Head Change #4 - Regenerative Hemp Farming with Ron Spencer
Biosync Industries founder Ron Spencer received his architecture degree from the Universy of Oregon in 2009 and his MBA from Marylhurst University in 2011 with an emphasis in Green Development. Ron subscribes to the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) theory in economics that says companies should care just as much about social and environmental concerns as they do about profits. Hemp turned out to be the single best product to employ his regenerative design ideas. As he puts it:
“I always tell people that we’re not a hemp company that cares about the Earth, but rather an Earth company that cares about hemp.”
Ron teamed up with his father who owned a cattle ranch in the Umpque Valley of Oregon and worked on turning his family ranch into a sustainable regenerative hemp farm. Ron says he is passionate about the potential of the Cannabis plant for natural health and advanced fiber production as well as the impact it can have in developing closed-loop agriculture systems. I spoke with Ron about regenerative hemp farming on Head Change #4.
In this episode of Head Change host Levi Strom interviews architect and hemp farmer Ron Spencer founder of Biosync Industries in Oregon about regenerative hemp farming.
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Transcripts of this episode are provided by Aram Stoney at Big Sur Cannabotanicals.
Levi: Welcome to Head Change, the podcast that puts you in better headspace. I'm your host Levi Strom. Transcripts of today's episode are brought to you thanks to a generous donation by Aram Stoney at Big Sur Cannabotanicals. Thank you Aram. On today's episode I interview Ron Spencer of Biosync Industries on regenerative hemp farming.
You're the expert. I want to hear from you Ron and if you want to just tell me your story and how you got involved in hemp and then we can kind of break it down from there.
Ron: Well, one of the first rules to is if you're in this game and you consider yourself an expert, you're definitely not an expert because there is something new to learn every single year, but you're right about the unique side of Oregon and and one of the ways I try to describe that too is because we're in a very special microclimate that if we were the wine industry, I would compare it to like Southern France. You have like these very unique wines like in the world and that's the same thing we've got between our mountain ranges, the way the soils developed, you know, trees and all that kind of stuff that whole system is cultivated this kind of magic spot that this plant just loves, but I mean even though like it can grow pretty much anywhere like you said, I mean, that's how you know, it's cousin got the word weed because you know, it could just grow right there in the ditch, you know, and we've had a couple strains that we just kind of planted in various different spots and not watered and it's like they can just it can rock it can do its thing so, but my background so my I kind of started this back in college. I was studying architecture at the University of Oregon and we were really focused on . . .
Levi: That's a good architecture school. Go Ducks!
Ron: Beautiful. Heck yeah, man.
Levi: Class of 2003 right here, Sociology. That's how I got into smoking weed.
Ron: Hell yeah, dude, it's funny. I didn't even start smoking until after college except for like, you know that occasional 420 day where it's like you and your buddies just, you know, got all the munchies and all the stuff had a grand old time. Might of missed class that day, but [laughs] . . .
Levi: For sure, had a few of those.
Ron: So I was studying under my professor at the time, Brook Muller and we were really focused on blending ecology with the built world. So the concept of a living building, so it's like you have all these elements of a building that are contributing to the space, but they're static. You know, you have concrete walls, you got this. How can you incorporate that more as a natural system and so I dove into the concept of System Thinking from there and became fascinated by dualities and synchronistic relationships. So it's like if you can scratch my back I scratch yours and nature over time has really perfected those those things and that is kind of it's not kind of it's the future of where we're going to have to take agriculture in general. It just as the card shook out hemp turned out to be that perfect plant to trigger for myself. So after architecture school, I was lucky enough to graduate into the Great Recession there where architecture work didn't really exist anymore when the construction industry crashes, you know Architects the first to go but that was a blessing in disguise because I ended up, I wasn't really meant to be in an office that wasn't my vibe. And so I came back to the family ranch and decided I just want to get my hands dirty and went into cattle ranching with my dad because at the same time cattle have a stigma about them as being very not good for the environment and in certain situations, that's true. But that's the same with any Industries as soon as you scale like a mono style. If you're doing too much of one thing and one space, you know, it's going to have a negative impact over time. So I went back to the mission and was like alright, well how can I do some tweaks and turns on the cattle stuff and and start like, you know figuring out how to do some stuff with long term. And at the same time I got into cannabis because I have a very active mind and so like I can be running around like ddddd, you know and my brain and never wanted to do all the like the ADD things and all that stuff because I just I didn't like the potential of some of those things. I'm not smart enough to say what it does and what it doesn't but like I just it freaked me out. So that's how I got into weed. And so that was kind of like my evening calm down. It's like all right, you can turn off distress, sleep better all those good things. And at that time is when I started to see that it was going to be just a matter of time until those plots were going from you know, you're 48 plant grows, too acres right. So I started doing experiments in my backyard OMP trying to find out how to automate the process and turn it into that scale. But with the intention of doing some of these regenerative agriculture concepts underneath it. And then once I basically saw the green light to jump in I pounced so that's really the story of how I got started. The name biosync is really designed as a concept of syncing up all these biology's into different systems. So they're working completely together and together they're creating more than you're putting in because traditional or this centuries, you know industrial faculty has been the line right you put in inputs you get an output and you have waste that's just the process right? It's been the same with agriculture you put in something you pull out something you have waist. Well, we're always talking about [00:06:10] closing the loop. So that waste needs to be able to go back into that same system. So you're not depleting the system because as long as you're taking out more than you put in it's going to deplete over time. But you know that that is easily reversible where you can do that same modifying that system and you know, mapping it off of natural things that are already existing. You can be creating more in that system than you're actually taking out just because of the life that's going on underneath soil. So it's like if you want to get into regenerative farming tactics like that becomes your building block of everything is just the relationship with the soil.
Levi: And that's like, I just want to pause it there for a quick second. There's so much bullshit.
Ron: I'll spit ball you're going to have to like . . .
Levi: You're saying someone's cool stuff and I loved it like it comes from the University of Oregon architecture program. You know how progressive the U of O is, like my sister went to U of O too and you know, she studied. I can't remember what she studied but it was the farming class at the U of O that really I think impacted her more than anything else. It was like the gardening class, you know, but that whole approach, you know, because it's such a different mindset right? I mean you can have the approach of how I'm going to start a cannabis or hemp farm and I'm going to put an x amount of money. I'm going to get out x amount of money. And the environmental cost is never factored in and you know, it's that type of thinking that's gotten us into the problem that we're in right now with climate change and just taking that different fundamental approach of you know, we want to actually restore and revive and help this environment thrive because obviously nature's really good at sustaining life. It's the expert at it. We're kind of like the new kids on the block, we haven't really figured out how to live in harmony on the planet yet. But if you look to nature and its systems, it has all the answers. It tells us exactly what to do. We just have to be smart enough to listen to it. You know?
Ron: Correct? Yeah, it will win every time. I like to say like, you know, every season is a battle and so you have a choice. Do you want to fight against nature or with nature and she's gonna dropkick everything.
Levi: It's like it's like surfing, you know, I'm a surfer and you know really the battle is surfing is that the ocean has such a tremendous amount of energy. And if you fight it you're never going to win. 100% of the time you're going to lose that fight. But if you kind of just give up and start to be smart, you know use the eddies and the tides, conserve your energy and work with like give you don't breathe with the ocean and really like kind of get in tune with it and all of a sudden you don't even feel like you're doing anything and you're just like flying down waves and just like a you're like a dolphin all of sudden.
Ron: Yes. It's funny you say that too because like the cataclysmic moment where I actually finally dove in and started this was based on like a surfing trip I went on like. I'm not a surfer. I just like, you know taking a week vacation a surf hostel and just you know messing around and just being a dork in the waves for a while, but like why I always choose that environment is you meet some of the most uniquely intelligent humans when it comes to exactly that like they can look at that ocean and tell you everything about like that two miles they see where a common person we like, hey, look there's a wave maybe we'll see a dolphin. I don't know. And so it's just like it gave me such a fun perspective of how to look.
Levi: If you ever want to know what the weather report is like talk to a surfer. They'll give you the most accurate weather report ever.
Levi: I just ate some of that flower. It tastes good.
Ron: Hell. Yeah, dude. Hell yeah, do you think people need to eat it raw more often because I mean though there's some good nutrients in that.
Levi: So yeah. Yeah, so I think I'm all about the raw and like making tinctures from the actual plant, you know,
Ron: Make a sweet salad dressing.
Levi: Make a sweet salad dressing, you know, a lot of people use the tinctures I make for culinary purposes.
Ron: Heck yeah dude. I started cooking with kief. Yeah, dude, because some of those things like specifically like the Maraschino. It's really good on a barbecue type thing. It's like smoke some meats and stuff and just dribble some of that across the top. I'm telling you man. If they're if there's a culinary person listening vibe with that.
Levi: A little dry rub with raw cannabis?
Ron: Yeah smoke that thing with some oak or something. Yep.
Levi: That sounds amazing. Yeah. I might have to try that.
Ron: Yeah, so there's that.
Levi: So you studied architecture you got into environmental architecture to put it simply, you know and thinking beyond just traditional, you know buildings. Like how does this building actually fit into the environment that it's in and how can we make this a living structure? So kind of applying that knowledge over to your farm and what you've done with Biosync is kind of the same mentality. So you went to school and learned this stuff probably started smoking a little weed. Maybe your dad wasn't as hip to it back then, I'm guessing, if you're like me, you know and you kind of got in the industry. It was kind of like, what are you doing? I'd be like, well, I'm going to work on the farm and they'd be like, okay, I'll be like, yeah, I'm not exactly building fences and milking goats on this farm but it's a farm and I'm doing work. Was there a struggle to convince your dad like, hey dad, let's start growing hemp. What was that conversation like, I'm just curious?
Ron: Yes, and no. So like it was a struggle for sure just from, I'm actually really lucky that my dad has been super supportive and really good advice to and the concept of like taking this stuff and scaling it, you know, because like going from like a 48 plant grow to 2,000 per acre in the first year, I did 80 acres so it's like it's there's some learning lessons to go on right? So like I got a really good education from him on that side, but like really with the way my dad thinks it was just like mapping it out and showing him like hey, here is the market that exists. Here's why it exists. This is what it takes to do all this and just really having a plan in place right that that's really what it took on that front and then just evolving with the market. So right because it's so it's so you one hell of a roller coaster too.
Levi: No doubt and this is what I want people that are listening to understand as like more talking about like Family Farms this is it this is like fathers and sons, this is like families, you know. That gets lost so much, you know in the corporate world that you know businesses are run by people, you know run by family people families come together, you know, I get so much support from my family too. And there's a lot of brands that I work with and know that it's like they got there, they literally have their whole family working for the company, you know? Yeah like yeah mom's doing the baking for the edibles and Dad's doing the sales and you know, right but that is so cool like that, right? That's the American dream, you know.
Levi: I feel like the kind of the hemp industry and the cannabis industry are kind of like the last the last best chance a lot of us have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps because if you're industrious and hardworking and motivated and positive I think you have a there's a future in this space for you, but it's not easy. The competition is crazy high, as you know, I know that the Oregon cannabis market got flooded after legalization and pot growers grew way too much weed for the state and you can't ship cannabis across state lines. Which is why a lot of the farmers start switching over to hemp because you can actually ship that across state lines. So did you start if you're willing to talk about it? Did you start with cannabis and then switch over to hemp or have you always been a hemp farmer?
Ron: Yeah. I was doing OMP in the backyard just like really small and I mean I wasn't marketing it or anything like that just learning the plant learning system because it's like at that point you had, you know, the fundamentals that were being passed down. For lack of a better term but like the elders I believe the best way to refer to it's like I kept asking the question is like, why, we're doing all this stuff. We're using a certain kind of soil repeating these certain ingredients are doing all this why why why kind of a thing and it's like every year you're almost replacing a lot of that same soil with new soil instead of this and everything. It's like I start to see, you know, the breakdown in the chain of like great this is growing wonderful things and they've learned so much from this process, but it's like maybe we don't need to do all these different things and maybe we can cultivate that ourselves. And so it was a giant backyard experiment. I try to say it's like if farmers could be a garage band like that was the garage band right there until we went to the acreage part and then with the acreage part too like all relate that back to the architecture concept was my graduate thesis was focused on especially the time of the financial crisis was that you know buildings are completely dictated almost by rent rolls, right? Everything that you do is based on either your exit value or your rent rolls. Then you know with solar power and stuff like that wind power they started to be able to cut costs by adding, you know power back to the grid or anything like that, but that's still wasn't I mean, I guess it's a revenue stream, but I didn't really consider it a revenue stream because that was just cost-cutting. They're still paying more for extra power than they're creating. And so like there's one developer up in Portland that I met with a few times. It really inspired me Kevin Kavanaugh out where it's like he was turning the green roofs and one of his buildings into an actual vegetable garden which then supported the restaurant on top and it was like, boom. Okay. So how do we take these fundamental areas that are just a wall in turn them into additional revenue. So at that time, I was very intrigued by [00:16:33] aquaponics and I was trying to use that system into an algae based production thing where you're creating all your own fuel your growing food, you're producing fish all these different things within the building that already was going to exist in general. So it's like, all right, great, we just turned it into a farm because the long-term thing is, you know, vertical farms are very intriguing to me. So with that said like when I came back here on the family farm like we're constantly kind of analyzing the operation to see like hey, how can we maximize this? How can do this because if anybody's involved with farming you discover really quickly how to turn duct tape and bailing wire into anything you need. So you just like you got to be dialed in with a sharp pencil and we've got some bottom grounds and really good soil that isn't exactly unique or it isn't exactly being used the best for cattle grazing, you know, like we have it uses different works, but that's soil could be doing so much more than just growing a grass crop the cattle and that had been on our mind for a long time and that was really where that plan came in place of like look we've got this plot of land needs to be utilized a little bit stronger. Hey, here's this industry that it would play into really well and you could double dip because in the offseason I still use it for cattle as part of this closed loop thing, which I can talk about later, but that's really where that shift happens where it's like got this chunk of land. It's not performing in there like it should so let's make it perform better this way and that was really the beginning.
Levi: I definitely want to talk to you about the cattle. Because I have my conceptions. I know I've like I know there's like a guy can't remember his name that is really preaching like actually beef isn't the problem because a lot of environmentalists say, you know, hey, everybody needs to go vegan. It's the only way we're going to save the planet. The methane from cattle is like the biggest greenhouse gas and all that and it is but there's this other other approach that actually uses the cattle and you move them around a graze and it's actually a carbon sink. I don't really understand it. I'd love for you to explain that.
Ron: So I think the person is Allan Savory with the Savory Institute.
Ron: Amazing work, he was a big deal in me deciding to come back to cattle as well. So they term that [00:18:47] Mob Grazing and you can relate it a lot to the importance of the buffalo on the plains in the days of the past.
Ron: So what happens at that at that point. So this is our offseason where we're growing a cover crop, right so that cover crop It grows, there's lots of different mixtures that you could use and do what you do is you send the cattle through at a high capacity, right and they mow off that top portion really quick. They're very picky eaters sometimes unless there's nothing left and then they'll just forage around like they know what tastes good, they know what their Twinkies are and they know their cheeseburgers are they love it? They're into it. And so they'll mob graze all that good stuff off right at the same time all that manure goes right back on the soil and then the third thing that happens there is there actually packing down the rest of the forage over the top right and at that point that's when you shift them over the next one. So what they've done to that system is: one soil is basically just decomposed, you know, organic matter, right? So whenever you're doing soil test and stuff you want to know how much organic matter is in your soil because that's where your beneficial bugs or worms all your all your organisms in there are consuming that to turn it Into the nutrients, right, you know, so like worm castings is probably one of your best nutrients to put in. So if you have an earthworm colony under your soil that's eating this organic matter, you're naturally producing those castings, right? So what they do is that it takes time for all that organic matter to be broken down. They speed up the process by digesting it through their system upfront just that fraction amount that they go across the top. So they're throwing that back down as their manure. Within their manure cattle have a lot of really beneficial bugs in the digestive system. So they're basically throwing lots of microbes and all that good stuff back into soil as well. So you've got an acceleration of the decomposition of your organic matter and a lot of beneficial bugs. The third thing is that they're smashing down the rest of the organic matter which then acts like a protective barrier on top of it. So if you leave ground soil bare and the sun is exposed to it moisture is going to evaporate like crazy, right? You know, it's just like if you put a towel in the sun to dry it off, right? Well with that layer of grass smashed over the top creates a thermal barrier where it actually protects all that water in the ground and allows your aquifer to soak it up better like a sponge. So you're protecting your moisture inside and Alan's work has been to reverse desertification with it. Same thing. So it's like you're limited on the amount of moisture that gets in and you trample all that stuff down. Get your moisture back on top it protects it in the soil to create that next level of life. Right? Because the more water that's in your soil without being too much promotes all that extra life as well as the organic matter to feed them. So you really got to cultivate a system underneath the soil. One of my favorite things is from the realm of bacteria and beneficial bugs. It's like you can take a handful of soil and there's more organisms in that handful of soil, good soil, then there are humans on the earth in just one handful. If you start paying attention to that and cultivate your soil, the stuff that's going to follow becomes like you know that bud you got right there. So . . .
Levi: You're really growing soil. Plants are the byproduct.
Ron: A hundred percent. Hemp was just the best option for it.
Levi: it. Right? So obviously you have to start with good soil. I want to talk about the Umpqua Valley where you're growing because I think that's a really special region. I'm from Oregon. So I know the area really well. I know what a beautiful pristine area it is and the air quality is really good. There's so many trees to filter. The water quality is really great. Lots of good sunshine. Oregon has some of the best wine in the world too, so naturally it's going to grow some of the best cannabis. The closed loop system you're describing is really cool because it kind of like I can really understand it now where you have the earthworm's underneath that are really digesting, speeding up the natural composting process and quickly processing that organic material into a more usable form and bacteria rich by-product the castings and then the cattle are obviously providing a lot of the organic material eating the cover crops and cover crops are also beneficial right there like nitrogen fixing and all that right?
Ron: Correct, that's why you pick your mix, right? Yeah.
Levi: And then what about what about like the carbon trapping, because isn't that a part of this system too?
Ron: Yeah, so that's something I have to do some more math on because it's always been on my mind is understanding it but that's not necessarily from the cattle that's going to go back to the crops that your growing because they're pulling CO2 out of earth. So the other element that's going into the soil is trapped carbon from the air being added back to the soil. That really is one of our biggest battles that we're going to have to try to figure out. I'm kind of excited to see what turns up in Elon Musk's new competition for the best carbon capture. So yeah, they're supposed to release it . . .
Levi: I think that's our only chance to be honest. I hate to say it. I mean, I'm not a climate scientist, but when I read the climate scientists news, it's horribly depressing. I mean . . .
Ron: It is, but you know, it shouldn't be because it's actually exciting. I know covid has really wrecked havoc across a lot of industries and all that stuff, but I think it's also turning into a giant wake-up call because people are much more concerned about what they're putting in their bodies where it came from and how its created and there's a lot more climate initiatives kind of coming in because the science there to reverse it and go back to a stasis and even regenerative is there we have it. We have the ability to do it. We just need the economic incentive to do it. Because you go back to what you're talking about with common accounting principles, like one of the analogies I like to use is currently: [00:25:05] a tree is valued more dead and cut up than alive in the forest and that and that's a flaw right because there's a value in that forrest as a carbon sink as an air filtration as a soil anti erosion. There's so many different variables in that one element that we're not currently evaluating that eventually we need to get to a point where we are. And so that's where it comes back like. I would really love to dive more into that, but I'm definitely not versed in it. It well, but you know if this carbon credit trading and stuff like that picks up, that'll incentivize a more aggressive approach.
Levi: This is where we need our best and brightest minds focused on this issue. I joke with my girlfriend that our best and brightest minds right now are going towards developing new Instagram filters and putting bunny ears on people which takes a ton of hours. You know, I mean, I can't even imagine the amount of brain power it takes to figure out how to put bunny ears on people when they look into their smartphone. Imagine we had all that brainpower going towards solving climate change? In a way that works right? It's like you maybe we don't have to [00:26:15] stop eating meat, you can still go to In-N-Out Burger and save the planet. We just have to start being smarter about how we do things.
Ron: Exactly. Eventually I'm just starting the initial analysis to incorporate grass-fed beef as an option in a byproduct from this, but from there to there's a lot of other products that can come from it. You were talking about the small farmers kind of getting pushed out a little bit and your hundred percent, right? However, also in a really unique spot where they've been given so much power that through things like Instagram, people value handmade custom crafted real true products so much better than a lot of this like plastic junk that lasts three months then you just throw it right into the landfill. The old school stuff that we used to get and you know, we can say it all day long, they just don't make it like they used to, but it's real. Remember the original flip phone you could throw it against the wall and it was going to live.
Levi: Those Motorola flip phones.
Ron: Now you sneeze wrong and your screen cracks [laughs]. There's some real opportunities for people to start innovating in that in that kind of a level and you're starting to see it in a place like the Umpqua Valley where you've got some really talented craftsman starting to break through with some of this stuff and it's just, you know, pulling them all back together.
Levi: So for people that aren't woke you're not from Oregon, they've never been to Portlandia and a lot of people when they think of Oregon, probably all they know is Portland. They probably like, isn't that where a bunch of crazy hippies protesting all the time? And Portland is kind of its own universe within Oregon and then you have you got the coast where I'm from and you got the Southern Oregon region, which is a real mix kind of that redneck hippie vibe. You got your super right wing, you know, like holdouts and then you got your super hippies the Ashland dreadlock, and then you kind of got your in-between. You're kinda like one of these guys like, you know, I lived in Big Sur for a long time too and all the pot growers ar3 trucker hat wearing, Carhartt wearing, hunting and fishing but they would sacrifice their life to save a redwood tree. They really defy all the stereotypes. And they're intelligent, you know, and there's got to be an intelligent way to solve these big problems we have without it always being like, you can't do this and we're constantly being made to feel guilty about our lifestyle choices, you know, it's like Bitcoins, you know takes energy to create cryptocurrency. That's one of the big criticisms of cryptocurrency, but it's like yeah, but it's trying to solve this other bigger problem. It's like there's no perfect way to do this, but we've got to start doing something and people love to smoke and hemp has the potential to be such a productive crop for us to produce domestically if we can kind of lead and brand it and market it well, and if I think defining these regions to be like now, I know you don't want to just smoke hemp, you want to smoke Umpqua Valley hemp, right? Because it's really special.
Ron: You should push that all day long. I would appreciate that. [laugh]
Levi: [laugh] I'm trying man. I push Emerald Triangle cannabis a lot because I source all of our cannabis for our cannabis products from the Emerald Triangle, because if you find the five percent of farms up there that are growing the outdoor flower that's just mind blowing. I live in SoCal and everybody's into indoor OG down here. Yeah, like people have like never seen a living plant and I'll bring them some outdoor and I'll trim it up a little tight, you know, and I'll it to them and their like, oh my God, this is amazing. This is the best indoor I've ever seen. [laughs]
Ron: You have a point. One of my favorite Inspirations come from the architecture world from Bjarke Ingels and his motto, and it's funny, you know Architects once they get to a certain point in their careers it's important to release a book of your projects, right? So that's you know, basically a public portfolio for people to look at. In architecture, there's a series of these sayings, like less is more, less is a bore. All these different things. Well, he came out with one called, [00:30:48] Yes Is More and it's like you were saying it's like we shouldn't have to sacrifice our lifestyle but we shouldn't sacrifice the important things we need to do and it's like a basis in a lot of his designs. Like alright, we got to be carbon neutral but how we make it fun? Like for one example, one of his projects is like a big incinerator, but they turn the top into a ski slope, you know, because you're producing this extra energy. It's like, let's make it fun. And I just love that concept. It's something we're trying to really embody at the farm. It's like it's the vibes thing, you know, it's like, all right, so we get to play in the dirt all day. We gotta wear board shorts and sandals. So let's like make it fun and like fix these things but then produce like really rad stuff too and I'm pretty hopeful about the hemp market now too with like The Safe Banking Act going through and because Kentucky's so behind it. We went through a crash in 2019 because so many people flocked to it. But now that all of a sudden incentivizes people to start looking at these other avenues that hemp can do from the fiber standpoint. It should be a massively big time construction material because of its renewable speed, you know, once once people start committing to that and they go through the engineering processes to certify some of this stuff. In forms of glulams and the [00:32:09] Hempcrete is a big deal like and that starts bleeding into actual construction projects and all that stuff. Like that's gonna be a big deal. So it's like your acreage is are going to be going more towards that like like smaller twelve twenty acre farms, like wineries will be your boutique flower and stuff which is the route really want to kind of go towards, but then those people that learned how to grow it at scale will be able to start producing fiber to really build some stuff while still pulling in that carbon sink that you're talking about. So once we get there like that, that'll be a game-changer. I know there's people who like building surfboards and skateboards out of it. I think it works really well as like a finish material that's non structural bearing lots of lots of unique things going around out there right now, but it just it really needs like one of these big mill guys or something to finally commit to it, but they're not quite ready and with lumber the price of where it is, they're probably doing pretty well. So the incentive isn't quite there, but it'll be there. It'll come.
Levi: It'll be there, it'll come and I know we've been talking about hemp and hempcrete forever. I know in Europe they use a lot more of the hemp plastics. The United States is kind of behind but I think we're going to catch up in a hurry because . . .
Ron: Yeah and 3D printing will change that too. When you can print concrete or plastic and it's naturally produced that's going to be a big deal. Especially with oil going sky-high over time because the more expensive that gets the more incentive it is to find a cheap alternative.
Levi: I think what really excites me about what's happening, especially with hemp more so than cannabis because cannabis is I don't know what the split is probably 50/50 sun ground versus indoor, something like, at least in California. But hemp is almost 100% outdoors and there's like I've seen a little bit of indoor hemp and it's almost kind of silly to grow. I've seen like The White or whatever that CBG strain because it's got a cool look to it. But hemp I think is mostly going to be a sun grown crop, it's just more productive that way. It just doesn't make sense.
Ron: You can make it to the level of the indoor and it's just like for the margins and the yields it's kind of pointless to use anything but the sun.
Levi: Kind of pointless and I think cannabis would do the same thing and I think there are, not to go down and total rabbit hole here, but I think there are some cultivars of cannabis that do better indoors, you know, like for 420, I went and bought some indoor OG because OG Kush does really well on a nice indoor grow room. But for 98% of cultivars. I'd really rather smoke sun-grown. There's just a couple of those like really finicky Kush varietals that I like indoors.
Ron: There are some and that's where the unique thing about the Umpqua Valley that you're talking about is you do have to be pretty particular about the genetics you use just because of the length of our growing season. In SoCal you can get away with a little bit more because you're going to have more sun and everything, but in Oregon, you know come September you’re getting rains and stuff like that already and if you've got a genetic that's not going to finish until mid-October even late October, you've got to be either: A- it's got to be really resistant to mold and mildew and all that stuff or B - you have to be very conscious of the way you've cultivating that situation so that you're helping it, you know yield past that as well. Around here you can get caught. We've seen it a few years in a row.
Levi: I know I believe it. That's what makes the outdoor cultivation so special and using the native soil, you know using nature. There's a lot of grows out here in California in the desert like the Coachella Valley grows a lot of indoor flower and some of its really good, but its a hundred and twenty degrees out. It's Saudi Arabia out there in the summer and they're having to blast so much air conditioning to keep those grow rooms cool, it doesn't make any sense. The cost just doesn't make sense. And I think eventually cannabis will shift more to sun grown and light dep greenhouse, mixed light greenhouse.
Ron: I think that shift will come when it goes Federal because once it goes Federal and if they give licenses out to allow people to start growing at acreage like the folks that have figured out the acreage side you just can't compete at that scale. And if you have the quality, which is the hardest part to do it, because when you scale the very end from harvest to dry to cure to storage it's so easy to mess that up unless you know exactly what you're doing. And if you mess that up you go from great stuff to horrible stuff like overnight. And so if you have a group that knows how to do all that it's pretty rough to compete.
Levi: For sure. I mean, isn't that when the tobacco industry. I mean, they're kind of good at that, right. They know what cannabis requires and hemp. You know, I think [00:37:07] the hemp cigarette is going to be like it's kind of like pre-rolls like when California legalized in 2018 if you had asked me in 2017, hey, what product is going to vanish? I would have said pre-rolls. Pre-rolls are just going to be gone. I totally missed that because pre-rolls are huge at least in California.
Ron: I would agree. I totally messed up on that one too.
Levi: Because I just thought people will buy the weed and just roll their own joint, because I roll my own joints, but they're convenient, you know, there's a reason why cigarettes are so popular, because it's convenient.
Ron: And I just realized that too I can't remember because I was in a little bit of a tunnel like building that out like growing 80 acres was not an easy thing. So it's like I had no life there for a while and once I was getting back out and kind of like really, you know getting to know a couple different communities and see what their reactions was. I saw the same thing. It's like, oh my gosh, these pre-rolls like people really really love them. And then I started smoking. I mean, there's like, okay all right. I'm now my own target market. That's great. So like one of our clients has some really great pre-rolls to and it's like I there's definitely a future and there but it has every quality. If you're just using trim or anything like that like dude get that out of here. You gotta use the good stuff.
Levi: Yeah, it's all flower. No trim the good ones and they're infusing them now with rosin and kief and all this stuff. I think we'll see the same thing on the hemp side. I'm really interested in the [00:38:30] extraction capabilities of hemp because, I have a rosin press, a Rosin Tech here at home and I press a lot of my own rosin and I've been pressing hemp. I've been pressing your hemp flower, but maybe my press is too little or you know, but the hemp doesn't squish as good, but I think if you could take if you could do the live rosin approach, I'd love to see somebody do it and just understand how possible is this to take fresh frozen hemp, make ice water hash freeze dry it and squash it because that's how they're making all the really good live rosin with cannabis. Can we do that?
Ron: People keep talking about it? Yeah, but I just haven't seen anyone do it just because I think what happened there was 2019 flooded the market and so there's like there's so much oil in the background that you know, the boutique they don't see the value in it just because you can buy, you know, a leader for like nothing anymore.
Levi: Exactly. Everybody's turning it into CBD Isolate and liters of distillate and the thing about distillation is you know, I try not to shame any product or extraction type. I think they all have their place and I think distillate is scalable, right? It helps scale brands, it helps scale product lines, you know, I don't use it in my products because I like the real whole plant, but I get distillate. It's cool, you know, you're just extracting the cannabinoids, but with hemp most of its gone into distillation most of its CO2 because that's where most of the bulk extractors are using CO2, which is a really good extraction method, you know comes from the fossil fuel industry, but the solventless stuff it's just starting to really pick back up in California. The legalization kind of derailed everybody, I just bought a gram of live rosin, you, it's like 80 bucks for a gram of live rosin. That's really expensive when you can get some shatter, BHO shatter for 25 bucks a gram, but the market starting to differentiate and there's people that just want Budweiser and then there's people that want, you know, the microbrewery, you know the small batch and I think hemps going to follow that too it's just going to take a little while.
Ron: That's exactly the analogy I use. I compared the valley to the wine, but when I got into this, you know, it was at the very beginning of the microbrewing like really blow up kind of phase and you know, I thought I was going to grow hops and start brewing beer and all that stuff until I found this but like definitely trying to form ourselves like a microbrewery. It's like and then have our boutique cultivars and our unique, you know style and all that and our vibe.
Levi: And products, I mean a good hemp cigarette that comes in an nice pack that looks like cigarettes not the cones, because the cones are like an occasion, but if you just want to strike, you know, like whatever cigarettes are, you know, they're like .75 grams or can't remember what a tobacco cigarette is, but they got it down. They got the technology down to how to roll a really good tobacco cigarette if we can get the right machinery to roll the perfect hemp joint and find the right percentage. Maybe it's not a 15% CBD strain for that. Maybe it's a 4% CBD strain with a nice subtle terpene profile that actually is the best. You know, we're gonna see it, Marlboro will have a hemp cigarette in the next 10 years.
Ron: We made some friends with a new genetic group this year that we're going to try out. It's like it's a super high terpene profile set of strains, but their actual CBC content is a lot lower. The benefit of that is that you're getting all that flavor. But you're still coming in at completely compliant as a trimmed flower which is pretty hard to do.
Levi: And CBD's a muscle relaxer, so a little bit is great, but for me at least if I smoke four or five hemp joints, I do get a little bit sleepy.
Ron: Chill. Yeah you chill out.
Levi: So if it was like if it was like 4% then I could smoke five or six of them in a day, most smokers are probably going to smoke five or six cigarettes in the day. I just see the hemp cigarette as literally like the healthy cigarette, like if we can get people off of tobacco and smoking hemp. It's way better for you.
Ron: I agree.
Levi: There's all these medicinal benefits. It's clean. That's why I really wanted to talk to you Ron because I think what you're doing and what people like you're doing in the hemp space is the Trojan Horse, because we can change multiple industries. Because of the utility of hemp, hemp is going to be a recreational product, there's going to be cigarettes, beverages, edibles, there already are, but it's going to be all these, you know, quote unquote recreational products, but then there's the industrial side like the hempcrete and if we approach it from this holistic way because we're the leaders like nobody is an expert on regenerative hemp farming more than you, you know people like you they're actually doing it like government politicians aren't the experts on it, you know. Fortune 500 company CEOs aren't the experts on it, you are, we are, this community are the experts on it, so we actually have the bully pulpit right now to say hey, this is how you do it. You know, you don't do it like this. We actually you do it like this, you know, you do it in a regenerative manner you do it you do it in a way that is fun and exciting, and you know, it's Tesla, you know, it's not a Prius it's Tesla. We're going to make this fun and sexy and stylee and cool because we're good capitalists and good marketers, but we also care about people and the environment in the crop that we produce and like restoring some craftsmanship and [00:43:47] integrity into the economy, right? So I think I think that's what's going on man. I think people are really disenfranchised right now and disconnected from their work like this is total Marxism. This is my U of O education coming into play but you know, I don't agree with a lot of Karl Marx, but there's a lot of it that does resonate with me, and the one thing is that what capitalism does it removes the person from the craft. There's very few crafts left in this country. I mean I can count on one hand the amount of craft: being a small farmer one of them being a chef where you actually are creating something and you get to give it to you get to see the person actually use your product. There's very few crafts left in America. And most of our manufacturing has been exported. I think people feel really disconnected from the fruits of their labor, you know, and I think the hemp and the cannabis industry is the rebuttal to that and people are going, I want to, I'm going to build a brand out of my garage. I'm going to have a garage band brand and I'm going to scale it up. It's like this is kind of like the [00:44:48] last stand of the American Dream. Like we can wrestle back the American dream with this industry.
Ron: I think I'm a bit more optimistic about it, too. I think it's already happening because like I see this really cool spark at least in my area and as when I do get the chance to travel out a little bit more I see people resonate with it really well, they have connected to it but they resonate really well. [00:45:11] One of my buddies is a blacksmith right now making custom blacksmith pieces for people. Another one is crafting really nice jewelry out of gemstones around here. I got one that welds like these really cool decorative pieces. Like there is this stuff that starting to spawn up and slowly kind of go through these new digital channels because in society now, we can all of a sudden make that in Umpqua Oregon and ship it to New York City and like we've never had that kind of a supply chain before and like even with COVID and what it's going to be doing to the shipping and all that logistics. We need to figure out how to do it better than cardboard and all that. Like I have my own hard time like, you know shipping shipments with too much plastic and too much cardboard is something that's on our list of fixes this year. But it's a very unique time period where you can feed yourself and do something like that and people are all of a sudden looking for that kind of a thing. So it's like if you can put this story out there like well, this is at least the mindset to go about approaching it. Whatever it is that means something to you. Like, you know, you've got maybe those computer coders start computing, you know, uh plenty of them are doing stuff like that are pretty rad and stuff behind the scenes for that. Well, yeah push that, you know, your musicians push that. NFT's are not going to change that entire system like who knows with cryptocurrencies I'm way behind and all that but like that that'll open up some new floodgates. Oh what else am I missing? But anything that you're passionate about they can go and start working on that. Man, I so that's where I'm kind of coming from a little bit more optimistic side.
Levi: I feel you.
Ron: You just need the encouragement and with that I guess, you know, your stimulus stuff will probably kind of start to fizzle out here, but we'll see but as long as they can feed themselves and house themselves that would be the hardest part is making sure affordable places to live to support that kind of mindset.
Levi: We've got some macro problems as a planet to deal with for sure.
Ron: I'm just a farmer, I draw pictures for a living. [laugh]
Levi: [laugh] I'm inspired by the craft movement. I hope it's not just a teaser. I think maybe the Millennials and the Gen Zers really will reclaime. We're gonna have to have some fundamental shifts though. Like yeah, so I like the crypto thing and I don't get I'm an idiot on cryptocurrency. I've no idea. NFT I just learned about like two weeks ago, you know, I have no idea, but it seems really cool, it seems paradigm shifting, that's what we need. We need to end the current model. It's not working.
Levi: It's working really well for the 1% of the 1% They've extracted most of the wealth. And you’re right, you said something earlier about looks like, you know people go out they don't see the real cost of things right? What's the cost of doing something one way to the environment, to the air quality that we breathe because, this is one of the things that trips me out about oil companies, it's like they go out and just harvest this oil from the earth for free. I mean you have to pay for the equipment and have to buy the land, but I mean they don't actually pay for the oil itself. Like you just buy those mineral rights and like you can you can drill it but there's a cost to that, you know, like obviously putting out all this carbon in the atmosphere. There's a cost to everybody and like that's just not even on on people's radar right now and I think I know there's like green economy movements and a way to like actually see the real environmental cost of things, but I think right now like that's like like big legislative bureaucratic, juggernaut, slow-moving shit. I think where we can accelerate this as entrepreneurs is by doing things the right way and then telling a great story, marketing it really well, branding it really well, and being the Tesla's, you know, being being the company that just says I'm going to go against the entire way that things are being done right now with this other way that's way smarter. We just got to build the consensus to get to it.
Levi: I have my good days and bad days about the environment. It is a tough one for me to stay too optimistic about just because I'm a bleeding heart liberal and like I just feel the pain of Mother Earth. Yeah, and but I know that people are out, I believe in humanity though too, I really do. I think our best shot is to innovate our way out of the ecological challenges that we have and if we can do that like once you start building the momentum people will shift over you just kind of like build the initial momentum and you got to show that there's a better way to do it. That's fun and exciting.
Ron: People have to believe in it and want it. And so if that happens then you know, it'll come to place and it's like and with the ecology thing there's a really great documentary they just released really recently called Kiss The Ground highly recommend watching that because it really does kind of show it's like you know, this is easily solvable. Like there's one really quick clip in the middle that kind of like isolates that it's like in June, they I think it was an infrared view they had basically on the globe right and it shows like carbon like being released in the air, right and I want to say it's like in June May June somewhere around there, they show this massive like huge chunk of carbon just like boom going up into the air because that's the time that we [00:50:45] till the Earth, right? So the soil is one of our best carbon captures right because we're actually using it as minerals through there to grow vegetation. Right? So it shows all this stuff being launched up into the air. And so then on the flip side, you know when is it September or whatever the dates are that all those crops are coming to fruition. It shows a massive reverse of it because all the so you see all these crops like re pulling it in. So just like one simple move of being able to convert that no-till by itself. I mean the magnitude of a no till globe is ridiculous. Right? And so there's simple solutions to it all in like now that people are paying attention more to fungi and bacteria and the beneficial ways of cultivating that in the right way. It's like that adds another tool to that belt. So it's like you put that system together and I can remember the math but they're like you could flip it around five years if there was like actual consent global consent. That's just the hardest part. So it's there. It's just a matter of doing it.
Levi: The no-till thing is really caught on. I know like, you know, the Emerald Triangle again it's like as soon as a couple farms start doing something and they learn a better way to do it everybody follows suit. Five years ago people were kind of talking about no-till, but you don't want to sacrifice your harvest . I don't know, I'm doing it this way and it's working and I don't know if I want to try something different.
Ron: It's like with us if you look into hemp cultivation the majority of people use a plastic mulch in their rows right. I didn't have the heart to do that because all I could see was like 50% of my acreage is covered in plastic that I didn't throw away every year and like there's some biodegradable ones out there. I just question, you know how well that is actually good for the soil and all this stuff, but just removing that it was, you know, kind of terrifying because it's like then also you're battling weeds. That's a whole different cost a whole different set of equipment you need to design and make work and then yeah the potential of like they're taking those I don't like the word weeds because it's too negative, but those additional plants that are then growing are absorbing a bunch of your nutrients as well. And so it is like that it can drastically reduce yields. And so like a lot of our earlier yields were not as big as they could have if I were to use plastic mulch, but it's like I just couldn't do it, but then I've started to see more and more people are starting to navigate away from that concept as their seeing it's like no, no actually we can do it. Right. So now we plant a cover crop underneath that. We just most we're still adding more night nutrients back into the soil continually, but it's also shading that whole lower ground too so.
Levi: Sometimes simpler is better, right? I mean, that's what I love about the no-till thing and I started no-till farming probably about six years ago. And I'm a cultivator still but mostly more of a product manufacture these days but I started no-tilling just because I heard people talking about it. I read Teaming With Microbes, and I was hip to all that and I understand I was like, well, this is great because now I don't have to till, like it's just less manpower, you know, and it's like I'm always a big fan of whatever's better faster and smarter and if you can develop a system that requires less labor, that's better for the environment, produces a better quality product and it's cheaper and faster, that's where I am hopeful about it because that's what earth does.The earth doesn't really waste energy. Like it's a very evolved spaceship that we’re on -- planet earth hurtling around the universe and it's really good at recreating life. It isn't incredibly fast because like the Hawaiian Islands, you know, the newest landmass on Earth. Plants start growing almost in no time. The Earth is incredibly good at being efficient and humans are really good at being really inefficient because we have these monkey minds that are always tripping us up, but if we can, if we can look to nature, learn from nature. I really think we got a really good shot because it can be an alignment with fun and sexy and beautiful and efficient and in there can be economic growth. We can be all the things that people want like nobody argues with this stuff. Like I could go to the most conservative Republican the most liberal Democrat somebody from it doesn't matter where you're from if I say, hey, I know a way to do it that is going to produce a better product. It's going to be cheaper for you to make it. And it's better for the environment. No one's going to say no to that. It's impossible. So that's what we need to find as long as we can continue to move things in that direction. I think we got a pretty good shot and maybe I'm crazy but I really think hemp is what is going to save the planet. I literally believe that.
Ron: What my favorite thing to say about that too is just kind of like pigeons us in the corner that we're always dealing with is like, I think I think hemp is the gateway drug to that revolution.
Ron: Because there's so many other beneficial plants that you can actually start doing so many more cool things with but because hemp is going to start getting back into that position. We're all of a sudden looking more at it. Fungi for example, it's like people are starting to look at all the different mushrooms you can grow and all their beneficial things like down to like decomposing plastic, you know, and it's like now we're open-minded to it because we've already gone through a wave of hemp and were like, oh, yeah, there's this, you know, like British Columbia their doing some incredible research up there on like mycelium networks. And yeah, that's a whole different rabbit hole that's exciting. So it is, you know.
Levi: It is yeah, you know the Pacific Northwest. My sister lives in British Columbia, she lives in Tofino, which is a really super cool town. Whenever I go up to visit her in Tofino, I feel like I'm in some like Eco Utopia. You know, everyone is so environmental like there's multiple recycling, you know for everything you can possibly imagine and like water conservation is really big deal, even though they have tons of water up there. There just really mindful about you know everything and like it's kind of like Hawaii too, when you grow up in Hawaii like you learn about the plants almost more than you learn about other subjects and it's kind of that way in British Columbia and to a certain extent Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, but I really notice it up in Canada where it's like people really know about the Native American history or the First Nations as they call them up there and they know about the plants they know about the bears and they know about the salmon and like they're in their more in tune with their environment. Down here in asphalt land in Southern California, you know, it's really easier than like going to the beaches to get really disconnected from the natural world. I just love seeing the like that painting behind you of the trees and just connects me to my Oregon roots, you know.
Ron: Forest land man. Forest
Levi: That looks like the Oregon coast to me. It's like I look like cape foulweather or something where I grew up. But I just love it man. It's really good to talk to your Ron. You're obviously a really smart guy and your background in architecture and your passion for doing things this way is really exciting. I really respect what you're doing and at the end of the day just the quality of what you're producing like all the ways that you get there is super cool and the regenerative approach I think is so important, but I just want people to try your stuff and to try this hemp flower that's out there because I know a lot of people a lot of people that I sell my products to topicals and tinctures primarily. They're usually the nonsmoker types, but I really want people to just try it you know like yeah, there's a lot more people that aren't into cannabis that actually that that are I mean in other words, we have like 50 million people in this country that probably never smoked aren't going to be smoking blunts, you know? Yeah, they might try a little bit of hemp flower just because I want people to understand how cool it is and like and how grounding it can be and unlike my endocannabinoid system is pretty fired up, but for somebody that doesn't smoke a lot like smoking a little bit of hemp flower could be all you need to just be like, oh my God like like my anxiety levels are diminished. I can sleep better at night. It could be a major benefit to people's lives that you know, it's not snake oil. It's the real deal.
Ron: It's a great morning coffee ritual for me like premeditation go walk through like our starts in the greenhouse and just kind of like ground yourself in the morning. It's super rad their afternoon break and then, you know evening chill out and then if we spend a lot of time out in nature is like hiking and all that stuff and yeah it's great on all those too.
Levi: You're a hunter and a fisherman too right?
Ron: Well, I wouldn't say I am just like I just got started on this fly fishing because it just it it looks so rad and magical and then once you go out once it's like it is so rad and magical. It's like I don't even care if I ever catch a fish. It's just like I just love existing out there and like being a part of that whole system and then do a lot of like fries style, I wouldn't call it rock climbing because it's not like I'm going up like a cliff or anything, but just like some of the lower grade things that you find out off the trail in the wilderness just kind of climbing up some Peaks and stuff. That's fun. And I like I got one of those one wheels that like, you know blasting around on trails that's very bad. So, I don't know. I just I'm a master of nothing and I'm curious about everything so it's like I got you don't gotta try everything twice.
Levi: Thanks for joining me today on Head Change, the podcast that puts you in a better headspace? I've been your host Levi Strom. You can find full transcripts of today's episode on our blog at: www.awakenedeveryday.com.