The West Coast has long been seen as the epicenter of cannabis cultivation in the United States. Now, the green wave is drifting on the East Coast, and like the surging waves of the Atlantic, the shifting tide of legalization is bringing new opportunities to the Empire State. There is no better evidence of the continued decentralization of the factory from the Emerald Triangle to New York than the Berner Cookies brand that opened in Herald Square in the heart of Manhattan.
But there is another indicator. In the Hudson Valley, just north of New York City, an area traditionally known for its orchards and plantations, a new industry is growing rapidly as cannabis cultivation.
Old Mud Creek Ranch is part of the largest tract of organic farmland in the Hudson Valley. Owned by philanthropist Abby Rockefeller, daughter of the late septuagenarian David and Peggy Rockefeller, the property is a large-scale regenerative organic farm that conducts carbon research to identify and prove the results of regenerative organic farming as a potential solution to the climate crisis.
“By building healthy soil and using regenerative farming techniques, we absorb more carbon on our farm than we release into the atmosphere,” says co-founder Freya Dobson. “We wouldn’t be doing this work if we didn’t believe we could have a positive impact on the environment and the way people consume produce that comes from farms. This is really at the forefront of everything we do.”
Freya’s brother, Ben Dobson, succeeded Old Creek Farm for more than a decade. During that time, the progressive farmer has spearheaded the transition from a traditional farm to a regenerative organic farm. In 2017, New York opened a pilot program to grow hemp, and Old Mud Creek was one of the first plantations to receive a permit. Dobson’s sisters Melanie and Freya came aboard shortly afterwards. Together, they became co-founders of Hudson Hemp and its product line, Treaty, which consists of five tinctures with supporting botanicals sourced locally for targeted effects.
“We wouldn’t be doing this work if we didn’t believe we could have a positive impact on the environment and the way people consume produce that comes from farms. This is really at the forefront of everything we do.”
After the historic 2018 Farm Bill passed, a glut of hemp and hemp-derived CBD caused wholesale prices to plummet. From coast to coast, many farms have had no choice but to steer their plants away from the hemp plant to avoid financial disaster, including Hudson Hemp.
“We haven’t really been able to find our place in the market to be able to be financially secure or viable,” Dobson says. “By 2021, we knew that unless something drastically changed in the market, we wouldn’t grow hemp anymore, which definitely broke our hearts because we are such a major advocate.”
The lifeline came when New York legalized cannabis in March 2021. Several cannabis growers in the state seized the opportunity to apply for a cannabis-growing license, including Hudson Hemp, who called the change in the state legislature a “godsend.” After all, adult cannabis sales are expected to reach $1.3 billion in 2018 New York City alone by 2023.
“Fortunately, New York State legalized recreational cannabis that year and we got our cultivation license by May,” says Dobson. “We understand how our work with cannabis has led us to cannabis. Working with both sides of the plant has been powerful and informative.”
Once licensed, Hudson Hemp turned to Hudson Cannabis and the team recently harvested the inaugural crop of over a dozen varieties. Growing exceptional cannabis ethically and conscientiously isn’t the only thing that motivates Hudson Cannabis. At the heart of the company’s vision for success, Dobson says, is the interconnected world of human and planetary health.
“To us, success looks like a world where we bridge the gap between agriculture and culture. We think hemp is the crop that sits at that intersection, that can bring people back to the earth and to each other,” says Dobson. Cannabis has a complicated and troubled past in this country. With legalization, we have an opportunity to make amends and do better.”
Photographer Natalie Chitwood provides the visual guide to Hudson’s cannabis.
This story was originally published in Issue 47 printed edition of hemp now.