The West Coast has long been regarded as the epicenter of cannabis culture in the US. Now, the green wave is washing over the Eastern Seaboard and, like the thundering waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the changing tide of legalization brings new opportunities to the Empire State. Nothing is more proof of the plant’s continued decentralization from the Emerald Triangle to New York than Berner’s Cookies brand opening in Herald Square in the heart of Manhattan.
But there’s another indicator. In the Hudson Valley, directly north of New York City, an area traditionally known for its orchards and farms, a newly minted industry is growing as quickly as the crop—cannabis.
Old Mud Creek Farm is part of the largest tract of organic farmland in the Hudson Valley. Owned by philanthropist Abby Rockefeller, the septuagenarian daughter of the late David and Peggy Rockefeller, the property is a large-scale organic regenerative farm that conducts carbon research to quantify and prove the results of regenerative organic agriculture as a potential solution for the climate crisis.
“By building healthy soil and utilizing regenerative agriculture techniques, we sequester more carbon on our farm than we release into the atmosphere,” co-founder Freya Dobson says. “We wouldn’t do this work if we didn’t think we could have a positive effect on the environment and the way people consume products that come from farms. That’s really at the forefront of everything we do.”
Freya’s brother, Ben Dobson, has managed Old Mud Creek Farm for more than a decade. During that time, the progressive farmer led the transition from a conventional farm to an organic, regenerative one. In 2017, New York opened a pilot program to grow hemp, and Old Mud Creek was one of the first farms to be granted a permit. Dobson’s sisters Melany and Freya came on board soon thereafter. Together, they became co-founders of Hudson Hemp and its product line, Treaty, which consists of five tinctures with supporting botanicals sourced locally for targeted effects.
”We wouldn’t do this work if we didn’t think we could have a positive effect on the environment and the way people consume products that come from farms. That’s really at the forefront of everything we do.”
After the passing of the landmark 2018 Farm Bill, a glut of hemp and hemp-derived CBD caused wholesale prices to plummet. From coast to coast, many farms had little choice but to pivot their plants away from hemp to avoid financial catastrophe, including Hudson Hemp.
“We couldn’t really find our place in the market to be able to be financially viable or secure,” Dobson says. “By 2021, we knew that unless something drastically changed in the market, we wouldn’t grow hemp anymore, which definitely broke our hearts because we’re major advocates.”
A lifeline came when New York legalized cannabis in March 2021. Many hemp farmers in the state took the opportunity to apply for a cannabis cultivation license, including Hudson Hemp, who called the change in the state legislature “a major godsend.” After all, adult-use cannabis is projected to reach $1.3 billion in sales in New York City alone by 2023.
“Luckily, New York state passed recreational cannabis that year and we received our cultivation license by May,” Dobson says. “We realize how our work with hemp led us to cannabis; working with both sides of the plant has been so powerful and informative.”
Once the license was secured, Hudson Hemp metamorphosed into Hudson Cannabis and the team recently harvested the inaugural crop of more than ten varietals. Growing exceptional cannabis ethically and conscientiously isn’t the only thing that motivates Hudson Cannabis. The beating heart of the company’s vision of success is a world where planetary and human health are interconnected, Dobson says.
“To us, success looks like a world where we’re bridging the gap between agriculture and culture. We believe cannabis is the crop that sits at that intersection, it can bring people back to land and to each other,” Dobson says. “Cannabis has a complicated and troubled past in this country. With legalization we have the opportunity for reparations and do better.”
Photographer Natalie Chitwood provides the visual guide to Hudson Cannabis.
This story was originally published in issue 47 of the print edition of Cannabis Now.