plants in which, and the hemp world is a rounding error in most farms and, but that’s why a lot of it goes back to my philosophy to. Instead of one guy growing 50,000 acres of a crop, I’d rather see 50,000 people grow one acre of a crop. And if you can do that financially viable, that obviously is very helpful. But there’s more diversity and resilience in multiple players in a space as opposed to a big ag Big Pharma coalition, you know, that begins to corner that.
And I’m not that’s a whole different discussion, I’m not concerned about that, I think there’s a certain amount of commodity backdrop that we need, in order to contrast the craft growers that I put myself in that category. So we’re going to be going into we’re kind of starting all over again with CBG. It is a cannabis plant. But its own animal and it’s a developing market people in the marketplace just understand to some degree about CBD.
Now we add more letters into that mix of CBG. What does that mean for efficacy? What does that mean for this? What does it mean for that? So we’re going to be doing about the same thing we’re going to be on about an acre this year. Our master plan, when we’re going to conquer the world, will probably be less than 10 acres. That’s our master model.
Our master plan, when we're going to conquer the world will be probably less than 10 acres. - Dave Vanslyke Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: I like it. I like artisan farms. I think you can manage and maintain the quality a lot better there. And it’s not such a processing nightmare. Obviously, people who are like I’m gonna grow 100 acres, they’re like they’ve never, they need a quarter to cater and like half a million dollars with machinery to turn that into. That’s a different crop.
If you’re talking about building like real artists and medicinal quality plants, I have to wholeheartedly agree with you. I love 10 acres or less because I think you can really manage and monitor quality control while still building a community ecosystem that allows the community as a whole to benefit and thrive from the work that you’re doing just in that one place.
Regenerative Agriculture in their Hemp Farm
Also, really, really understanding the need for regenerative farming practices as a whole in organic or moving into more organic methods of agriculture. My husband’s working in consulting as well as building into a regenerative Korean Natural Farming cannabis garden in the Western Slope and coming from you know, the Pacific Northwest where many people have been involved with cannabis cultivation for years and years and a year or multiple decades now legacy farmers have been utilizing you know, these practices in brewing their teas and getting all trippy hippie with like their composting stuff. How is regenerative agriculture going to play a part in your guys’ hemp farm?
Dave Vanslyke: It’s a complete paradigm shift and that that word has gotten beat to death in the last decades. But it’s a game-changer in my understanding and my really my introduction into the regenerative ag mindset. We’ve always come from an organic model. I’m not certified organic at this point, because I just have personal biases about inviting the government into my life to certify that I’m doing what everybody ought to be doing.
I’m kind of a more local Meteor farmer asking questions. How are you growing this? What are you putting on this for fertilizer? What are you doing the sort of a thing? But I listened to a presentation by Jeff Lowenfels, you know who wrote the Trifecta, you know, series of books on Teaming with Microbes, etc. And I heard the phrase Soul Food Web, and Dr. Elaine Ingham, the name that came out of that, as I got started down that rabbit hole. It opened up my understanding of a philosophy and a methodology that I should have embraced a long, long time ago. And I was, I felt I was doing a responsible organic version of farming. But by continuing to do annual tillage events, and that sort of thing, I’ve come to realize that I need to move as aggressively as possible towards an organic no-till methodology.
So I’m looking at Rodale and some of the things that they’ve done, we’re going to be going to that sort of a model, we’re not going to be using plastic row cover, which is kind of, that’s the rule for hemp, culture and there’s nothing technically wrong with that philosophically, it solves some problems, but it also causes some problems on the other side, in terms of ecological discussions in terms of soil microbiology, health and those kinds of things. So we’re going to be doing a roller crimp, rye, you know, that we’re going to be starting out with conservation tillage, moving into no-till transplanting down the road, and doing something that not too many people do.
And maybe that’s my pattern, I just, I take a hard thing and try to make it harder, I guess, maybe that’s what I do. But I’m convinced that regenerative ag that’s focused on soil health is critically important. I think it’s critical for us in our survival as a species, you know, that. And that discussion goes off a lot of rabbit trails of carbon sequestration, etc., etc. I don’t get bogged down in those discussions a whole lot. I have no intention to really be an activist. I’m too busy just being a realist and trying to live my life and understanding what I’m doing. But I believe in science, and Dr. Ingram has had decades to prove her theories, and they become methodologies that work because it’s how the system works.
And when you begin to see yourself as a rancher, instead of a farmer to where your little herd of microbes is doing the work for you and making their world happy, they’ll feed the plant, and the plant will feed itself, and there’s a symbiotic relationship between plant and soil. That is, it’s amazing. And so the best way that I can be the best farmer is to work myself out of a job and get out of the way and let nature do what it’s supposed to do and how it was designed to work.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, let’s do more of that. Because I will tell you what, Mark Shepard who happens to be a master and restoration, our agriculture, regenerative agriculture, Richard Perkins, the Holistic Management of soil and gardening, Allan Savory, and then Dirt to Soil, Gabe Brown, and then you can farm Joel Salatin have all been pioneers and this particular movement. And one of the things I’m most grateful to the Coronavirus for is the fact that it is pulling families and farmers in to share and practice more of these methodologies, whether you’re doing a backyard farm and families are starting to plant seeds again.
Working on Cannabinoid-Rich Genetics
And the larger farmers are starting to think about how they can do what they’ve always done in a way that’s healthier for the Earth and for their ecosystem, not to mention they’re being forced into situations where they have to re-approach their farming practices, because of how little the earth actually has to give it. I mean, we have been in such a panic about our environment. And here, just two, three short weeks into quarantine, we can already see how quickly the planet is starting to rejuvenate, which is totally fascinating to me. Interestingly enough, with your production of CBD, which has been dubbed the mother cannabinoid, and focused more on being recognized for its ability to address neurological issues. Talk to me a little bit about your passion beyond following the trend. What is it that attracted you or is attracting you to working specifically with seeing a CBG cannabinoid-rich genetics?
Dave Vanslyke: Will sign it for me, it’s really personal at a family level, my mother died of Parkinson’s in 2010, about the time that I pivoted from a cabinet shop. And my oldest brother, when he was little, had German Measles, encephalitis, and a real high temperature and created brain damage. And so I grew up in the world of Special Olympics and those kinds of things. And so neurological challenges have been my entire wheelhouse if you want to say that.
When I look at CBG and the potential for neurological regenerative properties, for me, that’s as personal as I guess. And we weren’t into this vibe at that time. With my mom, when she died, I wish I could have brought some of these products alongside her. What that would have done, I don’t know, and I think it would have given her a better quality of life at the end.
So I’m really. I’m really excited about CBG. I’m really excited about CBN. I’m excited about CBDV. The more that we get to know about these 113 cannabinoids and 200 terpenes and 20 flavonoids, and how they work together and how they work in isolation. That’s the future where this is headed. And that’s the one thing I think that comes out of the farm bills and take the legal restrictions offers, and we’re going to see some real-life science. Ethan Russo has done fabulous work in this and understanding what’s really going on at a chemical and medical level.
Now we’re going to have a whole army of Ethan Russo’s out there learning about this plant and all of its amazing things. These next ten years are going to absolutely blow us apart in terms of our understanding of this plant and what it can do. And if we just can unbridle it and let it do what it’s supposed to do. Because the plant doesn’t develop these cannabinoids to help us, that’s not what’s there for I mean, THC and CBD and all these different cannabinoids that we’re focused on, the plant uses those cannabinoids for its own health, you know as natural pesticides and those kinds of things and disease resistance and all that.
We harness those, and with our endocannabinoid system, we respond to that. And that’s exciting. But just to learn what this plant can do, and then take modern breathing exercises to that, it’s, we’re at the very cutting edge, it’s the very front end of pioneering of a whole new way of thinking. When it comes to this plant. I’m convinced that CBG is the next iteration of that, and I’m excited about it. But I’m excited about the other 112 cannabinoids behind that that we’re going to end and there probably will be more cannabinoids.
I’ve heard research where there’s seeing stuff on gas chromatographic data that that they see a blip and they don’t know what that blip is they know it’s a cannabinoid, but they haven’t identified what that is yet. That’s what’s fascinating. This plant is just slowly beginning to reveal itself to us. And every bit of it’s exciting there’s just very little bad news when it comes to what these cannabinoids do.
Sonia Gomez: Now the man I’m telling you what I totally agree with and I have personal experience and you know it’s been a while since I shared sort of what that is, so I’ll let you know since you shared in vulnerability with me. You know my attachment to this plant is also quite personal, and being a sort of teenage rebellious surfing festival going girl when I was in high school, I was enjoying cannabis recreationally but didn’t really advertise it to my mom or my community. It wasn’t like a yes. I like to smoke cannabis.
However, when I was in a near-fatal surfing accident, and it triggered this totally insane seizure type syndrome within my body. And I had to go toe to toe with the legal and medical system for my rights to safe access to cannabis after being taught by a neurologist about my endocannabinoid system, how to microdose, what strains to use, at what time of day, how phytonutrients were affecting and stimulating my endocannabinoid system and therefore my immunity. And after three months of following this regimen, I was off all my medications. Within six months, I was off all over the counters. And within nine months, I had lost 97 pounds.
So my life was completely transformed by the use of cannabinoid-rich, fat nutrients as well as prospects. And so I firmly believe, and diversifying our access and understanding to each one of these cannabinoids because I believe and I also think that genomic testing and finding out how to pair the cannabinoid profiles with our blood types is going to be a huge evolution and cannabinoid-based medicine, it’s going to be a really fascinating time where I think historical medicine, practice medicinal practices are going to be paired with modern-day traditional medicine. And we’re going to find ourselves in a nice little hybrid that gives people access to both the information on the products. And you’re right on the front lines of that as one of our farmers.
Challenges in the Hemp Industry
Tell me a little bit about the challenges that you’ve been up against as a startup in the hemp revolution. What had been one or two of the top challenges that you’ve been up against in your time in this industry?
Dave Vanslyke: You know, years ago, Donald Rumsfeld was quoted in Reader’s Digest. And this has become a famous phrase of his that there are the known knowns. And then there are the known unknowns. And then there are the unknown unknowns. And so, the known knowns are those things that we know, and those are the things that we read, those are the YouTube clips, those are the podcasts we listen to. Those are the known knowns that we know about, and we can learn, and that’s achievable and attainable.
And then when we have the known unknowns, there’s, well, there’s a lot of things that we don’t know about this industry, for example, as this industry develops, what this industry how it even functions in a lot of ways, it’s kind of a dysfunctional family model right now of supply and demand and how that all works its way out. So there’s a lot we don’t know about it, we don’t know where the prices are going to settle. We don’t know how those markets are going to fully develop. We don’t know what the federal government and the FDA, specifically the USDA, what they’re going to do and when they’re going to land on this. So those are the known unknowns.
The one that kicks us in the butt and it kicked us in the butt even at a tiny scale was the unknown unknowns, and realizing how labor-intensive this plant can be to do it, right. Learning the difference between horticulture and agriculture, there’s a difference. You know, the Latin word hortus means garden, a Latin word, Agra means field. And so when you take a lot of empirical data and anecdotal data about cannabis growing, it comes from a horticultural perspective. When you apply that to field methodologies, it’s a different economy of scale, and you have to do it differently, you’re using different equipment. I have so many friends around here who farmed it for the first time. And they went through the same trajectory that we even did we set out to grow 600 plants our first year, and do that successfully, not more than 1400 plants.
Well, we had friends that were going to do five acres, and they decided to do ten, and we heard guys that did 20 acres last year and decided to do 50 this year. That was kind of the rule. And what it came down to for us noobs, especially the guys around us, were to just throw money and people at this thing at harvest time as much as possible. And the kind of frantic Oh, crap moment of this is for real, and this is happening.
When you’re in the greenhouse, and your little plants are coming up, and you’re just Yeah, you’re so excited. And while you’re successfully growing something green, that’s awesome, and hey, we the benchmark for this week is don’t kill the plants, and we haven’t killed the plants, that’s awesome. And then you’re reading about nutrition, and you’re reading about watering and all that sort of thing, then you go on your transplant and oh, wow, that’s a big deal. And then you start growing, and you start weeding, you know, you walk through this whole thing. And then you get to this point, and you realize that we have just a metric crapload of this stuff to deal with now all at the same time and do it in a responsible way.
It’s so humorous for me to hear all the noise from people talking about their craft sheared smokeable hemp flower, and I know what these guys are doing. They’re doing everybody’s job, and they’ve thrown in a barn throwing some fans on it, and buying some D homes and hoping for the best, hoping it doesn’t. Moldy and rank. Right? That’s the reality. And yeah, there are a few guys that are doing it right but what when you step into field scale, it’s a whole different world. It’s a whole different world of harvesting and drying and all that sort of thing.
So for us, I think that we weren’t the exception, we were the rule, we’re with everybody else that we just way underestimated the intensity of the harvest in the process. So try to learn from that, again, there’s a reason I’m going small again this year, there’s a reason. And my model is to align myself with brands that share our values in terms of regenerative ag, and then to grow as they grow, then that’s really how I want to do this as their market begins to develop, then we’ll expand our production more. This kind of this field of dreams, grow it and they will come kind of philosophy is really foolish to do that. I just, I’m just going to grow an enormous amount of product and jump on the open market, and people are just going to be there clamoring for my product.
Well, there’s a lot of people this year that lost an enormous amount of money doing it that way. And there’s a lot of people that got leverage really high, and they got backed by venture capitalists, and there’s horror stories we have a farmer here in the area that committed suicide because allegedly he got tied into a group of people that were unsavory with high expectations and his crop failed, and he thought the best route out was commit suicide. That’s a dark story.
Pieces of Learnings
So if there’s any advice out there of what we’ve learned is it’s okay to be small, and it’s okay to grow slow, and it’s okay to not fall prey to the old Addy ager the new adage with especially with the web marketing of a fake it till you make it. You can do that when you’re hitting keys on a keyboard right and developing web platforms when you’re growing this crop that needs so much attention at the tail end of its lifecycle. If you’re going to err, I would say err on the side of staying small; that would be my advice.
Sonia Gomez: Man, such good advice and such a real, like it as far as cultivation goes, I’ve been in this for so long. I mean, I got my start at the trim table of family and friends cannabis companies. And that’s how I use or not that companies when I say companies I mean like three hippies that like three’s hippies in a smurf village with trust Safari and to grow their hair out and came to the west coast to like try their hand that you know Garberville life like [crosstalk]
Yeah. Like ah, Humboldt, not I call him the knob burgers because they’re like, Nah, yeah, I got the best. I can grow my purple with molasses. And I’m like, and I can cool guy like how much you pay in per pound when I trim this shit. So I like that’s where I got my start. And so I worked my way all the way up to being the harvest manager who guides you is the most stressful time because the growers are always trying to push it that one extra week to get it a little bit further down the line and then the spike in frost comes, or a hurricane or some sort of wind comes and then you got to like to be out there with all of the trim fairies at the same time. And cutting the heads off and frickin throwing them up on vines and trying to salvage all the top and it’s just become a frost comes two weeks early, you’re done. You know, like if you don’t have the right team in place or the right place to take the stuff. If you get rain and can’t shake your bushes, you’re done like mother nature can devastate your crop.
So I can totally relate to what you’re saying, and so many businesses, especially on the agricultural side, did not consider harvest. I guess it would be my cousin in law. My husband’s first cousin has the largest bean organic bean farm. I think it’s pinto beans or black-eyed something or other anyways he grows all that he has like 200 plus acres is the largest USDA organic bean farm in the state of Colorado, and he opened up some acreage is for hemp farmers this year, and they blew grow the beautiful crop, but when it came to harvest, the wind was blowing plants away they had no dehumidifiers they had nothing, nothing to harvest with that they had no place to take it, so it’s across the board. You’re not the only one. Don’t feel bad, but and I agree with you, 1,000% grow slow and build a brand within a brand.
You hit on something that I talked about a lot, which is creating strategic partnerships that allow you guys to both grow and flourish at the same time and applying your skill sets to an ecosystem that complements the industry overall. And so I think it’s such a powerful business model, you already gave some key pieces of advice. What do we have to look forward to this year with your product? Do you have already put some of your strategic partnerships in place? Are you still looking, like what’s the next thing that you are working to achieve to ensure that you have success the following year? Or at the end of this year, as well?
Dave Vanslyke: Yeah. Marcus Lemonis. You know, if you’ve watched him, the profit dude on CNBC. Yeah, he has these three keys to a successful business of people process and product. And that’s really important. And so it’s easy to get focused on the product. But we’re equally focused on the process and on the people and trying to bring the right people into our lives and really develop proofs of concept from start to finish of the process. So that we have a process that is wired with some flexibility, right, because life happens. I mean, side note, we got hammered this year in Oregon, with mold with Botrytis, I mean, we got hammered as an industry.
The rain came at the wrong time in September. And it just the plants was wet. And it was just warm, and it was humid. And it was just you could just feel the mold growing, you know, the motion hunters. So it was a record year for sham trails and stuff out in the woods because it was a perfect environment for growing nasty stuff. I mean that in that case, that’s not nasty. But yeah, the process to scale, you have to scale a process, not a product is the easiest thing is a scale product used by more seeds. But to scale a process, that’s really what we’re trying to fine-tune is this to go from start to finish, we’ve reached out to a handful of brands that we really like.
Brands that present themselves in a way that really puts the agricultural aspect on the forefront. And they want to lead with that, well, those brands are going to need reliable vendors. And so it’s hard to sell an idea right now. And that’s really where we are because the first thing somebody says is, Hey, can you send me some COAs as a sample? Well, we’re not there yet. You know, but what we’re doing is I’ve reached out to a handful of players right now good brands, that their interest in what we’re doing, and they’re going to want those samples and they’re going to want they’ll COAs when they’re happening. And then we’ll just grow from there.
I really believe Sonia, that what we’re doing is a really good model. And I don’t think I’m going to be challenged by trying to find a market. I think there will be a significant market there that will grow more and more of a time. Right now hemp is just kind of like, again, from my small grain world, it’d be like selling specialty wheat and sell it to the big grain elevators, then it just goes into a big baptist as wheat. And the identity preservation all that is [inaudible] because it’s just wheat. I think that’s where we are as hemp. It’s just kind of hemp, you know, as in quotes as a word. And all those different stratifications and distinctions between craft growers and organic and regenerative ag and all that I think is kind of blurry right now. Those will become sharper and sharper and the focus, as you start seeing this marketplace, take up our product, and the demand becomes more discriminating. And the suppliers becoming more discriminating. And those partnerships starting to line up more and more, as opposed to just a farmer, throwing stuff on the open market and just kind of whoring out to whoever’s going to buy the product, we’re gonna see people.
This is where I want to take the lead on this on the front end, is be very, very intentional about the people that we line up with. You know, it’s easy for noobs like us to get in the water and think, oh, hey, this is so fun. We’re swimming with the dolphins. This is great. We don’t realize those are the dorsal fans. And those are sharks out there. You know, and this industry is full of sharks. And I read horror stories on LinkedIn and other places, other platforms all the time, about shysters you know, and, not to put any kind of disparaging, you know, shade on brokers, but in a lot of ways, they’re not helping the industry right now. In some ways, they’re very helpful in the industry. You know, they’re linking people together. But I don’t know how to word, except we just want to be very intentional about how we grow.
We want to be very intentional about how we process. We want to be very intentional about how we grow as a business and who we align ourselves with, and make sure that those brands are still conducive to where we want to be. And if they want to grow to a different scale, we get that we totally get that if they’re looking for somebody that’s growing 1200 acres, that’s not us. There are guys out there that’ll take that on, and there’ll be those vendors. So we want people that are reaching out to small craft growers that are really making a commitment to do it right.
We want people that are reaching out to small craft growers that are making a commitment to do it right. - Dave Vanslyke Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: So good. I have something to show you. Since you mentioned Marcus, let me see this picture right here.
Dave Vanslyke: Oh, look at that. So you get what I’m saying with Marcus.
Sonia Gomez: You know, I love the guys so much. We both come from Greek families. So a man after my own heart, I love him so much. He’s like, just been such a powerful mentor.
Dave Vanslyke: He is a model in every business, he goes into [crosstalk] develop, and people process and product. And all three of those have to be functional to have a successful business.
Sonia Gomez: And really, really, really clear too. It’s very clear, and it’s very black and white. So I commend you for approaching your business that way. And you’re right, and there are lots and lots of sharks, and lots of blood in the water right now. There was a time where it was a blue ocean, but now it’s becoming a red ocean. And you have to become, and you have to create a microcosm of another blue ocean for yourself within the industry.
Where to Find Them
So I think what you’re doing and staying true to your artists in practice and building slow and growing slow is going to really benefit you long term. Where can folks find you if they want to follow the journey?
Dave Vanslyke: We’re Homestead Hemp, Oregon, and there’s a Homestead Hemp out in New York. And I love those people because they chose a really great name. I wish I was the only Homestead Hemp in the US. But we’re Homestead Hemp Oregon. And so we’re on LinkedIn, I actually Dave Vanslyke, on LinkedIn, you can find us on Instagram. We haven’t stood up a website at this point. Because I’m just too busy focusing on the process, at this point, and I want to be very careful to under-promise and overproduce. That’s really where I’m at right now.
Years ago, the TV show Alf gave me the best business advice I’ve ever heard. He said, find out what you really suck at and stop doing that. Determine what you’re good at, but it’s even more helpful to find out what you’re really bad at and then just stop doing that. Just don’t try to be all things to all people, figure out who you are, figure out who your tribe is, who’s the community people you want to network with. And don’t try to be all things to all people. So frankly, that’s one thing that scares me about my conversation with you is this is a big platform. That’s intimidating to me right now. But I’m honored, and I’m humbled that we’re having this conversation. And yeah, we’ll just take it as it comes.
Sonia Gomez: Man, I’m going to tell you why I’m so excited to have you on the show. And I think this is a perfect place for you to get your feet wet and talk about that. I mean, you really dropped quite a bit of value in this conversation while talking about important issues in the industry and in the world as a whole. So I really appreciate how you approach this opportunity because it’s extremely value-driven.
And for those of you guys who are tuning in the pieces of gold that were dropped here, I implore you to pick up and take note on because this is the difference between the people who are like I compare this kind of, I compare Mary Jane to a woman, hemp cannabis, whatever you want to call her. She is like the most demanding mistress in a marriage, like, doesn’t matter what I need is the white girl, like the breaking cannabis, or Mary Jane is going to need something else for longer.
So it’s just such an intense relationship. And then beyond that, most of the business owners are like 16-year-old boys in bed with a naked girl for the first time. They’re just like, Oh, good, and it’s over before it even gets started. And then they’re in trouble. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s just like, here we are, the whole lot of them have come in impregnated the industry and are trying to figure out what to do with themselves now that they’re in trouble. And I think, I really think that it’s important to take sex ed know and use birth control, no I’m just kidding.
Don’t allow your gentle out your excitement to disrupt the potential for success. You really have to take your time and carefully plan how you’re going to make an impression and notice how these things that I’m saying are relative to asking the girl of your dreams out on the day and sealing the deal is very, very similar, you have to carefully plan and consider how you’re going to leave a lasting impression in the industry with the plant on behalf of the person who has the problem that you want to solve. Whether you have a b2b model where a b2c model it will never ever, ever get you outside of that triad of who do you want to solve? What problems? And how, when, with what product? And the most important subject of it all Is why? Why are you going to do what you’re going to do the way that you’re going to do it? And is that why strong enough to capture and connect with your ideal customer in a way that will convert them into a sale, not once, but over and over and over again.
So I implore you guys to continuously work on the vision of your company continuously work on the mission. Grow slow, measure twice, cut, once you know that from being a carpenter, and a cabinet maker, you measure twice, cut once, and I’ll tell you what the materials or success and the tools are for success are available at a fingertip, you must use discernment. And you always have to ask your questions, seven layers deep. Why am I going to invest in this? Why am I making this next choice? Who am I actually competing with?
If you’re competing outside of yourself, you’re going to find yourself in a lot of trouble because everyone has access to different types of resources. But if you decide to follow the very simple advice that you just shared, do what you are best at and build your team around you to fill in the gaps of the areas that you’re not so strong. And you will find yourself successful, far faster and for far longer than your competitor. Compete within yourself and inside of your team. Rather than externally. Keeping up with the Joneses never worked with anybody. So those are my words of wisdom, say one more time where folks can find you and follow along with you.
Dave Vanslyke: We are Homestead Hemp, Oregon. And again, Instagram is the place we have very little content. But again, I try to be very intentional. And I put it together almost like a blog format so that our pictures and what we talk about are really telling our story and our journey of where we’re starting. For example, the most important farm implement that I bought the first year was a microscope. That’s our most important one so that we can really do the deep dive literally to see what our soil looks like and move from there. So that’s who we are. And that’s where we are.
Sonia Gomez: Amazing. I love it. Well, thank you so much for being on the show with me today. I’m so honored to have you on really excited to continue to follow your success. And congratulations on all the things you have done thus far. And for those of you guys who are a part of The Hemp Revolution, community, or Medical Secrets family, thank you so much for being here with us and for tuning in.
I invite you now to take one simple action, like, and share this video as well as tag five people that you believe this will make a difference for, even if it’s to bring just a spark of joy into their day. As you know, it is our mission to empower you with the truth about cannabis and hemp so that you can make educated decisions about how you care for yourself and the people that you love or otherwise participate in the growth of this incredible industry.
Check us out at medicalsecrets.com for more information or access to products that you can depend on to deliver the results you’re looking for. And if you’re a budding entrepreneur or business owner in the space, I’d love to hear your story, firstname.lastname@example.org is where you can find me, and I look forward to connecting with you. I’m your hostess with the mostess, Sonia Gomez, and this is The Hemp Revolution. 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 the 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 love the life you live.
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