Autumn Brands CFO and Co-Owner Hannah Brand set out with her family to apply their extensive agriculture experience to cannabis, and the result is a sixth-generation, women-owned, licensed cannabis cultivation operation in Santa Barbara County, Calif. A focus on high-quality, pesticide-free product has set them apart in the market, but the local community and regulations have not always been kind to the company.
Here, Brand discusses the company’s launch, the challenges it has faced and where it is headed in 2020 and beyond.
Cannabis Business Times: Can you provide some general background on the company and its work in the cannabis space? How did the company get started, and how did it get to where it is today?
Hannah Brand: The company started with my dad wanting to create a new opportunity with his kids. My brother and I were both studying at Cal Poly, SLO at the time it started and were getting degrees in agribusiness and agriculture and environmental plant science. We grew up working in these greenhouses and I always wanted to work with my dad, I just didn’t know it would be in the cannabis industry. I am a sixth-generation farmer with my grandparents growing vegetables in Holland and then moving to Santa Barbara County to grow cut flowers over 30 years ago. We use the knowledge of growing in greenhouse with a wide variety of crops to make the perfect environment for our current crop, cannabis.
My dad has always told us to focus on quality over quantity and this has been a main factor in bringing our company to where it is today. Our farm is 100% spray free, [with] no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. We also do all of our processing by hand, from the harvesting, bucking, trimming and packing. The best reviews we get from our dispensaries is how our products are constantly the same high-quality product throughout the year.
CBT: What kinds of challenges has the company faced in the Santa Barbara community, and how has it overcome those challenges?
HB: There is a group here that doesn’t want cannabis to be cultivated in this county, and are constantly spreading lies, making false claims and trying to change laws. We are constantly attending city and county meetings to make sure our voices are heard and faces are seen because they want to paint us as criminals when we are just farmers—the same farmers that have been here for generations.
We also have a lot of challenges to get through our land use permitting process, but we believe this process, while challenging, is necessary to separate the farms who want to be fully compliant and those who don’t. It is a long, expensive and time-consuming process, but I believe we will get through it and be able to continue this family farm for many years.
CBT: How does the company approach cannabis education in the community?
HB: We have worked closely with a local company, Kopsun, who are an educational resource for people in Santa Barbara County. They offer Leaf Learning sessions once a month for the public to attend and learn the basics, ask specific questions and get support. We have also participated in their monthly Coffee with a Cannabis Grower, where I had breakfast with about 10 people from the community and got to share information about all the steps it takes to get from a cutting to a dispensary compliantly.
CBT: Which industry trends is the company is keeping its eye on going into 2020?
HB: Consumers educating themselves on where their products are coming from and wanting sustainable and ethical growing practices. We have received so much support from consumers for being a 100% spray free farm and want to continue to put out a clean, high-quality product for everyone to enjoy.
Women using cannabis. There has been a large rise of women using cannabis as a resource for health and wellness, as well as socially. As stigmas continue to fall and cannabis becomes more available in new ways such as vapes, mints and tinctures, it encourages people to find what methods work best for their needs. Personally, when I have a headache or soreness, I would much rather take a 2.5mg THC mint than an Advil now.
CBT: What are some of the company’s shorter- and longer-term goals?
HB: Short-term goals are to continue to put out high-quality products that we are proud of year-round, organically gain new dispensaries to work with and new customer followings, and to be a recognizable brand throughout the whole state of California.
Longer-term goals are to raise the standard for naturally clean cannabis cultivation.