The only thing better than the rise of the CBD industry is the rise of badass female CEO’s that contribute to it. Brittany Carbone’s beloved CBD brand, TONIC, is derived from hemp grown out of her sustainable farm in upstate New York, and the products reflect the true beauty that is pure cannabis care. Brittany is committed to bringing consumer access to specific accuracy in their desired dose with TONIC’S new authentication technology on every bottle. Think minimalistic magic- TONIC tastes, looks, and feels like it’s natural elements, yet the products have truly surpassed what many of us have come to know as hemp-health-and-wellness. Check out the chat with Brittany below to get the truth of the tasty terpenes and the unique female farming that is packed into every TONIC tincture.
What is your experience with CBD as a consumer? What led you to becoming a business owner in that sphere?
Cannabis was not only something that I used recreationally, but as a way to cope with my depression and anxiety. The only problem was, I didn’t want to be high all day at work, so I was always looking for an all natural, work-day-friendly way to manage those issues.
I was told about CBD in 2016, before all of the hype around it really began. Despite being an avid cannabis user I wasn’t super familiar with CBD and I was skeptical of this hemp-derived cannabis wannabe, to be completely honest. Despite my skepticism, I researched CBD a little bit more and started to understand how it is nourishing my Endocannabinoid System completely differently than the high-THC flower that I was regularly consuming. Being a believer in the powers of the plant, I decided it was worth a shot. At that time the only place I could find a decent CBD tincture was at a seedy local head shop. It did not instill the feeling that I was purchasing a wellness product, but rather a “stoner” item that may or may not be legit. And to add to that a 350mg glycerin tincture cost me $95!!! Insane. I didn’t notice how much it was affecting me until one of my clients (I was working as a personal trainer at the time) asked me “What are you on? Why are you so happy?” and I realized I was really happy; my usual mood and energy issues weren’t plaguing me as much as usual, my mind felt clear and my body was relaxed. The thing I was “on” was CBD. That is when I really started to take it seriously.
I began paying attention to how it was making me feel and what happened when I would increase the dose, etc. That’s when I began to make the connection between CBD and more common adaptogens like ashwagandha, which was already a part of my wellness routine. Realizing that CBD and ashwagandha really work towards the same goals, just taking different paths to get there, I decided to start combining them. The idea was they would double down on each other’s effects and create an adaptogenic power house. That is exactly what happened. The results were life changing and that is when I decided I needed to share this with the world. I also knew that this market needed to be approached completely differently. This is a wellness tool that can help so many people; it shouldn’t be stuck in the shadows of a headshop. In early 2017 when I was developing the formulations and brand there weren’t any other [known] brands doing that and I thought I was a groundbreaking genius…. Then I realized the reality of the 2017 hemp CBD industry: no advertising, no payment processing, few retailers comfortable enough to carry it, super expensive prices for bulk extracts, unscrupulous brokers and no regulation to hold them accountable. It was a reality check, but it (a) ended up being the perfect time to enter the industry, developing the TONIC brand and making a lot of our mistakes before a lot of people were paying attention (b) inspired me to take quality into my own hands and take control of the supply chain by growing my own hemp on my family’s property in upstate NY.
You grow out of an organic farm that focuses on sustainability. Can you shed light on what makes it sustainable and why that is important with the current state of your environment?
We only grow what we can use ourselves and we only grow what we can maintain with strict hand cultivation practices. These are both important points because right now there is a rush to buy up land and plant as much hemp as possible because people are seeing dollar signs. The problem with that is inexperienced, ignorant, greedy people who have no respect or passion for the plant - driven by nothing but ego - are buying land and growing 100 acres because they have the mentality “more is better”. There is no path to market, more often than not there is no sufficient harvest plan, and there are far more acres being farmed than there are extraction facilities being built which creates a massive bottleneck come harvest season. So not only is land being tilled and disrupted unnecessarily, but the market is being flooded driving down prices - creating a race to the bottom for farmers trying to compete to sell their crop.
We are building out our own extraction lab right now and our vision is to only grow what we can extract and only extract what we can grow. This way we can continue to cycle through our own land and we aren’t burdening the market or the environment with excessive outputs.
Our farming practices are completely organic. Erik, our Lead Grower and my husband, is focused on composting and regenerative practices for soil health. We implemented some complementary planting this season and we plan on expanding that a lot in the 2020 season - it was a great method of organic pest control, terpene development and provided us with different types of plant medicine to consume straight from our farm! We use all parts of the plant, mulching the stems and either using them as fuel for the wood burning heater in one of the barns that houses our harvested hemp or spreading them in the field after harvest to feed the soil.
Can you walk me through an average day on the hemp farm?
Planting and harvesting are definitely the most labor-intensive parts of the season. But an average midsummer day is focused mostly on making sure that the irrigation lines are functioning properly and determining watering schedules based on recent weather patterns. Nutrient feedings are another important part of the plant’s vegetative state (the first 6-8 weeks after they are planted). We walk through the fields and let the plants tell us what they need - are the leaves yellowing? Does the plant look droopy or are the leaves pointing straight up towards the sun? Are they developing spots or showing signs of powdery mildew? Depending on the answers to those questions maybe the soil’s nitrogen or magnesium levels need to be adjusted, maybe watering schedules need to be shortened, etc. So the most important part of our job is to walk the fields and pay close attention. Other workers on the farm during those midsummer days can be found cutting the weeds between rows, making sure there is nothing that could be taking away precious sunlight from our plants. Or, as the plants grow, they begin to stake ones that seem to be leaning or weak.
Would you say the culture of farming is male dominated? What is your experience in female farming?
It is definitely male-dominated, but honestly I don’t usually feel as isolated as I do in CEO situations like raising capital, for example. I don’t operate the heavy machinery or anything like that, and I am not ashamed to ask one of the guys to do something that I may not be physically strong enough to do. I work with my husband, Erik, to develop and implement the overall cultivation practices and coordinate the grow with TONIC’s needs and I get into the fields as much as possible for the sake of my sanity (I hate being stuck behind a desk).
The community of hemp farmers that we’ve become a part of in NY has been truly amazing. There are a lot of people like Erik and me - young couples entering this new and exciting industry trying to find their place - and I never feel like I am less because I am a woman around these people. It is a different story when you go out west. Hemp conventions in Colorado or Oregon are di** swinging contests to be blunt. That is definitely where you come across a lot more toxic masculinity - dudes bragging about their acreage or the throughputs on their extraction machines. I stay away from that at all costs.
Your products are truly amazing. What are your personal favorites?
Thank you so much! My favorite is definitely The O.G. It is the blend that changed my life and started this entire journey so I might be a little biased towards it for that reason. But the reason why I prefer it over our Chill blend (which is by far our best seller and fan favorite) is because I tend to have more issues with depressive anxiety marked by low motivation and low energy. I find that Chill can be a little too relaxing for me when I need something to help balance my energy and mood and soothe my anxiety without making me sleepy. I take a dropper with my coffee every morning!
I really like the fact that your products have flavor from terpenes, giving it natural notes rather than being masked by other added flavors. Was this intentional?
Definitely! Not only is it natural, but they are purposeful and contribute to the overall benefit. Terpenes work together with cannabinoids like CBD to create what is called the Entourage Effect, which can be boiled down to the idea that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Terpenes and other naturally occurring compounds within the cannabis or hemp plant actually help CBD be more stable and efficient once it enters our system. That is why full spectrum extracts are usually preferred over isolates. It’s not that isolates don’t work, they just have a much more narrow therapeutic window because those other supporting compounds are not present. We use pure maple to flavor some of our tinctures because the taste of black seed oil can be quite bitter and even that was a very intentional decision because I did not want to use any artificial flavoring. There is a very small amount used (less than 1/4 g of sugar per 1mL dose), but even in a larger dose pure maple has the lowest glycemic impact making it safe for even the Type1 Diabetics who rely on our products. Pure maple also has a rich vitamin and mineral content. We source this natural sweetener from SweeTrees Maple Farm which is only a 5 minute drive from our hemp farm!
Do you have any advice for other women working to become CEO’s or working in the farming industry?
It’s going to be hard. It’s going to feel like you are either crazy or a failure 80% of the time. But that other 20% is really good, as long as you love what you do. If you don’t love what you are doing or have a passion for it, you’re not going to put up with that 80/20 split. The passion is what keeps you going even when you want to give up. Find the reason you are on this path and remind yourself of it every time things get hard. For me, it’s helping people and being able to work with the cannabis plant. Reading a review or message from a customer whose life has been changed by a product that I created is enough to pull me out of a fog of frustration and doubt and remind me why I am doing this. Believe in yourself and back it up with real knowledge. Confidence is everything, especially as a female CEO. Not arrogant, but confident. Being sure of yourself is the best way to put the guys in the room (who may think you shouldnt be there) right in their place. That kind of confidence comes with knowing your sh**. Do your research, stay on top of the latest news and developments in your field. That way you’re never intimidated or thrown off by jargon or mansplaining. Knowledge is truly power and projecting that power while remaining humble is the challenge for sure but also the key to commanding the respect you deserve.
What do you think the future of hemp/cannabis holds?
I actually want to see a renaissance of regs and dirt weed. Hold on, before you judge me….
There have been such amazing advancements when it comes to growing cannabis, and for the past 25 years or so those advancements have been focused on ‘how do I get the highest level of THC in my plant’. And that is because that’s what the market demanded - people wanted their cannabis to get them high. Fair enough. The emergence of the CBD market proved that people are actually interested in cannabis even without the high! And it was only a matter of time that the brightest horticultural minds figured out how to breed high-resin hemp genetics that produce high levels of CBD and a robust terpene profile with THC levels stable at below .3%.
So there are a lot of high THC strains with less than 1% CBD and a lot of CBD strains with less than 1% THC. And then there’s a smaller amount of strains that have more leveled out ratios.
THC and CBD are antagonists, which is why you can use CBD to mellow out if you get too high. So if a strain’s profile is closer to a 2:1 THC:CBD ratio you are not going to get nearly as high as a strain with a 20:1 THC:CBD ratio. “Regs” or “mids” are terms we’ve used the past couple of decades to describe low quality bud. It was what our parents smoked back in the day, but back then that was just grass,man (you ever hear people from that generation say weed today is different/stronger and they can’t smoke it like they used to? It’s not in their heads). There weren’t all of the advancements and crossbreeding and high bloom nutrients that there are today so cannabis grew much truer to its natural profile in the wild: producing a well rounded cannabinoid and terpene profile that wasn’t pushed to one extreme or the other. It is a much more mellow high that lasts for hours and hours rather than the super heady high that only lasts an hour with high THC. Cannabis that focuses on a full development of all pathways for the greatest expression of the plant’s healing compounds will be much more prevalent in the future, at least that is the plan for us at TONIC and Tricolla Farms. We hope that changes in regulation will make cultivating high-CBD genetics and cultivating industrial hemp separate licenses subject to different restrictions. The goal is to raise the arbitrary .3% THC limit for CBD. Not raise it high enough to be intoxicating, but high enough to allow for a fuller development of all cannabinoids and terpenes. Raising the THC level to even 3% could mean higher levels of all other beneficial components of the plant, it would put a lot less pressure on farmers, and it would ultimately deliver a better product to the consumer that works more efficiently with their Endocannabinoid Systems. You heard it here first. We want that dirt weed back!!
Check it out here!