Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Carpinteria, near Santa Barbara, on a beautiful evening, to enjoy a cannabis dinner at a five-and-a-half acre cannabis farm? Sign me up. That’s exactly what I did on Friday, April 14, as Autumn Brands hosted its first-ever Cannabis Cuisine Dinner event, offering us fortunate guests a delicious, cannabis-infused meal at their family farm.
The unforgettable food by world-class Chef Ayo Cherry effortlessly stole the show, but the experience of being able to enjoy a delicious meal with other like-minded individuals who also share a passion for cannabis was certainly not overlooked—not to mention the breathtaking ocean views in the background.
Autumn Brands Springs Forward
Autumn Brands is a family-owned and women-led spray-free cannabis company located right on the coast. It came to fruition when two Dutch families transformed their flower farm (yes, real flowers), into a cannabis greenhouse. Located in this unique nook where the microclimate is just right, the all-natural ecosystem has allowed the families to grow, tend and care for their cannabis plants. Since 2018, Autumn Brands has dedicated itself to being 100% spray-free, using zero pesticides and only utilizing a no-spray 100% biocontrol program that sets them apart from other cannabis companies.
“We host a lot of tours and, every single time, people walk away feeling energized and educated and we feel energized that we made a difference,” Chief Financial Officer Autumn Shelton says. “We’re very passionate about the plant, what it can do and how much it can help people. And that we can tell our story and who we are: We’re two families that own and operate this cannabis business. We’re in it every day. A lot of companies aren’t present. But we’re walking with these greenhouses every day. We’re a part of it and we’re amongst it. When we get to share that message with others, they get to learn about us and how we’re spray-free—it’s amazing.”
The festivities kicked off at 3pm when guests were welcomed with an intimate and informative tour of the farm, led by CEO Hans Brand. As we were guided through every step of the growing process, the tiny ladybug larvae stuck out. With their natural ecosystem in place, native California ladybugs can thrive here, finding their way into the greenhouses and helping mitigate the negative insect, allowing the plant to grow more naturally. While their farm tours usually attract 10 people, some 30 aficionados participated in Autumn Brands’ spectacular cannabis dinner.
After the tour, we enjoyed an ambient happy hour, filled with good conversation and delicious wine from local winery Cape D’Or Wines. Located in Santa Barbara, the company prides itself in bringing “terroir-driven wines from the Cape of South Africa to the US.”
Winner Winner Cannabis Dinner
When 6pm rolled around, it was time for dinner. Chef Ayo and her team, Chef Bre and Chef Ashley, had been working tirelessly in the kitchen to prepare a mouth-watering, three-course meal for the books. Shelton shared how Chef Ayo was recommended by a friend of a friend. “We found out about her and how incredible she is—not just as a chef, but how she’s able to bring cannabis into food which is so important and which I really think is the future,” she said. “Being able to have this cannabis dinner is about opening people’s minds and learning more about the plant; how it can help us and still have a lot of fun with it.”
I chose Dosi Dough—Has el ranout roasted seasonal veggies with toast from a local bakery—as my first course. The beauty of the meal was that guests could choose their level of dosage, infused or non-infused. The first course was infused with Autumn Brands’ own ‘Thrive’ elixir, which is a 1:2 CBD to THC ratio. While this may be viewed as more of a microdose, Shelton says it’s been a personal game-changer for her autoimmune symptoms, where she suffers from nausea and vomiting.
“If I take two drops of ‘Thrive’ every three hours, my nausea is gone,” Shelton says. “I’m not high and it doesn’t affect my ability to do things. It’s a powerful elixir. The reason we call them elixirs is because there’s no additives. It’s a tincture, but tinctures are normally made with alcohol or flavors, or other things that get added in. Our products are 100% full-spectrum, whole plant, pesticide-free products with coconut oil. That’s it. And the flavor is nice—not overpowering. It shows you can take something that’s really going to help your body, and that’s what an elixir does.”
For my second course, I chose the beet gnocchi duo and sage roasted mushrooms—it was truly remarkable! This was infused with the ‘Warrior’ elixir, which contains 1000mg of THC. ‘Warrior’ is named after cancer patients who are fighting pain relief, as the blend of THC and THCA empowers them to feel nice and high—and become a warrior.
Chef Ayo told me that the cannabis dinner “was an opportunity to take edible art and add another level to it. Food should look, feel, smell and taste good,” Chef Ayo said. “But with cannabis, you get to add euphoria that makes it a full-body experience. I want the food and cannabis to be together like food and wine. Perhaps we can get to the point where certain strands make specific dishes better. The possibilities really are endless.”
The event cost $225 per ticket, and attendees flocked from all over the US and the globe. In fact, I sat next to two beautiful women from Delaware, who found out about the event via Instagram.
A Head for Business
So how exactly does a sungrown family farm find success in California’s challenging weed environment?
“Fortunately for us, we started in the Prop 215 medical marijuana days, then transitioned into the regulated market in 2018—so we’ve been on this roller coaster ride for a number of years now,” Shelton said. “In 2020, everyone used their stimulus checks to buy cannabis, so it boomed. It was a unicorn year; everyone made a lot of money. We’re frugal [laughs], so we saved that money. We spent it on some stuff, but we saved a lot of it and that allowed us to still be here today, even after the market crashed a year later.”
Shelton reveals they’ve spent a hefty amount of money to get their permits in the last two years, but she’s beyond grateful to have three incredible partners.
“We all bring unique things to the company and that’s really allowed us to grow together,” she says. “We stay focused. We’re not trying to build a shiny object; we’re not trying to get too big. We’re just trying to run a business, something that our families could have for the long run. That’s what’s really allowed us to be able to stay in this industry during this tough time and climate.”
Dessert’s Tropicana Cookies consisted of poached Asian pears, a colorful cookie crumb with lace tulle and pistachio. The next day, I woke up dreaming about the flavors and the truly unforgettable evening.
While this was Autumn Brands’ first event combining a tour and an amazing cannabis dinner, it certainly won’t be their last.