As we approach the final week of Women's History Month, we want to highlight one of our retail collaborators and the women CEO that owns Blue Forest Farms (BFF), the Madison Avenue retail location in NYC where RiseAD sunglasses are sold. Meet Trina Johnson, the owner of BFF, the brand that owns and oversees the entire process from growing on a certified organic farm to producing an organic and vegan line of CBD products.
BFF embodies luxury with an ecosystem which revolves around travel, great experiences, life near the water and nature at its finest.
The brand's NYC store carries not only its line of products, but also features new, sustainably produced products including: books, fashion, and art by local artists and artisans.
The store also serves as a place to educate consumers on the benefits of responsibly sourced hemp-derived products. It is a community gathering hub for events, beauty, empowerment and wellness.
In an interview with RiseAD's CEO, she discussed growing up in Colorado knowing and experiencing the organic and natural benefits, and becoming a CEO in a massive expanding industry.
How did you get into the CBD business?
After meeting Dave Asbury, one of the largest certified organic farmers of fruits and vegetables, who also had an interest in exploring grains and CBD, Johnson, whose background is in online marketing, formed a partnership. In 2017, they started their partnership by growing and harvesting on 22 acres, which they would expand to 235 acres. Although they began using other farms’ genetics, they found that creating their own genetics allowed them to produce different strains using a true genetic program which performs at a higher standard.
This began the launch of Blue Forest Farms, a unique CBD company that has become a true seed to shelf brand by creating their own genetics, their own lab and a new retail line, which is sold DTC in their first retail store in Manhattan. Blue Forest Farms owns and oversees the entire process from growing on a certified organic farm to producing an organic and vegan line of CBD products. Johnson says their line highlights different cannabinoids in an intentional way by creating a formula that's made just for “you”.
What makes your company/brand unique from other CBD companies?
Johnson says the main difference is their line doesn’t create a psychedelic high or reaction and is more medicinal. With over 100 cannabinoids, BFF is finding more in its process; and her industry is finding that CBD and these cannabinoids help regulate your hormone system, blood sugar and metabolism, and help modulate your mood, stress, and sleep patterns. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
How can it be a benefit for elite athletes?
Johnson says it can be a premier solution for athletes suffering from fatigue and can help with recovery and focus.
Please tell us about your farm and your white-label manufacturing.
BFF works to support their farm partners that purchase the BFF’s genetics and helps them to create their own white label line of products. A part of their seed program includes educating growers to produce healthy, consistent hemp plants. In choosing their partners, BFF prefers working with people who are interested in making a difference and changing the industry and how it’s perceived. One of the white label lines they work with creates products that are specific to fire fighters, which means absolutely 0% THC and helps them deal with the extreme stress that goes with the job. Their partners are mostly larger farms.
What was the catalyst for opening your first retail store?
The idea of opening BFF's first retail store came from the company’s Chief Growth Officer, Zach Dorsett, who joined the team shortly before BFF started creating its own genetics. Since they have a big online business, they wanted to pursue retail and thought New York was a good location since the state recently passed some of the country’s most progressive CBD laws. And Johnson feels it was a great opportunity since the state is moving in the right direction by righting some of the inequities which have taken place in the prosecution of minorities in the cannabis space.
Are there many women in your industry?
Johnson feels part of her role is to help educate people about the industry and dispel the propaganda and history surrounding it. She feels it’s important for women to take the lead in the industry, which can create new economies for women and other minorities. Johnson also mentioned there were women throughout history who were at the forefront of her industry, before it was taken over by white men.
In 1969, Margaret Mead, a renowned anthropologist, who at the age of 68 advocated for the legalization of marijuana before Congress. Then there was Mary Jane Rathbun, a medical cannabis rights advocate in the 1960s who advocated for the right to legalize marijuana in California. She became known as the “Florence Nightingale of the medical marijuana movement.”
And we cannot discuss women in Johnson’s industry without mentioning Allyn Howlett, a biochemical neuropharmacologist and a PhD Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who is an expert in cannabinoid receptor signal transduction. Dr. Howlett is noted for the revolutionary discovery of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor in the endocannabinoid system in 1988. Her research revealed the connection between the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant and the brains’ receptors that respond to it. This discovery expanded the cultural understanding of how and why cannabis works and led to the development of antibodies that have been made available to researchers world-wide.This set the stage for passing two significant pieces of legislation permitting doctors to approve the usage of medical marijuana for patients with severe health conditions.
What are the benefits of using hemp and what is your vision for the future of BFF?
Johnson's goal is to open more retail stores in different markets and to continue to create new products that fit into the health and wellness and beauty verticals. She mentions the thousands of uses for hemp, including the numerous dietary uses, from vegan food alternatives to dietary fiber. She also wants to do a hemp fashion line and help take it as far as she can by highlighting hemp’s various benefits, including its sustainability, its innate fire, mold & wrinkle resistance qualities.
Johnson also points out that hemp is more sustainable than cotton, especially when factoring in the amount of pesticides used to produce cotton, as well as the exorbitant amount of water it takes to grow cotton. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it takes 2700 Liters of water to make a cotton t-shirt. This amount of water is enough for one man to survive for two and a half years.
Johnson says running the brand's own retail store is a great way to interact with their customers, to hear the consistent issues and challenges they’re experiencing, and to be able to recommend products from their line that are right for them. She says being able to interact directly with their customers month after month and hear their progress and the successes they’ve had using Blue Forest Farms products is just the motivation she and her partners need to continue developing new products and educating their customers on the benefits of responsibly sourced, hemp-derived products.
Written by Theresa Majeed