Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about your company?
LESLIE HOFFMAN=LH: Asheville Hemp Project is a farm-based hemp company cultivating the plants and making products to share the relaxing and also focused activity benefits of cannabis in a variety of forms. We use organic and regenerative farming practices and modern manufacturing standards to deliver products that are safe, natural and effective. On the farm, we are basically a low-tech operation, utilizing mostly hand labor and the traditional drying barns that remain from the golden age of tobacco in North Carolina. We aim to share the value of our careful and traditional approaches, and a connection to a natural lifestyle. We deliver on the expectations of today’s customers, using select quality hemp, the highest manufacturing standards, and safe and convenient packaging.
Our tagline is Take a Moment: Look Inward, Look Outward, Look Homeward. Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel about Asheville in 1929, and we have taken home to reference not only a safe physical place, but also a calm, restful, comfort that we all need. Our CBD products soothe and satisfy, and provide an aid in these stressful times.
AHP has introduced four products that include a CBD gum, with no THC; a straight pre-roll with a hemp wrap and a unique biodegradable crutch; two full spectrum extract strengths that are blended with olive oil for flavor and food compatibility; and a hemp oil based lip balm that is certified organic and has no cannabinoids in it at all. We deliver hemp products that can be used by anyone, depending on their needs and comfort with cannabis. We have aimed to meet the needs and policies of the broadest range of retailers and all Asheville Hemp Project products are federally compliant and 3rd party lab tested to ensure the highest standards.
WB: What brought you to the cannabis business?
LH: I have a passion for the plant, passion for agriculture and the environment, and a passion for smart simple products made from natural materials that enhance people’s’ lives.
AHP brings many of my interests together. I have been a gardener and a lover of the cannabis plant for about the same amount of time – and it has shockingly been four and a half decades! I owned a small farm on the Big Island of Hawaii for over 30 years where there were many marijuana growers, and I became friends with the early activists for reintroduction of hemp for all of its beneficial purposes. I had a hemp fashion company in the 90’s, and have worked in the medical marijuana industry for the last 5 years.Someday I would love to build a house on the farm using hempcrete.
WB: What did you do originally?
LH: I have done a few things. I started my professional life as a carpenter after getting my degree in architecture and design. After a decade of designing and building mostly green building projects, I moved to New York and worked for the next 20 years running an environmental nonprofit focused on sustainable technologies and practical solutions to solve glaring environmental problems. Cannabis is my third career.
WB: Do you have a mentor?
LH: I’ve had a couple of them, but both are dead and gone.
WB: Did you always want to do what you do today?
LH: I have ‘read the woods for the openings’, which one of my mentors often suggested. What felt right to me always was to enjoy my work, pursue the ideas that excited me and made sense, and to be open to new opportunities as they appeared. I am a hard worker, and work has provided much of my life’s purpose. I have enjoyed the variety in my work life, and also the continuity of the ideas I have pursued. Obviously, I see this more clearly when looking back than I understood as I embarked.
WB: Who inspired you?
LH: So many have, in many fields.
WB: What are your goals in business?
My partner Scott and I have a love of the hemp plant, and it is very satisfying to produce hemp products that are helpful to people. Working together is rewarding, we are a good team and we care.
Asheville is an epicenter of craft cuisine and breweries, as well as health conscious business. The city is celebrated for its creative spirit and progressive ideals. We gain energy from this environment, and share this sensibility through our business practices and by making our natural calming products available. We care for the environment, and we care for our customers.
Six and twelve month?
It’s spring, we have fields to plant. We also have four new products launching now. We need them to be tried and used regularly to help with any number of possible ailments or conditions. Anxiety and stress are rampant these days. Cannabis helps so many people, and it is an easy, natural ‘go to’ option before considering pharma solutions, or to wean off of them. Many people are using CBD to quit using nicotine, tobacco, meds for pain and sleep.
Asheville Hemp Project is a ‘project’ in the aspect that we evolve, innovate, develop new products and systems. We rely on science and creativity, and remain at the leading edge of a fast moving new industry. Knowing the source of the hemp you use matters.
WB: What about the obstacles?
LH: Business is hard, farming is harder. Scott and I are problem-solvers. We wear many hats, learn new things, establish new practices on the farm, and develop new products. Building a brand and getting it established is a challenge. Coronavirus came along, that’s certainly not a help – but our products can be helpful for stressful times like these.
WB: What about stigmas?
LH: I lose track of the stigmas, who holds them and why. Hard to imagine that a flower that is used as remedy and for a sense of ease, comfort and well-being can be a disgrace, which is the definition of stigma. I think the majority of us believe that there is no rational reason to stigmatize cannabis use. Hopefully, the collective consciousness about the cannabis plant is becoming curious, open, interested in the science, and hopeful.
WB: Do you have a favorite food memory?
LH: I lived in Italy as a child. I remember what seemed like enormous plates of pasta being served. It is still my comfort food.
WB: What does your favorite meal look like?
LH: I love all meals that originate in my garden and are made in my kitchen.
WB: Made by whom? (Living or not)
LH: I have a nice kitchen and like to cook. I also enjoy visiting friends’ homes for meals.
WB: What is your passion?
LH: I have always hoped to make the world a better place through my activities. Nature’s role is a first order consideration – having been a sailor, a gardener and a carpenter, I find the balance of working with nature and against nature for our survival fascinating and very fulfilling.