Trailblazers: For Kismet Farm, Quality is King
Megan Payne and Shawn Lenihan have “always been people that grew things.” So when the couple moved to Vermont to work for the Forest Service several years ago, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to transition to farming.
They launched Kismet Farm in Rochester and began selling cut flowers for weddings, CSAs and farmers markets. The farm later added CBD hemp to its offerings and is now pre-qualified for an adult-use cultivator license.
Lenihan called their approach “hyper-organic” and regenerative.
“…Everything that we spray on our plants is something that we would spray in our bodies.”
“We look at that as a major responsibility on our end to not only make sure that everything is clean, that things are mold- and pest-free, that there’s no heavy metal accumulation, and that everything that we spray on our plants is something that we would spray in our bodies,” Lenihan said.
But the couple has barriers to overcome before they can begin growing adult-use cannabis. So far, they’ve faced challenges with financing, obtaining farm insurance and negotiating with their mortgage company.
“We really want to get in,” Lenihan said. “We’re thankful Vermont is giving us an opportunity, but we still think there’s some hurdles in our way.”
Lenihan and Payne are concerned that small farmers will lose out financially in the legal market if retailers are more focused on quantity than quality. The couple would like to see the state allow small cultivators to sell their products directly, much like they do with hemp.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the state to revitalize rural communities.”
“I think we have this fear that us selling direct or selling at farmer’s markets, that there’s not going to be enough testing or oversight,” Lenihan said. “But I would disagree — just like the hemp program runs, all farmers are required to do their testing, they’re required to have their testing available. They can be on-spot checked at any time.”
Rural farmers also need opportunities to sell their products in urban areas, Lenihan said, noting that allowing small cultivators to sell directly could be a boon for ecotourism along Route 100.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the state to revitalize rural communities, because we’re constantly seeing our populations go down here,” he said.
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