By Eli Harrington, originally reported, written, and published by Vermontijuana
Green State Gardener, a Burlington-based company, made headlines this week when they released the results of a national survey about the impact of legalized cannabis on gardening, titled "New Poll Finds Millions Would 'grow your own.' Marijuana Brings Millions From the Closet to the Backyard." The study was conducted by the Williston-based National Gardening Association and was, according to author Bruce Butterfield, "the very first time we took a look at marijuana from a gardening perspective. I don’t believe anyone’s done that before.”
Green State launched publicly last month and mostly sells indoor growing equipment including tents, lights, and organic soil and fertilizers. The REAL magic of the model is the integration and delivery of everything together, including instructions for beginners, with more educational materials in development: "it's everything you need, other than whatever plant you choose to put in there" said CEO, Dylan Raap.
The core founding team of three employees are locals based in Burlington and share space, employee tasks, experience, philosophy, and literal DNA with both Gardener's Supply Company and the Intervale Food Hub.
CEO Dylan Raap is a former employee (and current son) of Will Raap, who helped found both Gardeners Supply and the Intervale Food Hub. The elder Raap is highly regarded as a pioneer in building local food systems and a founding member of the Vermont Cannabis Collaborative, on whose behalf he's been barnstorming the state to illuminate economic benefits to legalization, especially for Vermont's value-added ag businesses. According to Will Raap, neither Intervale nor Gardener's Supply have a financial stake in Green State Gardening but are supporting by supplying services at cost.
For companies that serve gardeners, cannabis is understandably an extremely appealing market, which is why Scott's Miracle-Gro Co., the world's largest maker of lawn care products, spent $130M in April to buy up hydro and soil companies that were established in the cannabis world. It was the company's largest acquisition in 16 years and helped that company's stock price reach it's highest point in the last five years this past spring.
In this context, the launch of Green State is a distinctly "Vermont" entrant into a market that is only sure to grow, locally and nationally. With the emphasis on soil and partnership with VT Compost Company and Gardeners Supply, they're (almost) literally offering Vermont terroir to a national market. But the young company is not just Intervale innovation: they've got a former MIT techie as a core team member and Dylan Raap's background comes from product sourcing overseas, including China.
For companies like Green State (and Gardener's Supply, and national giants like Scott's Miracle-Gro) who want to court a national cannabis market that's still adjusting to sunlight and still illegal under federal law, it's a difficult line to walk. Even more so when considering the legal, established, cannabis industry tends to be full of smaller, independent companies who both advertise and advocate cannabis explicitly. Many in these cannabis communities feel passionately that businesses profiting from legalization should advocate more vocally.
So Vermontijuana asked Raap, the Green State Gardener CEO if it considers itself a VT cannabiz?
I wouldn't say we are a cannabis business necessarily, I'd say we're in the business of solutions to small space and urban gardening that has a foot in culinary, in medicinal, and in intensive. Yea, cannabis absolutely happens to be a medicinal herb, we'd like to get people excited about other medicinal herbs as well.
The company logically supports legalization, and allowing home cultivation is regarded as the lowest hanging fruit for those who want to start a legal cannabis paradigm in VT and elsewhere.
As legalization discussions move forward, it's a powerful and broadly appealing narrative in favor: more gardening is good, more new gardeners gardening is good, more innovative ag/tech hybrid companies getting the gardeners gardening is good. A Vermont company finding new ways to support and promote local agriculture is something that's hard for Vermonters of all cannabis persuasions to dislike.
An interesting aspect of the indoor growing space, is that some of it's opposition could come from environmentalists who agree with more gardening, but wonder how to offset a huge increase in electricity demand from up to 10.3 million new gardeners plugging in to grow legal cannabis. As the former project manager for the Farm at South Village, a self-sustaining, net-metered solar development in South Burlington, Raap is certainly aware of the challenges, and well-equipped to deliver possible solutions, especially with integrating solar, the likely first step.
With the emphasis on soil and partnership with VT Compost Company and Gardeners Supply, they're (almost) literally offering Vermont terroir to a national market.
For the company, it's not about being the state's first avowed cannabis business, it's about innovating a space in a growth market. But instead of defining (and restricting) that market as cannabis, they're targeting new--especially Millennial--gardeners and those who appreciate organics and sourcing their own plants, for all purposes.
For now, Green State Gardener and other companies with a business interest in legalization can only allude to cannabis as an inspiration for more gardening, and must walk a delicate line for legal and strategic purposes. But whatever is being grown in the tents, the Burlington company's contemporary strategy is a good bet to both sprout more discussions about VT businesses benefitting from cannabis and grow some green in terms of profits.
*Editors note: This is not a sponsored post and Vermontijuana has no financial stake in Green State Gardener and produced this piece as an objective news story about a local company whose launch has larger implications for the cannabis considerations in Vermont--EH*