Hashish cultivation is a taboo topic in the US, significantly in non-white communities.
Not solely are there entry boundaries to non-white communities studying about hashish cultivation, there’s a robust damaging stigma related to Black individuals and hashish, a part of the generations-long ‘conflict on medicine’ in the US.
Damian Fagon, the founding father of Gullybean, desires to vary the script, sharing hashish cultivation data so extra individuals, particularly Black and Brown individuals, can entry the multi-billion greenback alternative of hashish.
That includes insights from Buffer’s Small Enterprise, Huge Classes podcast episode eight and the accompanying unpublished interview, Damian shared his journey from hashish farmer, to instructor, to enterprise accelerator chief, and the economics behind why he focuses so arduous on encouraging individuals to change into hashish farmers.
Discovering farming and dealing with challenges
After years within the Peace Corps in Guatemala and some extra in Washington, DC on the State Division, Damian Fagon needed a change.
As a substitute of focusing solely on diplomacy, he needed to work in financial improvement. This shift introduced him to New York Metropolis, the place he did his Masters of Public Administration at Columbia’s College for Worldwide and Public Affairs (SIPA). Whereas there, he mentioned he balanced enterprise training with coverage work, explicitly specializing in studying how he may assist farmers get higher yields from their crops. His purpose was to return to Guatemala and different South American international locations to assist financial improvement by way of farming.
Damian realized that whereas the medical hashish market is pretty massive (round $5 billion in the US), it pales compared to different varieties of crop farming. Nevertheless, the likelihood for hashish vegetation, he mentioned, have a number of different use circumstances from textiles to plastic alternate options. However there’s one key downside: the conflict on medicine.
“The issue with the crop and with the genetics we’ve entry to, is that the US spent the final 80 years with a federal ban on finding out and rising the hashish crop,” mentioned Damian.
After graduating from Columbia, Damian discovered buyers in Philadelphia who would again him in a hashish farming operation in rural South Carolina. Sadly, the crop failed and Damian returned to New York Metropolis.
Decided to determine issues out, Damian spent a variety of time – and cash – studying the ropes of hashish farming from consultants in states that had legalized leisure hashish. As he flew round and paid consultants, he couldn’t assist discover how gatekept this information really was.
“The individuals who've had entry to rising hashish personal farms they usually personal land, they usually stay in communities which have very conventional agricultural roots,” mentioned Damian. “And solely 2% of farmers nationally are Black, and so the disparities that already existed in agriculture and land entry are simply being amplified within the hashish area.”
After studying extra about hashish farming, he arrange store within the Hudson Valley in New York. Sadly, although, he needed to take care of important challenges round becoming in as a non-white individual (and immigrant to city) in a area that’s majority white and settled for generations.
“I'm not saying that each one the individuals in these communities are racist, however they don't have a variety of expertise in various dialog, various engagements,” mentioned Damian. “There's not a variety of immigrants transferring on the market both. So, that problem may be very actual and really, very private.”
From farming to enterprise incubation
After efficiently navigating hashish farming within the Hudson Valley, Damian needed to leverage his data to have a wider financial influence for Black and Brown individuals in city areas.
First, he began instructing at Medgar Evers Faculty, a traditionally Black school (HBCU) in Brooklyn. He not solely taught the agricultural instruments of farming, but additionally introduced within the enterprise facet, particularly the chance in hashish cultivation.
“I'll be instructing horticulture, however a variety of it is going to be a bigger dialogue on the availability chain enterprise alternatives in hashish so that folks can truly see it the way in which it exists in different states and establish locations the place they’ll place themselves to earn money [or] begin a enterprise,” mentioned Damian.
Second, he began engaged on a a lot bigger mission within the Bronx: a hashish enterprise incubator.
“The thought with that mission particularly is to create a facility and an surroundings whereby individuals within the Bronx – entrepreneurs, previously incarcerated individuals who previously grew hashish within the basements of public housing within the Bronx and had been arrested for it – these individuals can entry our facility, lease gear and launch their very own hashish companies,” mentioned Damian.
The objectives of this incubator, mentioned Damian, are three-fold:
1. Micro-cultivation pods: These pods will permit individuals to lease gear and area to begin rising hashish legally on a micro-scale.
“The ability will likely be designed in a manner the place growers, significantly first time growers from the town, from the Bronx, [can] pursue a micro enterprise license,” mentioned Damian.
2. Hashish training: Spreading data of hashish farming, the financial alternative behind it, and the job alternatives for individuals who don’t need to begin a enterprise immediately. This arm, mentioned Damian, will likely be run by a nonprofit group arrange by Damian and his crew.
“They’ve a variety of expertise working with marginalized communities, previously incarcerated, previously homeless, significantly younger individuals, serving to them get jobs in excessive demand industries,” mentioned Damian.
3. A enterprise inside the incubator: Damian mentioned this half remains to be being fleshed out, however he desires to see the incubator run its personal hashish cultivation enterprise so it has an energetic income stream to fund different actions.
“I do need that facility to have its personal enterprise that may make it self-sustaining,” mentioned Damian. “There’ll clearly be a degree of revenue sharing with those that are available in and make the most of the areas to begin their companies, to pay for the overhead, however I don't need to begin one thing that’s reliant on steady funding and sponsorship from donors and company sponsors.”
A worldwide influence ready to be acknowledged
There are such a lot of prospects for hashish, whether or not medicinal or industrial, past leisure use. And Damian sees this potential as an enormous solution to uplift traditionally impoverished nations.
“I noticed that crop as probably transformative for the worldwide south, particularly West Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, Southeast Asia; a few of these areas which might be completely fitted to hashish business cultivation, and I needed to discover ways to develop the crop,” mentioned Damian.
Occupied with the explanation why he landed on hashish farming as his technique of financial improvement, he ties it again to his household and his ardour. Even the title gullybean, for instance, got here from a crop his father nonetheless farms in his native Jamaica.
“I fell in love with farming by way of Gullybean,” mentioned Damian. “… With adult-use hashish legalization in New York, there has by no means been a greater alternative in the event you're enthusiastic about inclusive financial improvement [and] producing wealth in low-income communities… there's by no means been a greater time to be targeted on the hashish market.”