Ashley Walsh @ Pocono Organics
The World's First Regenerative Organic Certified® Hemp
Ashley Walsh is the Founder and President of Pocono Organics. Pocono Organics is supporting regenerative agriculture with their 380-acre Regenerative Organic Certified® farm producing fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, microgreens, and a myriad of hemp-based CPG products.
Adversity Creates Opportunity
Pocono’s story is personal. After being diagnosed with gastroparesis (a paralyzed stomach) at age 30, Ashley chose an organic path over surgery and feeding tubes – reducing her chemical exposure and using food as medicine to heal. This journey inspired her to bring organic foods to her community in the Pocono Mountains, seeing that, just as with inner cities, rural communities lack access to healthy foods.
Through her health journey, she had become familiar with the Rodale Institute and tapped into their expertise as she launched a 50-acre community farm pursuing regenerative organic standards. For the first three years, a farm manager from Rodale was on-site, empowering them with the tools and education to run the farm on their own. Today, Pocono is one of only five Rodale regional resource centers.
They're also partnering with the Institute on twelve research projects annually. Right now they're running nutrient studies on hemp and also testing UV light treatment in their greenhouses to prevent powdery mildew.
A Hemp Solution
In addition to her stomach issues, Ashley was also allergic to 30 or so different pharmaceutical medicines. In her trials of plant-based medicine, Ashley had success with CBD and soon started making her own tinctures. The challenge, however, was where to find healthy hemp.
“Back then there wasn't any testing. Everybody knew the hemp plant was a great bio-accumulator, used to clean up contaminants from sites. But you want to make sure that’s not the plant you’re consuming. I wanted to produce the cleanest, safest and highest quality hemp that I could. We've had this land for 100 years. We know what's happened, we know the history of it, knowing that it’s clean land that was never treated and can grow these beautiful plants to make a hemp-based medicine.” – Ashley
Cream of the Hemp Crop
The rise and subsequent 80% fall of hemp production in the U.S. has created an opportunity for Pocono. While the CBD industry was largely plagued by poor quality and questionable ingredients early on, brands like Pocono that grow and manufacture pure ingredients not only deliver consumer confidence, but consistent performance as well. Vertical integration has also ensured quality, and every recipe is made, tested, packaged, and shipped from the farm.
Experiences & Innovation
Ashley explains many of the challenges around launching a CBD brand, from navigating strict guidelines on product claims to finding the right retail partners for their products. Their solution is to focus on direct-to-consumer business and education through their cafe, cooking and farming classes, facility tours, comedy or corporate events, yoga retreats, and more.
“Education is the key to hemp and the key to Regenerative Organic agriculture. How can you teach people without preaching to them? Give them experiences…Our staff comes to us with ideas for classes, for blogs, things that interest them. We’re really trying to get everybody engaged with what their passions are and then when people come in and visit us, they see that passion and it’s contagious. We want them to be inspired to make a change in their corner of the world.” – Ashley
Off the farm, Pocono Organics is focused on creative partnerships and products to expand its nanoparticle CBD business. Pocono Organics Executive Chef is Lindsay McClain, a Food Network Chopped Champion, who brings her culinary talents to the table to create new ways for customers to enjoy Pocono's crops. Some interesting new ingestible creations from Chef Lindsay include hemp-infused pancake and brownie mix, dipping oils, and "marsh-mellows."
Pocono Organics is also partnering with a famous microbrewery out of New York to introduce a citrus seltzer called "Shoobie Wooder" featuring Pocono CBD instead of alcohol. They’re also exploring hemp fiber production, hemp-infused apparel, and food-safe hemp bio-plastics.
“We're crazy here. We're always experimenting with all kinds of ideas. I think my staff loves me and sometimes they hate me, but we have a lot of fun. Being vertically integrated, we’re not at the mercy of a co-packer. The beauty is we can try something new, sell it at the market and see if everybody likes it. There’s lots of stuff in the R&D pipeline – pet products, edible infusions, gourmet infused butters, CBD infused socks, and more.” – Ashley
NASCAR 🤝 ReGen
Ashley's family has owned and operated Pocono Raceway for three generations. Consistent with their focus on education, Pocono Organics’ audience extends to the 250,000 visitors to the raceway each year, where they have a stationary farmer’s market, concession stands, roaming beverage cart, and an almost 24/7 regenerative market in the track's infield.
“76% of NASCAR fans think they can do something to give back to the environment and want to support brands that do. You have farmers that are fans, fishermen, hunters, gardeners – all kinds of people and they care about the environment. Unfortunately, the racing is not great for the environment, but my dream is maybe one day these cars will be running on hemp fuel and it'll be a whole different scenario, right?” – Ashley
Our Path to 50% Market Share 4 Regen
Ashley’s solutions are two-fold:
- Get more farmers onboard with Regenerative Organic through better support for the transition period – in terms of education, financing and logistics.
- Inspiring investors, family offices, and companies to invest in organizations like Pocono Organics and get their ingredients from people that are treating the environment right.
“The more of us coming together to push this movement forward the better, and I think we’re going to get there. Look at USDA Certified Organic®. It was slow in the beginning, right? But then it gained speed. And I think with more research and all these climate-smart grants, plus all the research on the carbon sequestering abilities of the hemp plant and regenerative agriculture, we’re going to get there.” – Ashley
You can check out the full episode with Ashley from Pocono Organics HERE.
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This ReGen Recap was produced with support from Kristina Tober