What in the World is "Regenerative Hemp"?
posted by Kris Taylor
At the beginning of this crazy journey, I only really knew one thing: whatever business I got into, it had to be working to heal the planet. There's so many big environmental problems to address these days, and we already know the solutions for a lot of them! What better way is there to implement those solutions than by forming a community-based company around it?
I came across regenerative agriculture while working on a farm and instantly latched onto the concepts. How could you not get excited about hearing that farmers were cutting out harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides from their land, rebuilding soil that has been degraded from bad farming, and putting money back into rural communities?
Well, it turned out that it's not actually that simple. There's so many dynamics that comes along with wanting to heal the planet!
For instance, I've learned that it's actually pretty hard to get costs down for consumers when you're developing new ways of doing things. Sourcing from regenerative farms is important to us, but it's a little pricier because there aren't that many farms doing this stuff yet!
After facing some realities, one thing I knew we couldn't waver from was our commitment to rebuilding farmlands and empowering rural communities through regenerative agriculture. All the other challenges we faced could be handled over time as technologies improved and more farmers started to use regenerative principles. This is why we chose to work closely with Blue Fox Farm in Southern Oregon to grow our hemp.
Chris Jagger, the owner and operator of Blue Fox Farm, is a close friend (pretty much family) of ours and has been farming his land up in the Applegate Valley for a decade and a half. Chris has been an amazing steward of the environment on his farm, and has been steadily improving the soil on the land throughout the years.
One measure of how well a farmer is doing to care for their land is looking at something called soil organic matter (SOM). It's essentially the magic that makes the soil work. On large conventional farms that are cranking out production, they have usually lost 50-85% of the amount of SOM that they should have in their soils. Healthy soils usually have about 6-8% SOM. That's one reason why they have to use all these crazy chemical fertilizers and pesticides - they've lost the magic in their soils and they're essentially keeping their crops on life support through chemical additives.
At Blue Fox, Chris and his team have raised the SOM content from the 1% range to the 6% range during his time there. Needless to say, they're crushing it. He'll be the first to tell you, the yields are way better, the plants are happier and healthier, and he doesn't have to use as many organic sources of fertility.
When Chris planted our first crop of hemp, the results were amazing. The plants loved the farmland and you could tell that they felt right at home in that soil.
I wish I could walk you through those fields in one of Southern Oregon's cool mornings as the sun is coming up. You're surrounded by gorgeous mountains in the middle of the valley, not to far from Applegate River. When you close your eyes, you really start to hear the sound of birds racing between of the plants, eating off pesky cucumber beetles, of the wind blowing through the treetops and hemp, and of distant tractors firing up to begin morning work.
That's probably one of the most rewarding parts of that job. It's an absolute honor to get to work that closely with farmers and physically be a part of where our ingredients come from. Yes, there are definitely still improvements that can be made to the farm, but that is the real nature of regenerative. It's always a process of finding ways of getting better, and acknowledging that you're always learning from nature and from the land.