I think it is vital kids are taught rituals and other important rites of passage. This is something that’s been seen in plentiful indigenous communities, for example when people engage with the changing seasons. These ways honor the Earth and other features such as the Solstices, Equinoxes, and various rites of passage. What initiates children into adults and propels people into their next stage of life whether it be meditation retreats or medicine journeys. We’ve lost connections to rituals, and we need them to embrace the sacred to know we are an actor and help the future to be more lighthearted. We need to be around each other and let go of this authoritarian mentality to shed fear from continuing to impede on life.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Liam Hancock.
Liam Hancock has been involved with food and farming for 12 years. He studied culinary anthropology, sparking an interest in culture and agriculture. Liam was introduced to Atlas Seed co-founders Adam and Ryan on an organic farm in Tennessee. After founding, operating, and selling an organic chocolate company, Ryan and Adam asked Liam to join the Atlas team along with long time cultivator Joe Ullman. From there, the four started Atlas Seed, with Liam bringing his skills in agriculture, marketing, branding and sales and years of experience working alongside cannabis.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Over the past decade, I have been a part of and have lived in farming communities. I’ve spent most of my time work time in entrepreneurial endeavors in food and farming, including operations, brand building, and managing digital marketing campaigns, but I’m very passionate about farming, agriculture and working with plants. Being able to express that creatively in my domain makes me really happy. That’s what led me here.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Atlas Seed’s mission is to develop cannabis for agriculture. We directly breed agronomic qualities into cannabis. It’s been missing up until this point. We are committed to supporting farmers and opening the market to those who want to participate with the lowest cost of production and offering anyone the ability to grow in the global market.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
- Climate Change: We are tackling climate change by making direct changes in our lifestyles. We live in a farming community, and we grow a majority of our own food. We do our best to live from the land and cultivate resources around that. We develop cannabis varieties that are drought tolerant and have low water usage. Most importantly, we practice what we preach. We have a strong relationship with the plants and the land, and we build from that. We think others are too. People are making strides away from suburban and urban-based lifestyles and are taking whatever necessary steps are next.
- Sustainability: Sustainability exists on a spectrum, and there are ends of the spectrum. We recognize techniques such as growing outside, row cropping, and not having an indoor grow are much more sustainable options. This way, we mitigate our use of electricity and fossil fuels. Our IPM programs also include intercropping with beneficial flowers and herbs to help bees and other critters as well.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
From a sort of standard economic model, all stakeholders in the industry would need to adopt green technologies to become cheaper and more sustainable. Bioplastics would need to proliferate. Rather than fossil fuel-based plastics, these would end up in the water and biodegrade in a friendly way. Companies and consumers alike need to be supporting the technology to make it better for affordability. This can be done from grassroots work. For instance, companies sourcing farming inputs can usually get them locally. Being resourceful and using local resources matters. This is also how some can get manure, woodchips, and other key items for a low cost or free. Being green can help save you money. Find upcycled inputs that meet your needs and fit your bottom line.
The youth-led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
- First, parents need to get their kids involved in lifecycles. Growing food, plants, raising animals. Right now, we have this top-down supply chain, with a packaged food model that is top-heavy and disconnects consumers from the source of life and vitality.
- Second, they should be inspiring more transportation-friendly lifestyles. Incorporating more opportunities to bike, walk, or explore other forms of green transit is crucial to sustainability.
- Third, medicine is a huge one. As with food systems, the medicine model is top-down. We need to move away from the idea that people are just statistics and create movements with health at the center. Future generations should empower themselves with grassroots knowledge. We’ve used plants for healing in the past. Natural remedies are available, and people need to learn more about how natural medicine can help them. People will be more inclined to use them if they’re able to trust them. Simple, key techniques like resting, fasting, and breathing are fully accessible options that can increase our longevity build are immunity. Inspire future generations to know more about their immune system and how they can take healing into their own hands with lessons on gut health and food elements.
- Fourth, it is absolutely vital we promote philosophies that promote life, such as probiotics. These are critically important especially right now due to heightened polarity in social media and more people distrusting their own bodies and environment. We need to inspire our future generations to see how life is an interconnected web. The microbiome is a big one. For instance, mushrooms, fungi, psychedelics. How each of these has its place in the mycelial web of life. It’s incredibly important to know and we need to reconnect these understandings.
- Fifth, I think it is vital kids are taught rituals and other important rites of passage. This is something that’s been seen in plentiful indigenous communities, for example when people engage with the changing seasons. These ways honor the Earth and other features such as the Solstices, Equinoxes, and various rites of passage. What initiates children into adults and propels people into their next stage of life whether it be meditation retreats or medicine journeys. We’ve lost connections to rituals, and we need them to embrace the sacred to know we are an actor and help the future to be more lighthearted. We need to be around each other and let go of this authoritarian mentality to shed fear from continuing to impede on life.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Cannabis is an emergent market, meaning it isn’t fully established. Many growers are going into the field with a lack of agricultural and cannabis experience.
- I wish someone told me to keep an eye on new partners and customers. Once you get autoflower cannabis, it’s easy. However, had we focused on it, we would have recognized people’s lack of understanding in farming and cannabis more broadly.
- I wish we had started much sooner due to how difficult breeding is. It can take multiple years for something to become worthwhile and field-test approved.
- I also wish we had known how difficult navigating compliance is. In the early years, we were managing it ourselves. But no one will tell you that in a startup environment, cannabis compliance operates as a labyrinth of traps. You must be very careful to navigate safely.
- I wish we knew how long it takes to effectively execute seed production and bring products to market. You have to let seeds dry and winterize, then wait to get viable seed prepared for the consumer market. Now, we’re able to recognize that and adjust accordingly. Cannabis seed lots take different amounts of time to get up to germination potential to have the best available for the market. You must follow time-consuming processes.
- I wish we knew what the transition from vegetables to cannabis would be like. For example, I wish we had known to invest in a remote monitoring system. Cannabis has a particular drying and curing process. You can easily have thousands of pounds damaged or lost product if your climate control goes out at a critical time. You can come back with mold damage, etc. With lots of acres, we can have different tractor-trailers go out which can cause a big problem without the proper tools.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Dawne, our Executive Assistant, has helped us substantially. We throw her hot potatoes non-stop, but she always knows how to take care of any situation. She has a background in a variety of trades, has run labs in the past, managed compliance metrics and bank accounts and procured licenses for us. Dawne is a jack of all trades and can take care of anything. Everyone on the team would say the same.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
One nonprofit I think about a lot is Water Cycle Repair, and I’m not sure if it’s being done on a massive scale. Essentially, it’s watershed repair. This would be incredible to be done on a bioregional scale. Major rivers feed entire cities and states. It would be cool if there was a think tank and execution group that brought together indigenous leaders, scientific professionals, permaculture designers and those with broad-based knowledge of water systems. Different habitats are connected and effects everywhere in between. With bioregional water cycle repair, it would make for broadscale water cycle restoration. When you do it, you need effects to catch up. Part of it is nature but it’s crucial to go beyond and get the stakeholders together to fix the problem.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Know thyself.” This is incredibly relevant because it’s at the epicenter of the world’s problems. With all of the trauma and violence, we need to know we’re deeply sensitive and able to care and be compassionate. But we have the capability to cause a lot of harm and destruction unconsciously. In a lot of these types of talks, if you don’t know who you are, then your reference point is off. Knowing ourselves help us get to the bottom of it. It lets us know why we’re here and our potential.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!