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AUTHOR: Glenn Johnson
PUBLISHER: CANNABIS LAW REPORT
THE EVOLUTION OF FARM TO TABLE FOR CANNABIS & HEMP
Niko Uman Borrero is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Green Bee Farms, a holistic based cannabis consultant agency that specializes in helping cattle ranchers change their hayfields into hempfields and manage their cattle using high-intensity grazing practices. His mission is to “run a biodynamic farm that offers a variety of beneficial products to the community and helps teach people about the benefits of holistic sustainable living.”
I spoke to him to hear more about where he saw the industry heading. “My goals,” he explains, “are to bring regenerative cannabis to the market, to bring true medicine to the people where organic is organic. Where our fertilizers and our feeds are sourced within 250 miles from the farm, and to make our brand known as a truly holistic company.”
Starting at a young age, Niko has always found himself in the garden. As high school came around he was first placed into a horticulture class where he wanted more from the program, progressing onto a school/work program that helped build one of the first carbon-neutral aquaponic facilities in the U.S.
I asked Niko, what do you want the consumer’s overall experience to be over the next 5 years with hemp, what trends are you seeing today?
“Hemp is a super plant, with all of its uses and possibilities, there’s no wonder it’s gaining traction quickly. I want to see houses made using its fiber, bio-decomposable plastics in the packaging field, and fewer chemicals being used in the textile industry.”
“If you take a look at the sustainable food market, it is already occurring, more people are choosing forks over knives, asking their supermarket for “natural alternatives” towards personal care products, consumables and the cutlery to eat said products. Even popular media channels like Netflix are delivering documentaries based on the need for a new culture. By living and working towards sustainability we can truly create a green future. Hemp will be one of the key materials to get us there.”
“We have the opportunity to leapfrog over cannabis,” he continued “once the market understands regenerative agriculture, and it may take a little bit, but once it gets going, with the proper application of sustainable practices, it becomes so much more than medicinal, the fabrications and myriad of applications for hemp that excites me. Consistently changing the way we create a symbiosis with agriculture, one step at a time.”
According to the USDA Farm Agency 146,065 acres of Hemp were planted in 2019. This country in fact has a long history in Hemp pre-prohibition. Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, designed it to run on vegetable and seed oils like hemp. Henry Ford constructed a car of resin stiffened hemp fiber, and even ran the car on ethanol made from hemp. Not only was the Mayflower equipped with hemp fiber products durable to make the fateful crossing, but it was also equipped with a supply of hemp seeds to be grown at the Pilgrims new home.
Niko sees a future filled with Hemp products once again, “it’s the new categories that excite me: Plastics, hempcrete, paper in general…textiles there’s so many things you can do with it. Once Iowa grows it like they do corn then we’ll see bio-degenerative plastic, livestock feeds, and composite boards really hitting the market.”
“When talking about consumables, much like the wine industry and its focus on the uniqueness of terroir, and even French Appellations, we aim to mimic the wine model in hemp farming. Like growing hops for beer or corn for whiskey, we’re taking regional insights and applying them to hemp at many levels. In Vermont, for example, we’re ahead of the game, all organic sun grown, no foliar sprays of any kind, running 3.5 acres, it’s a lot of work that goes into it and we only have 3 people,” says Niko.
“The markets are changing and we aim to change with them. Survival of the most willing to adapt you could say. We’re working with a cattle farmer, and the milk market is terrible right now, he teamed up with us as a way to supplement his income and keep his cows on the farm. By teaming with us we had a direct supply to fertilizer, tractors, and someone who really knew their land. Together we can focus on quality and create a complete full spectrum plant because we took such care from seed to sale. I want to bring in a high quality product, super high grade to the market.”
Shortly after legalization, Niko studied Agricultural Business and Organic Gardening at Colorado State University with an emphasis on hemp and cannabis. Because of federal guidelines, much of what he wanted to do was unavailable within the College, so he left to work for Way To Grow, Boulder. Here he talked with a variety of grow managers and was able to analyze specific soil and fertilizer “recipes” that companies manufactured and grow managers preferred. By being at the forefront of the legalization movement, it was a very free environment where people shared their tips and tricks on how they grew.
Realizing that most of the products listed as “organic” weren’t always organic, or cheap, Niko knew there had to be another way. It was during this time that he went down to Colombia to work for his uncle’s cattle ranch where they ran 400 head of cattle and roughly 20,000 tilapia.
It was here where basic things such as tape measures, drills and duct tape were not available and the most sophisticated tool they had was slow internet and a scale to measure the fish. This is the true reality for most farms in rural third world communities. So the question for him became, “how do we make fertilizers for the farm, on the farm?” This led Niko to books by Allan Savory, biodynamic tips by Rudolf Steiner, and Korean Natural Farming techniques being taught on Youtube by Erik Weinart and Chris Trump.
“With new ideas and collaborations, we can help the world by creating farms that are run by farms. We believe through mimicry there still is a lot to learn, from the way you move cattle, to the way you fertilize a plant. Mimicry is everywhere.”
Now that Niko has returned to Vermont he is currently helping dairy farmers progress there certified organic fields into Hemp. Using Soil tests, companion planting, local ingredients, and fermentations, he hopes to make Green Bee Farms a farm for the future with a copyable method that improves organic matter within the soil and changes the way commercial agriculture is run.
“With Indoor vs outdoor your yields are higher quality, and we need to build the capital for greenhouses, so we go slow and grow accordingly. We’ve bootstrapped most of this off of college funds, and we’re playing this for the long game. By showing people the power of regenerative agriculture and the symbiosis in nature, we can change the world for the better and create a greener future for everyone.”
I ended my conversation with him to ask — If you had three wishes for the industry, including the consumer in them—what three wishes would you make?
There’s still a lot of education we have to do for consumers to have more of an understanding of how “every dollar counts” when they make day to day purchasing decisions. Think about it, you vote 3 times a day based on the food you eat, if you choose organic, grass-fed, biodynamic foods, more farmers will grow sustainably. In the larger sense, this is also tied into Congress and where farmer subsidies go. By giving subsidies for local farmers who regenerate the land,you are supporting a vibrant, robust, sustainable eco-system for the natural surroundings. And at the same time an educated consumer is getting healthier food, providing a true localized Economy that becomes self sufficient.
For the overall farming industry, there’s a lot of education and sharing to be done too. I would like more farmers to understand how their inputs affect their outputs. If you consistently feed a synthetic crop to your soil, you aren’t feeding the “soul” you are going directly to the crop and missing out on microbes, fungi, and the symbiosis held within the soil. We have to work on sustainability and process, share our knowledge and create systems that better everything around us.
My third wish would be for more innovation, I wake up every day with the thought that each day is a blessing, and a new day to learn. If more people lived that way we would have a lot more Leonardo DaVinci’s and a lot less Paris Hiltons.
To learn more About Niko and Green Bee Farms, including valuable resource lists, links and downloads of precious data on growing, visit https://greenbeefarms.org/ For the products he helps grow, you can visit https://greenbeepharms.com and give him a follow on https://www.instagram.com/greenbeepharms/
About Glenn Johnson
I am a Marketing, Branding and Communications Consultant w/ experience in high-touch luxury consumer marketing in the travel/hospitality, wine/spirits, fashion/beauty/grooming and Cannabis categories. My talents include Branding & Brand development, Business Building, Strategy and Brand Storytelling. I excel in working with Founders, funders, start-ups, and small brands and enjoy meeting and networking with interesting folks in the business.
CONTACT ME via email at: [email protected]
Connect with me on LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/glenn-johnson-8018944/