OWNING THE CAUSE – TODD’S STORY
When I was a youngster my father worked for Brown & Williamson, one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. My mother was a kindergarten teacher and finished her career working with at risk (to put it lightly) children at Our Lady of Peace. I remember one day she came home with a broken nose because an 8 year old slugged her from across the half moon reading table with little chairs (do you remember those from elementary school, the ones with the cut out center so the teacher could sit close?) Guess that boy did not like my mother’s story time accents that she loves to read with. Growing up my parents were frugal, honest, and private. They never spoke to my sister Mandy and I about money and finances as kids. How much we made and how much we spent was a complete unknown. I take that back, I knew we did not spend a lot, we only bought used cars, I was never allowed to have any “brand” name stuff, and my parents despised credit cards. Although I was young, I had a hunch that the cigarette business was doing well since the company owned a small fleet of private jets. One of these jets flew my folks down to Georgia in 1992 to see the new office and distribution center my father was to work at if he chose to stay with the company through its merger with Reynolds Tobacco. After returning from the jet ride, my folks made the decision to not move us south, our roots were simply too deep in Kentucky.
My father opted to start his own business doing what he mastered, managing supply chains for clients using strategies practiced and perfected during his time at the big corporation. He did not do it alone, his businesses always involved partnering with good people.
Back in the 1980s, the tobacco industry was humming along with thousands of burley tobacco farmers in Kentucky making 2 to 3 times the amount of money per acre than farming traditional row crops such as corn and soybeans. In 1982 the tobacco farm market peaked with Kentucky producing 589 million pounds. The money multiple per acre is a little deceiving since tobacco demands higher labor costs compared to the mechanize farmed row crops (except hemp, which is tobacco labor on steroids). Tobacco farmers are tenacious, hard workers that exhibit the same pioneering spirit of our country’s founders. I admire their work ethic.
According to Kentucky Farm Bureau’s research, Kentucky is home to 76,500 farms, making it the 6th ranking state in the number of farms. The average farm size in Kentucky is 170 acres, compared to the national average of 435 acres. Of Kentucky’s 25.4 million acres, 51% is farmland, accounting for 13 million acres. So where am I going with these statistics?
While earning my bachelor degrees at the University of Kentucky I took an Agricultural Economics class in 1999-2000. One of our assignments was to submit a research paper with a recommendation on an alternative crop tobacco farmers could grow for equal or better return. Tobacco substitutes were a hot topic back then since taxes were increasing on tobacco products and public opinion rapidly declining in light of the negative health side effects from smoking. I remember my business law professor James Freeman thought it was a shame that Kentuckians spent more on alcohol and tobacco per year than on education. Obviously, Professor Freeman was not from Kentucky, LOL. After a couple late nights at the library, the only agricultural substitute I could find were truffles, high quality mushrooms that sold for several hundred dollars a pound. The only challenge was these truffles were grown on hazelnut trees and the trees had to mature at least seven years before the mushrooms could be raised and harvested. Hence, it really wasn’t a good alternative since it would leave a farmer without adequate income for several years during transition. Little did I know that with the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill it would lead me to pick up a pen and continue writing that research paper with hemp being the blue ribbon winner. Continuing this research to help our Kentucky farms prosper remains a major personal motivation.
Did you know that Hemp is as historically significant to our state’s economy and culture as Bourbon and Horses? Kentucky dominated the national production of hemp at the turn of the 19th century with over 75% of the hemp in the country produced in the Commonwealth. I knew it was obvious cannabis grew well here, but what I really wanted to examine was can farmers make money growing it in this day and age? I love my home state of Kentucky and I wanted to contribute to the farm renaissance. This was a question worth investing time, talent, and treasure to answer. Growing hemp is an important process to understand that requires attention to detail. Even more important are the economics of growing it to learn if the process can be sustainable. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from James Robinson, “Profit is simply the cost of the future. Without profit, there is no future.” Can Kentucky Farmers profit from growing hemp? Depends.
In 2017 I found myself walking a hemp plot with my friend Lee on his family’s farm.
As we walked and talked the energy inside me grew. I started to think about my experiences, relationships, and creativity that could contribute to this emerging industry. I started doing my research. A primary mental model I use to organize my thoughts is the old Zig Ziglar 6 step goal achievement framework. This requires the discipline to layout a plan and think through the steps in the achievement process and follow it up with action. Here is the basic outline:
1. State the Goal 2. List the Benefits Achieved and Losses Avoided 3. List the Knowledge to Acquire and the People you need to know 4. List Possible Obstacles and Potential Solutions 5. Write the sequence of actions, tasks, or milestones anticipated to work toward the goal 6. State the deadline or date for achieving the Goal
After completing my outline, one of the first indicators I wanted to check was investment money flows. I ran a query on hemp and cannabis based publicly traded companies in my trading system at the investment firm I was working at. To my surprise, there were over 350 companies that were listed for equity trading, but all were on the “restricted from trading” red list. These companies were mostly start-ups with limited track records and big visions. These high risk companies were operating in an emerging cannabis space with dicey regulations, unproven markets, and therefore banned from investment by our firm. This made the choice to start my own hemp business with my friends easy. If I could not buy shares in a cannabis company, only choice was to create one. It’s like that old saying that if you can’t find a book you like to read, write your own. Better yet, write it with friends.
Evercure was founded on trust, friendship, and a common purpose. Early in our founding we created Our Mission Statement that we remain true to today: Our goal is to re-establish Hemp as Kentucky’s number one cash crop, battle the opioid crisis in Kentucky, and create the finest CBD products in the world. Yes, that is a long sentence, but it embodies all we do at Evercure Farms.
In our first three years, I am very proud of what our Evercure team has accomplished. We have made it to where we are because of our loyal customers with high quality CBD standards, our collective families’ support, and the diligence of my partners and friends, Lee, Lyle, and Mike. Lee takes care of our online customers giving all the personal attention they deserve. He was instrumental in recruiting farm labor when a couple of our fields were being overtaken by morning glory in 2019. Every time I am around Lee I learn another catch phrase, funny, or random fact that demonstrates his love for the big world we live in. Lyle gets dirty on the farm and yet polishes up well for the boardroom. His technical nature has earned him the nickname of “The Professor” since he rarely leaves out any details when discussing the hemp business. Mike has a talent for fixing machines. Anything that doesn’t involves machines he can still fix or build after watching a few Youtube episodes. Mike is in his element when he is sweating more than everyone else and barking instructions. Mike is more resourceful and intelligent than he gives himself credit. When we are all hustling together out on the farm life does not get any better!
My partners and I are all blessed with beautiful wives and children that are extremely supportive of our Evercure ways, well most of them:) My wife Rebecca is my Dream Girl! Best decision I ever made was marrying her. She knows how much Evercure means to me and therefore supports our venture although sometimes it stresses our family and work life balance.
We have two kids, Callie and Mason. Callie is not into the farm, but she has helped label products and her creative "Merry Hempmas" line we turned into a magazine ad in 2019. Now a teenager, she likes to question my judgement. She wants to be a Supreme Court Justice when she gets older. Maybe this is why many times I do not argue with her because she tends to be right. Mason on the other hand loves getting out of the farm. He has helped us plant every season. One his favorite past times at Evercure Farms is catching frogs at the pond.
Beyond our families, we have also had the help of many talented professionals. For instance, Cathy Barclay with Jeb Advertising was the first female Brand Manager in the tobacco industry for Kool Cigarettes (Thanks Dad for the referral). She contributed ideas that led to the development of our custom wholesale shipper boxes for CBD tincture bottles. Cathy also supplies us lots of merchandise and Evercure branded marketing items. Kenneth Smith is a talented marketing and design professional. He founded a magazine called Inferno back in the 90s that was the second largest hip hop magazine distributed in the US only behind The Source. Kenneth designed our logo off a post-it note sketch and went on to create our first promotional materials, product labels, and website. The Garey Family: David, Clara, and John have been instrumental partners who we rely on for Kentucky Proud organic CBD extraction and processing. In addition to hemp, the Garey’s are third generation farmers that specialize in creating organic jams, jellies, and vegetable products. They were among the first hemp processors in the state of Kentucky and dedicated a portion of their commercial kitchen to research and development. Their willingness to share their know-how and early learnings experimenting with CBD extraction methods contributed to creation of our first finished products in 2018. Adam Austin came down from Michigan in 2019 and provided the boost we need on the farm to complete our 64,000 plant, dro hemp grow in 120 days. Adam worked in the cannabis industry in Michigan several years and helped sustain our Greenhouse project through the winter. There is a long list of many more valuable, talented people whose stories and contributions we can share with you in the future.
Besides our Customers, all these people we are surrounded by contribute to My Motivation, My Why. As a Co-Founder of Evercure Farms I am proud to Own a Cause that is bigger than us. We are the change, creating a new industry and writing the rules. We are growing Cannabis Sativa L, Kentucky Fine, Bluegrass Made as no others. We may not be doing it in a big way yet, but we are doing it Our Way and living by Our Values. Our commitment to excellence and sharing best practices with anyone interested in listening remains an Evercure core covenant. Every time we experience a set-back, someone steps up, the phone rings with a new opportunity, or we simply fall forward.
I invite you to reach out and collaborate with us, consider this BLOG your invitation. Thank you for taking time to read this...there will be more to come! All of us at Evercure Farms appreciate you!