Georgia Farmers Find Niche Market in Hemp

by Allessandra Inzinna

The Green Toad Hemp Farm opened as the first black-owned farm in Georgia in 2019, residing within the uber-small town of Metter, Georgia (whose population was a measly 4,310 in 2010).


The two founders: Dwayne Hirsch, President of The Green Toad, and Reginald Reese, CEO of The Green Toad, met in 2011 when Hirsch ran a beverage company trying to get his products into Walmart, where Reese previously worked as a Market Manager.


After deciding to start a hemp farm with no prior experience in hemp farming whatsoever, Hirsch and Reese traveled around the country, talking to experts and learning the business. By July 2019, they had bought the land and begun building the infrastructure needed to plant. By July of the next year, after enduring the long process of receiving a license, they were growing. 


Despite starting out with little to no knowledge of growing the plant, Hirsch felt comfortable entering the industry after learning the many uses for hemp, both industrial and medicinal. 


“The fact that you have so many things you can do with the plant gives us that many opportunities and from a commercial perspective,” Hirsh said.


The Green Toad is planning on growing industrial hemp fiber on a plot of land they purchased in Texas to make clothing, hemp-wood, hemp-crete (concrete made with hemp) and other physical items.


They currently sell CBD hemp flower, topicals, edibles and treats for pets. They also sell Delta 8 and 10 products, which are far less potent in psychotropic effects than Delta-9, the molecule in THC that gets you stoned. They sell online and in their dispensary, of which they are planning on opening at least five more in 2021, Hirsch said. 


Since their farm has blossomed into a successful business, the founders have taken the initiative to help other hemp growers get their licenses. They hope to get more black people into the cannabis industry as a whole.


“One of the issues out there is that the black population is kept out of the cannabis industry, And hemp is a part of the cannabis industry,” Reese said. “… The percentage of blacks that are able to get licensed is very low.”


Black people made up 4.3 percent of those involved in the cannabis industry at an ownership or stake-holder level, according to a 2017 survey


Now, they have helped five people obtain their license from the state of Georgia with several more with pending cases, Reese said.


“It really inspires a lot of black entrepreneurs and farmers to want to pursue the industry by knowing, not only that we were the first ones, but also that we were able to do what we need to do to get that license, which allowed us to help them,” Reese said.


Reese believes that a lack of knowledge on the topic of hemp stops more people from getting involved, as well as the large amount of funds needed to grow the plant. To remedy this, Hirsch and Reese found a way to cut costs by as much as 70 percent: turning the process from a $13,000 to $18,000 per acre venture to a $3,000 to $5,000 per acre venture.


By sharing their affordable farming methods with potential future growers, the founders of The Green Toad hope to encourage the black community to have a greater presence in the cannabis industry.


“We are noticing a lot more of black growers that want to get licensed,” Reese said. “We wish it was more.”

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