Wild Child Extracts was started January of 2018 with a handful of CBD hemp seeds, a grow light and a wood stove. It began as a money making idea to help fund the future of my daughter’s cancer treatment, but my eyes were quickly opened to the directly beneficial effects of cannabis for cancer patients and on a larger scale, that CBD could counter a wide variety of issues without side effects. Once people began stopping me on the street to thank me for the first decent night’s sleep they’d had in years, I was hooked on my new startup.
The original idea was to use the “$100 Startup” concept by Chris Guillebeau, but a business based on agriculture doesn’t really fit this model as I would find out over and over until October when Wild Child Extracts would finally make its first sale. Essentially, I added a few more zeroes to the $100 Startup until I could connect the dots between seed and product.
I love growing plants, especially ones as responsive and resilient as hemp. I have gardened for years and have tried out many growing methods, but the one I am most fond of is the ancient method that created terra preta in the amazon. Not only does it work well, it’s less expensive, and its organic, using the ash and charcoal from wood burning and poop teas from organic grass fed cows. The book “Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis helped illustrate to me how fertilizers can be toxic to the very microbes that are needed for healthy plant growth. Keeping the soil alive and rich was my first focus and based on the hemp goliaths that grew tall and heavy with colas, I’d say it went well for the first year. Growing was only the beginning of the mission, though.
It is clear from the first year that extracting the cannabinoids from a field of hemp is the great bottleneck and expense of this business, and one of the reasons I was determined to get into it. I don’t like to stand in line, and I’m a notoriously bad scheduler. Why extraction is the bottleneck is quickly understood once you start buying equipment where even a decent large scale mixer is worth a year’s salary. Luckily, I have the experience in chemistry and process engineering that earned me the nickname “Wild Child,” for my ability to develop proof-of-principle experiments or scaled-up processes using scrap equipment, a few things from the hardware store, and calm nerves if things blow up—yeah, that’s not really a joke. If you know how to safely deal with risk, you are often rewarded by getting things done. And man, there just isn’t enough of that attitude going around!
Right now, we are concentrating on the mechanics of the process and developing products that meet our standards:
- Pesticide Free – The evidence of pesticides being related to a host of health issues is overwhelming and growing. I mean, it is pretty stupid to think that you can poison your food with nerve agents without any negative consequences. So, Wild Child Extracts avoids that.
- Organic – It’s safe to say that there are many levels of organic these days, but when it comes to extracts you can never be too organic, because you are essentially condensing anything that is in or on your plant. Even some organic compounds that are considered safe can be toxic at high levels, so we mostly just avoid all that, too. The fertilizers we use come from organic grass fed cows and natural forest trees, they are applied only to the soil, and they are diluted so as not to shock the microorganisms that live there. Also, we extract with pure non-denatured ethanol—meaning no poison or petroleum byproduct has been added to make it undrinkable. Thanks to the federal excise tax on drinkable ethanol, it’s three times more expensive–really–but you’re worth it!
- Biodiverse – This is really at the heart of healthy plants. I have witnessed plenty of weird plant diseases disappear when the plants were put into living soil under real sunlight. They even fight off the effects of pests better. Plants have an immune system, too, and like our own bodies, it is best stimulated and supported, not suppressed or left idle by sterile environments.
- Sustainable – I care about the longevity of life on our planet – read “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert and try not to weep. It’s not easy reducing waste, especially when dealing with extracted oils that love to stick to everything. I try to work with nature when it comes to growing and curing as often as possible—more than energy saving, it’s good for the retention of high volatility compounds like terpenes. I also go to great lengths to recapture the ethanol we use and recycle the vacuum oils and “disposable” products involved in our process. It’s not only good for the planet, it makes financial sense.
- Altruistic – Wild Child Extracts is trying to adopt (or adapt) the One for One business model started by Blake Mycoskie, a for-profit business that gives one product to a person in need for every product that’s purchased. It’s a challenge. Our product is already expensive to make, so to realistically sell it at a price that allows us to give away a product of equal value and still pay the bills is a lot. So, we are adapting the business model so that those who need our product can afford to purchase it, and those who have the means may buy the value added version, and those who can’t do either can fill out our application and tell us their story. We will serve as we can, based on our client’s need and initiative—and our other client’s generosity. Life isn’t a spectator sport. It’s not a perfect or ideal system, but I think it’s headed in the right direction.
Oh, wouldn’t you like to know! I’m not giving away my secrets… okay, just kidding. I have a simple plan: stay the course! You could be a part of it…