Published 30 December 2020
Tasmanian Hemp Association Executive Officer Andi Lucas writes:
“The past few years have been a period of firsts.
In February 2019, having just returned from the first Asian Hemp Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, I attended my first ever Tasmanian Hemp Association event and saw my first ever crop of low-THC cannabis growing in a field near Deloraine. I submitted my first articles as a freelance contributor to HempToday magazine as a roaming reporter (aka being encouraged by a benevolent editor to write from the perspective of someone who knew absolutely nothing about the topic) and travelled to South America for the first time, attending the inaugural Latin American and Caribbean Hemp Summit held in Uruguay in October 2019.
In November 2019 I joined my state association as a Member, and almost exactly one year ago to today, in late December 2019, I arranged my first meeting with our association President Tim Schmidt and my predecessor Tim Castle to discuss ways in which I might be able to assist the association – then known as the Hemp Association of Tasmania (HATas) – in their work developing and promoting the hemp industry in our state. I had just returned home to Tassie after a decade living and working in Colorado, and for the first time in many, MANY years, was ready to both settle and put down some real roots in my place of birth, and to dedicate myself professionally to my new chosen career working with this incredible multi-use crop.
As a temporary resident of the States, I had seen first hand the enormous transformation and economic benefits that resulted from the whole-of-plant utilisation and knew that if we could experience the same growth of the hemp industry here, it would mean jobs and economic growth along with major environmental, societal and health benefits. While I knew very little about low-THC cannabis at that point, having only recently transitioned to a new career from my previous job running a company manufacturing pro-video camera accessories to the hemp sector in early 2019, I felt that I could bring some skills and abilities from my years in operations and management running start-ups to this still nascent industry in Australia.
I offered my help to strengthen and build on the work already undertaken by the volunteer elected Board Members (past and current) and our Membership. Luckily, my proposal was accepted and I officially started work with the THA on 15th January 2020 in a casual 10-hour per month capacity, before stepping into the role of Executive Officer for two days per week in April this year. During what has been a pretty chaotic and personally challenging 12-months for both me personally (along with pretty much everyone else on earth), I have worked with the THA Board and undertaken the following tasks:
- Overseen the various aspects of the transition from the change of name from HATas to THA, including project managing the creation of an artwork suite, brand style guide and building the new-and-much-improved website that includes the blog.
- Increased contact with all Members – especially Growers – and vastly improved the general engagement with the community through phone, email and other media channels. I created a new non-voting Membership tier so members of the community who are interested in the work we’re doing could show their support even if not working within the hemp industry directly. Through tapping into the growing interest in the hemp industry across all four key areas – food, fibre, fodder and extracts – we doubled the number of overall Members, expanded the ranks of our Corporate Members from nine to 18 total, and established the set-up of online payment processing to allow for easier collection of revenues.
- I set up online management and communication systems to allow for remote work to take place more efficiently and effectively, along with associated SOPs and organised filing systems so these structures and assets can be handled by future staff or Board Members. The THA now has an up-to-date, functional cloud-based Contact List (including Members, key stakeholders and eNews subscribers), an online Operations Manual and How-To Guide to allow for more effective operations and easy training of future staff. We have also updated and transitioned the Constitution to an online version for ease of access.
- Established and maintained the four key social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter – and consistently wrote and dispatched a detailed monthly eNewsletter update covering local, national and international updates to a growing list of subscribers.
- Oversaw the THA becoming a member of both national peak industry bodies – the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance and the Australian Hemp Council – so our Members voices are heard on the national level. Played a key role in securing the next biennial Australian Industrial Hemp Conference in Launceston in March 2022, where the THA will enjoy a 40% share of event profits.
- Wrote what turned out to be a successful grant application for SIPP funding, securing an additional $72,600 for the THA to fund operations over the next two years.
- Worked closely with the President, Treasurer and new Corporate Member Australian Hemp Masonry Company to craft a comprehensive business case for the acquisition of the hemp processing unit. After multiple rounds of discussion with potential investors failed to close the deal, I then independently took on that project and created the X-Hemp Pty Ltd entity, am raising the necessary capital to purchase this vital equipment, and have submitted a further $600K Federal Government grant request to assist the hemp industry in Tasmania.
- In amongst the additional complexity of the COVID-restrictions on gatherings, I organised the THA Annual Day in August 2020 – the AGM, Top Crop Awards, Award Dinner – and the pre-planting agronomy day in November 2020 with the new Q&A format. I am also taking advantage of every opportunity to meet with political decision-makers to promote the hemp industry in Tasmania and playing my part in the education of the community through speaking at Rotary Clubs and other business events. I am also educating myself by listening to as many experts who are willing to chat about all aspects of the plants’ use and undertaking formal learning such as the Australian Hemp Masonry Company’s Hemp Construction Course.
- Currently planning the Pre-Harvest Agronomy Session for Grower Members and the two upcoming Community Education Days (one in the North on Friday 19th February 2021 and the next in the South on Saturday 27th March 2021) and putting the necessary steps in place for the next THA Annual Day (AGM, Top Crop Awards, Award Dinner) in August 2021 to be even better than the last.
I am incredibly grateful to the THA for having offered me the opportunity to work with the association and am excited to continue serving in the expanded role of Executive Officer over the year ahead. I am also very thankful to each of the Board Members for all of their support and encouragement. And while every one of these seven humans have been so generous with their time answering questions and helping me grow into the role, I am especially indebted to our hard-working President Tim Schmidt and Treasurer Daniel Cadart, who have been incredibly patient mentors to me as I learned the ropes!
While there is always more to do, and I can always see many areas for improvement going forward – mainly in my time management, improved strategic planning to be less reactive/more proactive and improved responsiveness with communications – I am very proud of what I’ve achieved for the THA in 2020, am loving the work that I am doing, and am looking forward to all that lies ahead.
I hope you all have a happy and safe holiday break with loved ones. See you all next year… Andi