Bluegrass Podcast Transcript Ep. 22 Judi Nelson Sol Spirit Farms

[ This is the audio transcript for the Bluegrass Podcast Episode 22 released on November 8th, 2022. ]


[00:00:03.990] - Elijah

Welcome to the Bluegrass Podcast. Today we are talking with Judy Nelson of Soul Spirit Farms about

her farm, their wonderful new Burmese mimosa they've been working on, and the hospitality that they offer educating individuals on cannabis and natural farming. We are so excited to have you with us today and we hope that you're having a clean, heavy and happy harvest wherever you are and whatever you've been bringing in this fall. Let's get right to it.


[00:00:37.240] - Elijah

Absolutely. So how's your harvest been going?


[00:00:40.560] - Judi Nelson

You know, we just finished, like, yesterday, pretty much, so that's exciting. And, you know, it went

really well this year. We had fires that blocked out the sun for a few weeks and so we had a little bit of

like a battle with just dealing with that, but luckily the timing was okay to where nothing was at risk of

getting smoky tasting or anything like that. So I would say we dodged a bullet there.


[00:01:14.890] - Elijah

And was that the Six Rivers fire that was earlier this summer?


[00:01:18.720] - Judi Nelson

Yeah. So there was actually the Six Rivers complex on one side of us and then the Ammon fire on the

other side. Eventually, I think they kind of came together and they sort of called them one thing, but

yeah, we were surrounded yet again because we were last year too, so that's been stressful, I would

say, to just be like, really? Is this going to be every year now? Because it's not fun.


[00:01:49.590] - Elijah

Absolutely. So what was your favorite thing you pulled in from your harvest? Like, just for you

personally? What were you most excited about?


[00:01:58.270] - Judi Nelson

Oh, my God, I'm so glad you asked that because I am so excited about this Burmese mimosa. It's my

favorite weed ever and we've never pulled it off commercially. We've been doing like a female hunt for

the past three years on it. And, you know, we have a small batch of it this year, like a tiny little ten

pound batch, but it's so good. It's so good.


[00:02:26.410] - Elijah

Give us a lowdown. So what does it smell like? What does it taste like? What gets you excited about

it?


[00:02:32.380] - Judi Nelson

Well, I like fruity weed and I'm not a gassy or savory weed fan. And so this is orange Burmese crossed

with rose mimosa. And so it's this, like, really grape, fruity, sweet floral thing. And then it's got like a

little kind of woodyiness behind it. So it's got almost that like, amber or I want to say resin is not

meaning, like, resin from the cannabis plant, but any of those insensitive kind of resins that we use for

that kind of thing. It's got, like, just enough of that in there that it's just also has a little bit of earth in it.

So it's so good and you can.


[00:03:31.110] - Elijah

Smell it from across the I mean, that smells terrific. I'm completely down for that.


[00:03:38.210] - Judi Nelson

Right. So I was just saying that it's going to be kind of interesting to see how it goes in the market

because I think we are indeed it between like 18 and 20% THC and like I am very oh, yeah. I'm just

hoping that I can get people to smell it and taste it. Because once I can do that, I know that everybody

is going to love this.


[00:04:12.100] - Elijah

But you know well and hopefully we'll see more of it too just because like you're talking about you

can't tell from that percentage and that one in particular what it might do for you too. There's stuff in

the 15 to 20 range that will knock your socks off in terms of the high.


[00:04:31.160] - Judi Nelson

Exactly, exactly. So hopefully people will get out of their own ways on that and make it so that they

don't miss out on this amazing weed because they're just looking for the highest THC percentage.


[00:04:45.730] - Elijah

And where can they pick it up if they were looking to pick it up?


[00:04:49.230] - Judi Nelson

Well, it isn't anywhere yet because it's actually still curing. But our best like any small independent

retailer in California, sesame Creek in Ohio is definitely one of our absolute biggest supporters.

Cornerstone in La Torre Holistics and California. Holistic down in the San Diego area up here locally in

Humboldt. Hopefully urban market will have it and Heart of the Emerald and maybe Soulful in

Sebastian Pool. You never know what they're going to pick up, but I'm hoping they'll take some of it.


[00:05:36.040] - Elijah

I definitely look forward to picking up an 8th of it. It sounds terrific.


[00:05:40.080] - Judi Nelson

It's so good.


[00:05:42.560] - Elijah

And kind of asking you about that. Different places that sell your cannabis, you all don't just farm, you

also have a really interesting tourism tie in.


[00:05:54.410] - Judi Nelson

We do.


[00:05:55.710] - Elijah

Do you want to talk about that a little bit? Because I think that's one of the really interesting things

about your allstar in particular.


[00:06:03.860] - Judi Nelson

Yes, I would love to talk about that. So we have a glamping experience that we offer to people in the

summer. So I'm closed down now and I will likely open Memorial Day weekend in 2023. And there we

have Bell tents. So there are these lovely fun canvas tents with real beds and comfy linens and every

tent has a separate bath house. You know, nobody shares a bathroom with strangers, which I think is

important. And they all stop running water. So it's lamping right? It's glamorous camping. You are

definitely still outside but it's pretty luxurious. And I either I cook organic farmtotable meals or I have a

chef that comes in and helps me kind of depending on how many people are there or if we have

special events. And we serve produce that is grown on the farm or locally. There's a lot of amazing

organic produce farmers in my area of Willow Creek, California. And we serve pork from pigs that we

raise on the farm and eggs from our chickens. And we just try to make it this very wholesome and

delicious weekend or however many days you choose to stay, and you get to really experience what

life is like on a farm in the Emerald Triangle.


[00:07:45.940] - Judi Nelson

Walter, my husband, who is our main head cultivator, he takes everybody on a farm tour and explains

a lot about all kinds of different aspects. You know, whether you want to find out about regenerative

farming in general or how different cultivars perform or how he chose them, or pest control or, you

know, you just want to kind of see what a commercial cannabis farm is like. And commercial I use

because to me it's commercial now. We were very small for a very long time and we expanded a little

bit during legalization, so to me it seems like a lot, but it's still only 10,000 sqft. Which solidly qualifies

us as a small farm. But we also live on a wild and scenic river, the south Fork of the Trinity River. And

there is amazing kayaking and whitewater rafting both there and on the main stem of the Trinity. And

you can just go swimming in the river if that's what you prefer. But there is great hiking. The Trinity

Elves are nearby so you can make a whole outdoor adventure out of it. And of course there's weed at

a weed farm too.


[00:09:09.790] - Elijah

And I love when you say glamping. Like I encourage people to visit you all's website because you have

some pictures on there of the tents and the setups and it really is beautiful. Like it is as close to

camping as you can get while still getting this incredible five star tailored experience all around your

farm and the surrounding area.


[00:09:34.610] - Judi Nelson

Yeah, it's essentially camping, much more comfortable camping and you don't have to bring anything

but your clothes.


[00:09:43.240] - Elijah

Oh, and you're all just how you all have put it together too. I hope you take some credit for it. It really is

like you're talking about these other places just to do this functionally on the cannabis farm and to

also have the tours going. I really love it.


[00:10:00.240] - Elijah

I think more and more people are going to go the route that you're going, where you don't just offer

your lead, you offer the experience.


[00:10:09.790] - Judi Nelson

Yeah, I mean, we started out when we originally purchased this piece of property into 2001. Our whole

goal really was to do permaculture workshops and trainings there. And I also work as sort of in a

healing capacity as a physical therapist with people with chronic pain. And so we had this vision of,

like, having a retreat center there. But we always kind of thought like, okay, well, we really love growing

weed, but we obviously cannot invite people to come here while we're doing that back in the day. And

so we always kind of thought like, okay, well, we're going to have to stop growing cannabis when we

get around to having these guests experience. And then it became legal, and we were like, sweet, we

can actually incorporate the cannabis into it, which is what we obviously prefer because it is a part of

our lives in every way, and I think it makes all things better. So we always wanted to share this

experience with people, and we're just super stoked that now we get to share the full spectrum

experience. And, you know, a big part of why we do it is because, you know, I feel that people in

general, especially people who are living in really urban environments, are suffering from, like, nature

deficit disorder.


[00:11:49.410] - Judi Nelson

And it really impacts you mentally and emotionally. And maybe you don't even notice it because you

just haven't connected with nature in so long. But when people come out, it is really amazing to watch

them over the course of a few days sort of just like, relax and get calmer. I mean, it is perfectly silent

at our farm, except where you can hear the river flowing by and sometimes a rooster crows. So

people who have to deal with a lot of ambient noise in their city life, you don't realize how much stress

that actually causes you until you don't have it there, you know? And so that, I found, has been so

cool. And we don't have any cell phone reception, so nobody could bother you. And also, just

obviously the cannabis is involved in there as well because you just can really, truly relax and it's cool.

It's, like amazing to see the transformations that take place in people over, like, a three day period.

And then the other piece of it is this educational piece of regenerative. Farming, if adopted globally,

could actually reverse climate change, right? So studies done by the Rhodeale Institute show that

111% of the carbon emitted through our all ways driving industrial farming, which is a huge one,

electricity generation, all of those things that if all farming was done regeneratively, we would

sequester more carbon than we produce with all those activities.


[00:13:47.910] - Judi Nelson

And so that part is like a true solution, right, but people don't really understand it. It's a lot it's a lot of

information. And so to get to come and just sort of like, experience it and be like, oh, I get it. It's still

farming. It's still a farm. You just slightly alter what you're doing to really focus on building the soil and

reducing your impact. And I do feel that cannabis farming and regenerative cannabis farmers are at

the forefront of this revolution. And so actually, you can, to a small extent, kind of help reverse climate

change by what weed you choose to smoke.


[00:14:38.590] - Elijah

And I think, like you said, what you choose being able to inform the people who maybe might be

interested in your weed and then come out, or people that come out and then go back, giving them

that time to really just let them see it. Because even apart from the people that might be coming out

to a cannabis farm for the first time, I'm sure people who might be going out for the first or maybe

even the second time to a farm, or in particular a regenerative farm, period, it's such a wonderful

experience to let people have.


[00:15:14.660] - Judi Nelson

Yeah, it's very enriching for us as well. And I guess that makes me think that I want to bring up,

because it does come up sometimes a lot of people watched that documentary that shall not be

named on Netflix, right, and are kind of nervous to come out, right. And you know this, right? But it's

not like that. It's not like that at all. Especially at our place and our community of Willow Creek. It is

not like that at all. There is no weird, sketchy vibe. It is not dangerous, except that you might get stung

by a bee or something like that. None of that. And it is a wholesome farm. When you think of a farm in

Iowa and the white picket fence and all that, whatever, it's just like that. It's a nice little family farm.

And yes, we do grow a medicinal plant that you must be 21 to consume, or 18 with a medical card, but

otherwise, really, everything that's going on there, it's nice. It's not weird at all.


[00:16:36.580] - Elijah

It is it's very easy to understand, very welcoming, and like you said, near some incredible nature as

well. You are in a unique place. So while you're on the farm, while you're around all this, definitely take

advantage of it. Were there any apart from the main issue of legalization, are there any challenges

right now that you run into that could be made easier for you as a farmer or as someone providing

this experience? Things that could be changed to make it easier for you all to do this or do it in a new

or different way?


[00:17:15.110] - Judi Nelson

Well, absolutely, yes. It is very complicated to manage this. And I'm operating in somewhat of a gray

area, right. As far as, like, technically, the Glamping is a legally separate business from the farm, it is

technically outside of our licensed premises. So according to the state, the farm is mapped out on

this thing and it's this part of the property and the glamping is outside of that. And so that's great

because it allows me to let people smoke there, which technically you couldn't do within the licensed

premises. Unfortunately, I'm not able to sell my cannabis to my guests. I'm allowed to share cannabis

from my personal garden with my guests, but they can't purchase any of it to take home with them,

which is really, really frustrating when you think about the fact that you can go to a winery in Napa or

Sonoma, drink while you're there, get in your car, buy more bottles of wine, get in your car, go drive

around the windy roads of Napa, and that's all. Okay? But heaven forbid you would do the same thing

with cannabis. So that part I really hope they do change. If we are able to get the ability to sell direct

to consumer, which is being talked about by the state right now, like allowing us a certain number of

times a year that we could sell to customers directly, that would be amazing.


[00:19:01.920] - Judi Nelson

That would just be so great because that's what people want to do. I've had so many people think

showing up to come glamping, that, oh, I'm going to be able to buy weed directly from the farmer. This

is going to be so cool. And then they get there and they're disappointed, and I'm just like, I am so sorry

because I would love to be able to have you do that. That one's rough. But I do see solutions to that

coming. And as with everything in Canada, particularly in California, we just have to hold on and

eventually I do trust that it will work itself out and be reasonable.


[00:19:45.110] - Elijah

Well, and I think, like you've said, it's a proven model that can work, like with wineries, distilleries,

alcohol in general, and some other things. You take a tour, you do a tasting. Hey, exit through here,

you can purchase what you liked. It's such a natural way to allow people to experience the farm and

also provide for you as a farmer, being able to sell your product and keep your margins as well, and

keep your quality, too. If it never leaves the farm, you have control over your supply chain, right?


[00:20:20.070] - Judi Nelson

Exactly. Yeah. That one's going to be a while yet. Right now, I think the way they're basically talking

about it is that I would still jump through all the hoops, take it to a distributor, have them tested and

package it. Then I would essentially have to somehow get it back from them to be able to sell it to

people because they still wanted to go through that whole chain of command thing. But yeah,

ultimately, oh my gosh, that would be incredible to be able to just and also, like, once someone has

come to visit and let's say they live in New York or something like that. I would very much like to be

able to send them weed in the mail, like a Wine of the Month Club or Cigar of the Month Club or any of

those other things that you can do that will save Emerald Triangle farmers, right? If we can do that, we

will all be okay, right? Because there are plenty of people in the world who live in other states and

other countries that would very much like to have my Burmese lumota and they can't have it right now,

you know.


[00:21:34.390] - Judi Nelson

So I really look forward to that day when we can just send it through the mail wherever to whomever

appreciates it and wants to give me the value for it based on the rarity of this product. Think about it.

There are only so many places on the globe that you can grow outside in the sun. And so even though

right now it's so strange to me that Sungrown is devalued right now, people are valuing indoor over

Sungrown, over beyond organic craft Sungrown and that's ridiculous. And so we'll get there, you know,

if we can make it through. But that whole thing of like this is a very finite resource. There is only so

much of it and there's less of it every year right now, you know. And so California, all California farms,

but in particular small boutique artisan farms, there is a market for that. Unfortunately, right now we're

just all kind of stuck with the current model.


[00:22:52.460] - Elijah

Well, it's like you said, the market is there. It's just allowing you to connect with your customers,

especially directly. The demand is there. Your ability to grow is right there. You just need that little

piece of paper, right?


[00:23:10.990] - Judi Nelson

Yes, the freedom to sell my products just like any other business.


[00:23:17.810] - Elijah

Exactly. And correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't there at least a suggestion, if not a proposal earlier this

year from a couple of California representatives to tie that into descheduling where it would be a

federal thing, where USPS and everything like that would allow people to sign up to, I think, half an

acre.


[00:23:41.740] - Judi Nelson

It's called the Ship Act and I believe it was put forward maybe by like an Oregon and a California. I

can't remember if they were representatives or senators, but yes, it essentially would allow and there

is a limitation on size. I am not sure what that was. I know at ten 0 sqft we will definitely qualify. So

for me, I'm like yes, and it is, it is it's allowing us to ship anywhere in the country. And as far as I

understand it, without going through a distributor, I think and hope that testing will still occur. I really

do believe that the consumer deserves that, you know. And one thing that I think is going to be really

interesting if we do get federal legalization in some form. California has the most stringent testing

standards, and even though maybe that model is not perfect because it just right now is allowing for a

little bit of shenanigans and stuff, of people kind of THC shopping and stuff, and there aren't real good

what's the word I'm looking for? Like, it's not standardized, and so there are issues that I'm sure they

can sort out. But I just would like for the rest of the consumers and the whole rest of the country to

benefit from really strict testing, because it's kind of crazy what might be in your weed if you don't

have that protection 100%.


[00:25:25.110] - Elijah

And it also, just like you said, get the value out of your product that you need. I think that part of it is

shortening that supply chain for you, like not having to take it to the distributor and processor and

returning some of that value back to you, but just making that supply chain as short as possible. The

interaction is you. The interaction is the customer, and getting that lab testing, providing that

protection to them. But in terms of extra hoops you need to jump through as a farmer to do basically

the same thing, like, simple is better, right?


[00:26:05.810] - Judi Nelson

Way better. And the consumer will get cheaper weed, ultimately, even if I make more on it. Right.

Because right now it's pretty horrible. But if you went and bought a $40 a dispensary in California right

now, the farmer is getting, like, three to $5 of that.


[00:26:29.660] - Elijah

Exactly.


[00:26:31.090] - Judi Nelson

The state is getting 30%. The store is getting, like, 35. You know, the distros getting 20 of that, the

testing, like all of that. There is a lot of layers that make this not work for the farmer. And I guess

maybe that's true. If you really look at farming, of all things across our country, pretty much all small

farms, no matter what you grow, it's not set up to benefit the farmer. Right. And the models that do

work are kind of a direct to consumer, like, farmers market model. I don't know if you know who Joel

Salatin is.


[00:27:17.140] - Elijah

Oh, yeah. Everything I want to do is illegal.


[00:27:19.650] - Judi Nelson

I love him, and I love that I love that book because that happens to me all the time. Everything I do

want to do is apparently illegal. And so yes. So his model, which is basically like, he grows all of this

and he directly markets it to his consumers. They come pick it up, and he makes it work. That's where

I hope we get to with cannabis.


[00:27:50.890] - Elijah

And it helps your environmental concerns, too, if you don't have to take it and physically move it to the

processor, to the distributor, even, just in simple terms, less waste, less time in between. It just makes

things efficient.


[00:28:09.110] - Judi Nelson

Big time. Yeah, exactly. I just recently, I was kind of doing some calculations because I was thinking

about, like, oh, gosh, I can't wait till I can send my weed to somebody in New York or Florida or where?

Texas. God help Texas, but I hope someday they will get to have my weed. And I was like, Wait a

minute. Okay, wait. Is it more environmentally sound to grow weed in the sun in California and send it

to New York? Or is it actually more sound for them to buy indoor because they won't have that

shipping? And we kind of ran the numbers on it, and it was like, oh, yeah, it's still way more

ecologically friendly to grow it in the sun and send it than it is to buy indoor.


[00:29:02.810] - Elijah

I think eventually indoor, honestly, apart from genetic storage, is going to phase out. I think eventually

it's just going to become too expensive for all of the equipment and all of the real estate and things

like that. Honestly, I think eventually it's just going to phase out and it'll be that weird period in time

that people remember. You remember when we did that thing and it was all, yeah, wasn't that crazy?


[00:29:28.990] - Judi Nelson

I really hope you're right, Elijah. I love that. And I really hope that that turns out to be true because it is

kind of insane what we're doing right now, that all of these states, as they are becoming legal, these

people are spending millions of dollars to set up these indoor situations and using a ton of energy,

like, just in the growing. Like, don't even think about the build out or any of that stuff. I mean, it is nuts.

And we are at a precipice. We cannot keep doing this stuff. We're out of time. We have to turn it