Hashish cultivation is a taboo topic in the USA, notably in non-white communities.
Not solely are there entry limitations to non-white communities studying about hashish cultivation, there’s a robust adverse stigma related to Black individuals and hashish, a part of the generations-long ‘conflict on medicine’ in the USA.
Damian Fagon, the founding father of Gullybean, desires to alter the script, sharing hashish cultivation information 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That includes insights from Buffer’s Small Enterprise, Large Classes podcast episode eight and the accompanying unpublished interview, Damian shared his journey from hashish farmer, to trainer, to enterprise accelerator chief, and the economics behind why he focuses so laborious on encouraging individuals to grow to be hashish farmers.
Discovering farming and going through challenges
After years within the Peace Corps in Guatemala and some extra in Washington, DC on the State Division, Damian Fagon wished a change.
As a substitute of focusing solely on diplomacy, he wished to work in financial growth. This shift introduced him to New York Metropolis, the place he did his Masters of Public Administration at Columbia’s Faculty for Worldwide and Public Affairs (SIPA). Whereas there, he mentioned he balanced enterprise schooling with coverage work, explicitly specializing in studying how he would possibly assist farmers get higher yields from their crops. His objective was to return to Guatemala and different South American nations to assist financial growth by means of farming.
Damian realized that whereas the medical hashish market is pretty massive (round $5 billion in the USA), it pales compared to different forms of crop farming. Nonetheless, the chance for hashish vegetation, he mentioned, have a number of different use instances from textiles to plastic alternate options. However there’s one key drawback: the conflict on medicine.
“The issue with the crop and with the genetics we’ve entry to, is that the USA spent the final 80 years with a federal ban on learning and rising the hashish crop,” mentioned Damian.
After graduating from Columbia, Damian discovered traders 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 data really was.
“The individuals who’ve had entry to rising hashish personal farms and so they personal land, and so they dwell 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 vital challenges round becoming in as a non-white particular person (and immigrant to city) in a area that’s majority white and settled for generations.
“I am not saying that every one the individuals in these communities are racist, however they do not have a variety of expertise in various dialog, various engagements,” mentioned Damian. “There’s not a variety of immigrants shifting 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 wished to leverage his information to have a wider financial influence for Black and Brown individuals in city areas.
First, he began educating at Medgar Evers Faculty, a traditionally Black school (HBCU) in Brooklyn. He not solely taught the agricultural instruments of farming, but in addition introduced within the enterprise facet, particularly the chance in hashish cultivation.
“I will be educating horticulture, however a variety of it will likely be a bigger dialogue on the availability chain enterprise alternatives in hashish so that individuals can really 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 undertaking within the Bronx: a hashish enterprise incubator.
“The concept with that undertaking particularly is to create a facility and an setting whereby individuals within the Bronx – entrepreneurs, previously incarcerated individuals who previously grew hashish within the basements of public housing within the Bronx and have been arrested for it – these individuals can entry our facility, lease gear and launch their very own hashish companies,” mentioned Damian.
The targets of this incubator, mentioned Damian, are three-fold:
1. Micro-cultivation pods: These pods will enable individuals to lease gear and area to begin rising hashish legally on a micro-scale.
“The power shall be designed in a means the place growers, notably first time growers from town, from the Bronx, [can] pursue a micro enterprise license,” mentioned Damian.
2. Hashish schooling: Spreading information of hashish farming, the financial alternative behind it, and the job alternatives for individuals who don’t need to begin a enterprise instantly. This arm, mentioned Damian, shall be run by a nonprofit group arrange by Damian and his staff.
“They’ve a variety of expertise working with marginalized communities, previously incarcerated, previously homeless, notably younger individuals, serving to them get jobs in excessive demand industries,” mentioned Damian.
3. A enterprise inside the incubator: Damian mentioned this half continues to be being fleshed out, however he desires to see the incubator run its personal hashish cultivation enterprise so it has an lively 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 do not need to begin one thing that’s reliant on steady funding and sponsorship from donors and company sponsors.”
A world 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 a large option to uplift traditionally impoverished nations.
“I noticed that crop as doubtlessly transformative for the worldwide south, particularly West Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, Southeast Asia; a few of these areas which are completely fitted to hashish business cultivation, and I wished to discover ways to develop the crop,” mentioned Damian.
Eager about the rationale why he landed on hashish farming as his technique of financial growth, he ties it again to his household and his ardour. Even the identify gullybean, for instance, got here from a crop his father nonetheless farms in his native Jamaica.
“I fell in love with farming by means of Gullybean,” mentioned Damian. “… With adult-use hashish legalization in New York, there has by no means been a greater alternative in case you’re keen on inclusive financial growth [and] producing wealth in low-income communities… there’s by no means been a greater time to be targeted on the hashish market.”