Georgia’s first black-owned hemp farm, The Green Toad Hemp, is working to make the industry more inclusive.
The company was co-founded by Reginald Reese, CEO, and Dwayne Hirsch, COO, who both got into the hemp industry for different reasons.
A former corporate executive, Reese underwent two spinal reconstruction surgeries, which ultimately resulted in an opioid addiction. Reese says that one day he discovered CBD, and after six months he was able to wean off all the other medications prescribed by his doctor.
Hirsch, on the other hand, says his son’s diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is at the forefront of what inspired him to enter the industry.
Although the two come from different backgrounds, they now have the same goal in mind: to grow all verticals of The Green Toad Hemp – growing, manufacturing and processing – while encouraging and educating black farmers to enter the industry. hemp.
Reese says The Green Toad Hemp was founded in July 2019 and was one of the first companies to receive a license to grow hemp in Georgia in April 2020.?
What began as a 17.5 acre lot in Metter, Georgia has since grown into a fully integrated operation resting on approximately 41 acres; however, Hirsch says they’re not using all of those acres for development.
“I think that we [grew] 2 acres the first season, and we [grew], like, 8 acres the second season,” he says. “This year we’re probably going to settle down and do something like 4-6 acres outdoors. And now we have our insides growing and running too.”
The Green Toad Hemp grows hemp for CBD, flower, and oil. The company offers a full line of products, including flowers, pre-rolls, topicals, edibles, tinctures, vapes, capsules, CBD pet products, and more.
In addition to The Green Toad Hemp’s online store and dispensary in Metter, Georgia, it has “a fully operational post-harvest production facility, and that includes high-volume pre-roll production, apps additional like moon rocks, moon seals, [delta]-8 application, infusions,” says Hirsch.
“Pretty much any day now, we [will] have a literal shipment of machines coming here to allow us to [make] gummies, chocolates and hard candies, as well as oil refill for all of our vape products and carts,” adds Hirsch.
The company also serves the white label and wholesale market, he says, adding that it actively works with dispensaries to carry The Green Toad Hemps’ products.
Besides not being traditional farmers, Reese says one of the biggest challenges he and Hirsch faced when entering the hemp industry was raising capital.
“I would say that some of the biggest challenges for us, and black farmers in general, are getting funding and getting funding through the USDA. [United States Department of Agriculture]“, says Reese, adding that the USDA still sometimes treats hemp differently than other crops.
“Hemp is considered agriculture. We are considered agriculture. We have the same rights as a tomato grower, an onion grower, [and] the corn farmer. There’s still no tongue under the ag [agriculture] department that identifies hemp separately. On top of that, for black farmers who receive funding to help support their farm, the rules are not favorable to black farmers. »
Reese and Hirsch worked together to build their fully integrated operation, which has now seen them generate recurring revenue, Reese said. “For guys like us…it should be secured loans. It’s unheard of,” he says. “[The USDA] find[s] all the reasons not to give [a loan]and that was a challenge.
“I think when black farmers figure out how to finance their businesses and their farms in a way that helps them, we could really … be part of this industry as black producers,” Reese said.
Another challenge Reese and Hirsch faced in their early days was seeking advice from other people in the industry who claimed to be “experts,” which resulted in them spending more money than necessary, says Reese.
“The challenge in this industry is understanding that a lot of people who claim to be experts are really guessing [on] a lot of that stuff,” he says. “… They’re either basing it on something they read or something they think, not something they’ve actually experienced themselves. ”
“Our level of activity has been extraordinarily collaborative,” says Hirsch. “We’ve helped several farmers in the area get their licenses, so we can start growing the farmer pool in Southeast Georgia and maximize the benefits to the economies here. That’s been a big part. .. help teach other farmers that, say, are historical tobacco growers [who] don’t know what to do with these products; we help them understand that and work with them to execute.”
“The Green Toad Hemp also has a post-harvest production facility that includes “drying and curing of harvested product and handling and packaging of smokable products,” the website states. The company also offers its post-harvest services to other farmers, says Hirsch.
“Farmers can contact us if they need [those services,]” says Hirsch. “Or CBD companies, for example, if … their pre-roll business is going up there, and they need an outlet to be able to do them faster, maybe at a best cost, we provide these kinds of options.”
“Furthermore, because the hemp industry is still at ‘ground level’, Reese says he and Hirsch are actively trying to encourage black farmers to get involved and educate them about the opportunities hemp offers.
“Hemp isn’t just for fiber and those areas. Hemp is for food and other things,” Reese says. “…One hundred percent of us eat. And again, that [allows us] to grow as black farmers in a new industry, where we can step into the field and really have the opportunity to build it on an equal footing.”
“Reese says he and Hirsch are focused on growing each vertical of The Green Toad Hemp – manufacturing, wholesale, retail and distribution – and they have set themselves a goal called ‘mile by mile’ to help them to achieve this.
“What that means is we want to be in a thousand major outlets in a thousand days,” Reese says. “…We didn’t vertically integrate just to give ourselves more work to do…We vertically integrated because we started as a farm…and [now]we want to be like Perdue Chicken, where we raise it, we manufacture it, we wholesale it, we retail it, it all works.”
? Hirsch agrees, adding that being in the hemp industry is also part of an “innovation cycle.”
“It’s pride, it’s a legacy, but right now, [we are] focused on achieving success on our part in making this history – making history with the distinction of being the first African American farmers to earn a [hemp growing] licensed in the state of Georgia,” says Hirsch. “But now we have to be the first billion-dollar African-American hemp company. We have to be the first national family name.”