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Authentic Business: Connections, Genuine Relationships, Networking and My Path

Authentic Business: Connections, Genuine Relationships, Networking and My Path

Making a conscious decision to “switch” a majority of brain power, effort and energy into researching, networking and being hands-on in an industry slated as the next “gold rush”, took a major leap of faith. See, I am NOT the type of person to be persuaded by the ever louder shouts and promises of $30,000 profit an acre for hemp or that my family farm could revert to hemp and within a year, we would all be millionaires. I am also not the person to back down or start second guessing myself when I hear of the many hardships farmers, processors and the industry as a whole encountered this year. In fact, if I am being honest, the prospect of the challenge to do better, to do it right and HELP people and be successful by my own standards while staying true to myself, excites the hell out of me. I would be a fool to not be ever evolving, learning and being HUMBLE in knowing I can learn something from the good and from the bad. I have everything to learn because I am open to it and others. Basically, keeping my ear, eyes and an emotional attachment to the industry at all times is paramount in securing my vision and mission at any given time. Although what I typically speak to is my own experience and the trials and tribulations, along with the highs I have experienced, I think it is crucial across all industries what I speak to. This isn’t just how I operate within the hemp industry; it is how I conduct myself and my brand across multiple industries. Where I am at right now, the vision I have and the way of going about constantly being on it day and night, makes me feel confident that TODAY I am doing the right thing. Since dialing in and dedicating more time to connecting via social platforms, I have seen a major uptick in the amount of quality connections with people and quality information that I can apply to all aspects of my business.

I have taken a little bit of time and committed it to the exploration of how and why my wife and I came into the hemp industry, but I will expound at this point. I specifically remember it was a Tuesday afternoon in 2012 that I was taking a break from inputting membership contracts into our front office system at a gym my wife and I owned and operated here in Michigan. I jumped on one of our treadmills and the television was already dialed into the Discovery Channel. It was touting small farmers’ struggles to grow cannabis with an emphasis on cannabinoid production, as opposed to THC. I was no stranger to the effects and usages the latter have, so it was an amazing moment when I realized there were potential medicinal properties attributed to other compounds in the plant. This was something I kind of knew anecdotally, but it was nice to start seeing it being explained by people much smarter than myself. This had planted the seed. Six years ago, with my limited knowledge and ignorance to what I should be providing, I had acquired several different applications of cannabis sativa and indica for my uncle who I absolutely adored. He had come down with pancreatic cancer and it acted quickly and without mercy. A steadfast, strong, motivated passion and absolute love for his friends and family made him someone you wanted to do everything you could for. I tried and realized that some of the applications eased his pain and simply helped him function better and have a higher quality of life in contrast to what it could have been. Heartbreakingly sad, he passed Christmas Eve of that year and I think about him all the time. Experiences like these I hear about every day and it truly makes me feel good there is a plant that can possibly help. A few years later when I was approached by the best man in my wedding, that I should be looking into turning the acreage of our family farm towards hemp, it started to really germinate that seed. I had always been fascinated by alternative health, fitness and I guess just being different? It felt good. I was taking CBD before people even knew to ask what it was. I was also in the supplement business and was in contact with NSF certification and GMP production and realized from that industry, how much potential there was in this newer market. Then, for the last two years, I had been casually reading in-depth articles. For the last 12 months, I have been swimming in it. The realization that the compounds and cannabinoids found in cannabis (and I will use them interchangeably, just that hemp is defined as being below .3% THC) could be attributed to helping a myriad of conditions such as slowing down the proliferation of cancer cells, anti-microbial benefits, inflammation, anxiety and a whole host of conditions, simply resonated with me and felt right. This didn’t even speak to the rabbit hole of information I acquired and researched, networked with and got hands-on with in relation to hemp lime construction (hempcrete), non-woven applications, bio-plastic applications, soil remediation ability and the carbon negative effects that it has. Thousands, well millions, of people speaking to their experiences with CBD/CBG/CBN being anecdotal in nature also spoke true to me, as I was one of those people too. Being big into fitness and recovery, my first-hand experience with how CBD (cannabidiol) and CBG (cannabigerol, a newer cannabinoid being utilized) helped my training and recovery had me all in. My wife for years experienced a level of anxiety that was well above average for most and with her regiment of CBD, I have told numerous people in the last 8 months, I truly have not heard her once, while lying in bed falling asleep at night, say: “sweetheart…..I’m anxious”. This was a weekly experience that would occur at least 2-3 times a week and it would make me anxious and upset for her. That’s gone. It should also be noted that I am not sure how much I contributed to her anxiety over those few years either. Nonetheless, this truly got us in the door and helped alleviate the pain of realizing sacrifice was needed to do things right and the days would be longer, we may not have as much free time as we like and we very well may never even make money. We stood at the precipice and jumped anyways.

We are both on the journey of learning together, we started engaging more in expos, on-line with farmers and processors doing what we dreamed of doing, discussing in Facebook groups, reading white papers, extension program research outcomes and capitalizing on just about any resource we could utilize to learn. We flew to Colorado and had lunch with industry personnel. We travelled to places like Franklin Tennessee, Kokomo Indiana and anywhere that was putting on events that dove beyond that of just consumer end products. Visiting Third Wave Farms drying facility and being part of a special event, was absolutely a blast. I did a full week Academy with KMC brand’s America’s Hemp Academy (AHA) in Kansas over the summer. We worked daily with an agronomist, business specialists, making hempcrete, getting out to acreage they had planted and people who were doing it and doing it right. It should be noted that AHA, throughout their course and in its finality, begged of us to do our operation the RIGHT way. This meant with integrity and morality. Right on, I was sold, it was what I now stood for anyways. I also volunteer time with iHemp Michigan and have been helping as much as I can with their seminar discussions, education, roundtables and their upcoming expo in Lansing in January, although I should be more active. I joined the US Hemp Building Association as a founding influencer and stay in contact with multiple industry contacts daily. I was contacted by a processor/friend and his wife who invited us to an industry dinner of the “Who’s Who” at their sponsored table (if you’re reading this, thanks again for the good food and company). The day after New Year’s I visited someone I met through a connection on another social media platform and he was kind enough to show me his operation and at the conclusion of our meeting, had landed a deal and a bit of a partnership for his operation to process our biomass next year. Flippin’ score…… like, this was a huge weight off my shoulders and I hope he knows how much I appreciate all that he has done in the way of supporting and motivating me.

This is at the heart of my thoughts that enticed me to sit down and put to “paper” what you’re reading right now. It does not matter if it is the hemp industry, automotive, fitness, construction or whatever industry I am in, building good, authentic business relationships and networking are critical to my success. Period. This probably sounds like common sense, but it was common sense I hadn’t profited from because I didn’t put myself out there. I am trying more so now, hence the literal “why” of what you are reading now. Yeah, I have to pay out-of-pocket travel expenses. I have to purchase pricey tickets to expos and seminars. I volunteer with companies so that I can help, but also so they will pay for my entrance into speaking engagements and experiences I otherwise would not be able to afford. I also sacrifice time with my family and self. And did I mention I have a regular job where I mentor students at an alternative education high school? No, I am not looking for a pat on the back, I’m just saying these are the struggles I realize myself and I wouldn’t change a thing.

This brings me to the amazingness that doing these things brings me to, besides some key hurdles being identified and then solved from earlier. On a daily basis, I get to talk to people from around the world and multiple different industries because I am following through on something I am passionate about and putting ACTION behind that passion. I didn’t do that for years and I was so damn frustrated and unhappy. But now, something I wasn’t even getting paid for in the form of cash, making connections and learning, was giving me an amazing sense of accomplishment and purpose. It was and is downright exciting. Just within the last month I have had a conversation with a company about the potential of partnering to bring infrastructure and processing of hemp fiber into multiple applications. I have been able to help friends and acquaintances experiencing supply chain issues by referring them to the right resources. I spoke to a start-up company doing spray hemp insulation in California and how I may be able to play a role on the East Coast for them. I have been sought out and contacted for numerous different aspects within the industry. I have gained friendships with some smart and integral players in the industry. I have been able to help educate people more and just prior to writing this spoke on the phone with a LinkedIn connection I made 5 days ago about his business cannabis/hemp directory that is being launched as a technologically savvy business vendor tool. There is a plethora of other things that have come with networking and being authentic as well. I hope that people are drawn to me because of my authenticity and what I bring to the table in terms of knowledge base and more importantly my eagerness to learn. I know that is what I am drawn to in others that I work with and I want to say it again, building good, authentic business relationships is paramount. Makes me happy too.

What I am getting at is, for myself and for us, what we found to help and to work is to put ourselves out there, be vulnerable, meet and talk with people and learn. Because of these things I am doing, I am crushing what I believe to be our hurdles and challenges for our operation. Being cognizant of the fact that we can prepare as much as possible and still fall flat on our faces is extremely helpful as well. Expectations, have them, but don't. Not just for our operation, but it has also given me so many opportunities outside of our farming operation. It also just feels good to talk shop with someone, or to educate someone along the way. Because of my willingness and ability to try something different, put action behind passion and just friggin’ do it, the quality of my life and business relationships has seen an exorbitant increase. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, just like every motivational speaker, trainer, or coach has ever said and stop being intimidated about trying something new. The worst that can happen is you fail and from failure I always learn.

So what? So, by putting down a little snippet of how I took a chance, am taking a chance, and the things that I personally am doing I can read it back to myself and be reminded of the things I am doing that are bringing positivity and growth to my life. Maybe someone reads this and it resonates with them, maybe someone reads it and hates it, either way I put it down and am keeping myself present. I never like to say what YOU should do, but I sure as hell can tell you what I am doing and what did and did not work for me. All of this may just be an experience that one day passes, or being consistent and actionable about it may position myself to be ready for when “favor” presents itself.


Rusty Peterson

Align Agro

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