Three Ways for Cannabis Cultivators to Connect With Consumers
In our work with small cannabis farms, we’ve realized that there is a disconnect between the people growing the plants and the consumers buying the flower. While jar labels sometimes include information on who grew the product, that small paragraph squeezed in between the logo and legal warnings really doesn’t convey the connection to plant, community, and craft that is unique to each farmer and their signature crop. Add to this the prevalence of white labeling, repackaging, and the generally poor state of communication down the cannabis supply chain, and the consumer often only learns the strain name, brand name, THC content, and whatever the supposed Sativa/Indica genes are. Since most of those data points are flexible at best and lazy marketing at worst, there’s basically no connection back to the farm. Other industries have managed to solve this problem, so here we discuss a few examples of producer/consumer connection that we would love to see grow in our industry.
Grower Guided Tastings
The South end of the Emerald Triangle with the world’s best cannabis gives way to the Napa Valley/Sonoma area, which makes some of the world’s best wines. A good wine tasting guided by a sommelier with knowledge of the growth and terroir of the grapes- or even the vintner themselves- is a fantastic experience. Tastings like this represent one of the more intimate connections that a producer can have with their customers. Beyond wine, tastings for whiskey, tea, beer, cheese, and any other delicious craft consumable all share this intimate and educational theme which greatly improves the consumer experience.
What if this was a thing with craft cannabis? Imagine, you go to a dispensary or consumption lounge, and instead of the budtender just telling you “oh yeah this one’s got a lot of THC and will make you feel creative,” the farmer who grew it is running a tasting that day and can actually explain WHY the cannabis tastes and hits the way it does. Someone who has been growing and refining genetics for a while can tell you the story of how this strain got to where it is now, and the decisions they made along the way. This could be even more interesting with different kinds of products from the same strain- comparing concentrate, flower, and hashish side by side would open up the spectrum of experience to a whole new level. This kind of connection is virtually nonexistent in the legal industry today, and would allow farmers and consumers to form lasting bonds. As consumption lounges become more common we would love to see this become the norm.
Growers Educating Budtenders
Obviously, growers can’t be at every point of sale to show off their product, and consumption lounges are still rare. Since budtenders are one of the primary sales faces of the industry, what if farmers could educate the budtenders to answer consumer questions and represent their product accurately? This is already a standard for alcohol and specialty food ingredients in the gourmet bar and restaurant industry. Bartenders and restaurateurs receive samples, training, educational materials, and recipes from the brand distributor for those products. In more craft production or farm-to-table arrangements, it’s the producer representing their own product.
What if farmers could craft a variety of training and education materials for budtenders who will sell their product, and know that it would be accurately and clearly represented to the customer? These materials could be delivered in person by the farmer, or with the product to the retailer, and include everything from tasting notes to the details of how it was grown. Ultimately, the success of this model depends on the quality of the dispensary, and the reliability of the middlemen to make sure that the connection is made and maintained. There are just a few farms and retailers out there doing this currently, but we would love to see this become the standard rather than a rarity.
Farmer-Curated Subscription Boxes
You can get a subscription box for everything now. Clothes, watches, spices, wine, coffee, music, beer, even sex toys. You can tune your box contents by filling out questionnaires and sizing charts to get products and samples that match your tastes, intentions, and body. This allows consumers to explore a hobby or passion at their own convenience without the initial effort of going out and locating an expert and community.
This idea has already seen limited success in the cannabis industry, with companies like Lucky Box and Nugg Club leading the (still small) pack. While these offerings get good reviews, they don’t seem to prioritize farm-to-consumer connection and largely work with the bigger brands. What if there was a farmer-centric option, showcasing a variety of farms and their signature product in every box? Consumers would be able to pick boxes focused on certain appellations or product types, curated to the farmers choice. These boxes could come complete with material explaining the story of the plant and people behind it, farmer-specific merch, and any other goodies that the curators believe would enhance the experience. Imagine, you’re in San Diego and want the best Humboldt has to offer so you sign up for a box, and get samples from the most recent harvest delivered to your door, prepared for your enjoyment exactly as the farmer intended.
These are all fairly realistic offerings, but the main reason they’re not prevalent at the moment is simply due to poor supply chain management and a regulatory system that places multiple financial and licensing roadblocks between the farmer and the consumer. You can walk into a distillery and have the distiller give you samples straight from the barrel, or get fresh-laid eggs straight from the farm, but you can barely find cannabis with the actual grower’s name and story attached, much less spark up with them on their farm. Supply chains are all about getting stuff from point A to point B, but in cannabis one supply chain is seriously underdeveloped: the one that brings the cultural craft reality from the farm to the consumer.
Stay cool, water your plants, and keep Growing!