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
[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
[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
[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,
[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
[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
[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
[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
[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