Ep 354 – California’s Finest Flower Is Rising From the Ashes in Wine Country

julia jacobson aster farms

Some of California’s most sought-after cannabis flower also happens to come from one of the most sustainable companies in the US. Here to tell us about it and share a few of her secrets is Julia Jacobson of Aster Farms.

Learn more at https://www.asterfarms.com

Key Takeaways:

[2:02] An inside look at Aster Farms, a sustainable cannabis brand based in northern California

[2:20] Julia’s background as an entrepreneur in the tech space and how she came to start Aster Farms

[3:40] Aster’s unique proprietary genetics and how they curate their popular line of flower

[7:49] The “5 phase approach” at Aster Farms and how this allows them to grow smaller, more high-quality batches

[11:29] The substantial damage Aster Farms suffered during the 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire and how the company successfully rebuilt themselves

[15:48] The pros and cons of being vertically integrated in the cannabis industry

[17:33] Why Aster Farms chooses more sustainable practices despite various challenges

[22:19] Why we’re seeing an upswing in craft cannabis brands across the US and where Julia sees this sector heading over the next few years

[25:08] The challenges in scaling a sustainable, small-batch cannabis company and how Aster Farms has gone about navigating this

[27:54] How Aster Farms differentiates themselves through unique branding and marketing

[29:58] Julia’s advice on how to build unbreakable brand loyalty

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matt: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider dot com. Now here's your program. Hi, CannaInsiders, just a quick note before today's interview gets started, that my colleague Sinead Green will be interviewing today's guest. Sinead is [crosstalk]--

Sinead: Hey, Matt.

Matt: Oh my god, you scared me. Sinead, I didn't realize you were in the sound booth.

Sinead: Sorry about that, Matt.

Matt: Well, Sinead, since you popped into the sound booth here, this is a great time to just say hello to all the listeners since I was talking about you.

Sinead: Sounds great. I'd love to. Hey, everybody. I'm Sinead Green and I've actually been working with Matt behind the scenes for a couple of years now,. I'm so excited to put on my hosting hat and really get a chance to engage with you and bring you some more great interviews. I just want to say if there's someone you'd like us to bring on the show, please feel free to email me your suggestions at sg@cannainsider.com. I'd love to hear from you, and I really hope you enjoy these upcoming shows.

Matt: Gosh, I want to get a host hat, now that you mention it, I'm thinking of a huge purple velvet hat. What do you think about that?

Sinead: I think that would look great on you, Matt.

Matt: Okay. Really important, Sinead, we want you to do a good job, but not better than me. Does that sound fair?

Sinead: We'll see about that.

[laughter]

Matt: All right. Well, everybody, enjoyed this episode with the host Sinead.

[music]

Sinead: California's most sought-after cannabis flower also happens to come from one of the most sustainable companies in the US. Here to tell us about it and maybe share a few of her secrets, is Julia Jacobson of Aster Farms. Julia, welcome to CannaInsider.

Julia: Hi, thank you for having me.

Sinead: Give us a sense of geography where are you in the world right now?

Julia: Currently, I am in Oakland, California, but on any given day, I can be found pretty much anywhere all over the state.

Sinead: Great. What is Aster Farms on a high level?

Julia: We are a sustainable cannabis brand. We are based in California, sold all throughout the state, and we grow our own. We have a farm up in Northern California where we grow beautiful organic sustainable flower.

Sinead: Awesome. I know cannabis farming is a family tradition of yours so I'm really excited to get into that in a second here. Before we do, I wanted to ask you a little bit about your background. Can you share a little bit about yourself and what you were doing before Aster Farms?

Julia: Before Aster Farms, I began my career as a buyer in the retail industry. I was a buyer for Bloomingdale's for about four years and left there to start my first startup, my first entrepreneurial venture, which was a technology company that bridged the gap between retail and some of the online social media and influencing that was happening.

Sinead: Very cool. Julia, what would you say differentiates Aster Farms from other cannabis brands out there?

Julia: A few things. I think it all comes down to substance and transparency. We are third-generation growers with really historic legacy in the cannabis space, which I think we're going to go into in a minute. We care about those ethos being stewards of the earth, caring about our consumers. We're conscious consumers. For us, it's not just about organically growing sustainably, it's about caring about our community connecting and being more than just bud.

Sinead: Absolutely. The demand for Aster Farms flower in California is just amazing right now. Can you tell us a little bit about the strains you grow. How did you land on these particular strains, and what all goes into your growing process at Aster Farms?

Julia: We have a few strains that are our proprietary genetics that we've been growing for years and will continue to grow. Those are our core strains. Those include Shishkaberry, Sour Maui, Maui OG and we double with a rainbow chip in there as well. Beyond that, we really focus on what we call fruit-forward strains. We're not doing dessert strains, we're not chasing the most popular strain that's on the market today. We really focus on beautiful fruity aromas. We focus on strains that are much closer to the original landrace strains, so connecting back to that Maui Wowie that people remember from the past.

That's how we try to curate our selection. We're also really focused on what grows well. We're not going to just try to grow something just to grow it, it all matters on the climate and your region. We are growing strains that do well in our very particular climate and region. That means sourcing from nurseries that are local, and that means paying attention to where these genetics have been bred over time.

Sinead: Great. Getting back to your tech experience, I have read that at the end of your experience in the tech space, you were ready for something just totally new. You wanted to do a 180. If I'm not mistaken, your father-in-law has a history in cannabis farming. Is that what inspired you to start Aster Farms? Can you speak a little to what just sparked that passion for cannabis in the first place?

Julia: It was a few things all pointing in the same direction. It was pretty unavoidable that I think my husband and I were going to end up in cannabis. For me, personally, I had developed chronic migraines. I had been a recreational user, but with my chronic migraines, I was using prescription medications that weren't working. I was ending up in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. One of the times I was in the ER, the doctor said to me, "If you feel comfortable with cannabis, you should try it for your migraines." I had never thought before to light up a joint in the middle of [inaudible [00:06:14]. I did, I listened to the doctor and I tried it and it completely changed my life.

For me, that was the moment where everything changed in my relationship with cannabis and it became something that was part of my health and wellness and part of my ability to actually live my normal life again. For me, it was really important to be involved in this industry because it literally saved my life. It was easy to get into the industry on that emotional psychological taboo career level because it was in my husband's family. His grandfather, on his father's side, moved the family to Mendocino in the '60s, and they started growing organic cannabis on an off-the-grid sustainable ranch. His grandfather was actually the first person to go to prison for cultivating cannabis in old Mendocino.

Sinead: Wow.

Julia: This piece we haven't confirmed, but legend has it, his family along with the neighbors who were all growing together up on Signal Ridge brought the first indica seeds to California. There's a lot of deep history in my husband's side of the family when it comes to cannabis. Also in the ethos that we wanted to bring to this business of caring for the land, growing and sustainable organic regenerative practices, and caring about consumers as well. We wanted to make sure we were bringing that to our business today.

Sinead: Wow. That's amazing. You guys, you're like the Johnny Appleseed's of cannabis in California. That’s so cool - I had no idea. That's amazing. Going on that, like you said, it's a multi-generational farm, so you guys have had a while to really establish your approach and your practices at Aster Farms. Can you explain your five-phase approach that you guys have at Aster Farms?

Julia: Absolutely. This approach that we have is actually a more contemporary approach and is based on the technology that we have today and also based on a type of cannabis that, to my knowledge, has only been commercialized in very recent times and that's ruderalis. With growing outdoors, you have a very finite season, and typically, with full-term plants, you can only get one harvest for one growing. In order to have a more diverse cadence, to have fresh flower at different times of the year, but still to be able to get those complex terpene and cannabinoid profiles that come from growing in live soil, we have started integrating ruderalis.

Ruderalis, there's sativa, indica and ruderalis. Ruderalis is the third type of cannabis. Correct me if I'm wrong on any of these details, but my understanding is it originated from Siberia, and it is bred in that climate to not be photosensitive. Ruderalis is a type of cannabis that starts vegging and flowering basically at the same time as after it germinates. You're getting really small plants, but you're able to get through an entire cycle in approximately 80 days. What we're doing at the farm, is putting in one crop of ruderalis while we're popping our seeds for our full terms.

We are then harvesting that ruderalis as the full terms go into the ground to make sure that we don't have any surprise males pollinating our precious flower. Then, as we're taking our full terms out, or as they're starting to flower, we're typically putting in one more run of ruderalis. In addition to that, we have some light deprivation greenhouse, which allows us to continue having fresh product in what we would consider truly the off-cycle, so in those winter months, in that early springtime. Between two auto harvests or full terms and the light dep, we're able to really consistently supply our demand.

We do clone as well. Typically, when we're cloning our full terms, we're looking for strains that we were a little bit light on so that we're able to beef up the yield in that particular strain. Those are the five various ways that we are currently growing at our farm, all using living soil, all using the same ethos and as sustainable practices as we possibly can. These are techniques, back in the day, the family was growing just full terms. Being able to use light deprivation technology, being able to utilize ruderalis genetics that have become stabilized is really fortunate for us in the commercial world today.

Sinead: That's really fascinating. You guys are located in wine country so you couldn't really be in a better place. That said, you guys had quite an ordeal with the Mendocino Complex Fire a few years back. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how you guys recovered from that incident?

Julia: The Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018 started, or one of the two fires that made up that fire, the ranch fire, started approximately 5 miles down the road from us. My husband and I were actually on the farm that day packaging, and he stepped out to take a break and saw a big plume coming over the ridge. We were really fortunate to have time. A lot of people in these wildfires, especially as they continue to grow in terms of their scale and their speed, don't have time. We had two days to pack up and to figure out what we were going to do to fire prep.

Ultimately, there's nothing you can do when there's a plant in the ground still growing. Out of 600 plants, only 13 survived the fire, which is incredible that even 13 survived. We were really supported by the community, not just the actual neighbors and the direct community that we have, but also the cannabis community. TerraVesco donated us nutrients, some really great warm casings, and compost and whatnot, and a top hat nursery down in Salinas donated us clones. With the help of our team and our neighbors and our community and our friends and family, we were able to plant the probably latest full-term harvest that anybody's ever pulled off in history. [chuckles]

We've got some teams in the ground the second week of August, I believe, and we made it through. It's really scary to see how wildfires are progressing. The drought that we're in this year, we're already seeing signs that it's going to be a very dangerous wildfire season. We're doing everything we can at the farm to continue to make it as fire defensible as possible.

Sinead: Absolutely. After that fire, you guys actually started a giveback program called Harry's Harvest. I know there's a bit of a heartbreaking story behind that program, but I hear you might be bringing it back. Can you tell us a little bit about that program and the story behind it?

Julia: Yes. Harry was one of the farm cats. He was half bobcat, which made him extra special, but he also just loved hanging around people and hanging around us while we were working. When we were evacuating the farm, the most difficult part of all of it was not being able to find all of the farm animals and Harry was one of the animals that we had to evacuate without. When we came back to the property, he was not there. It's not confirmed that he passed in the fire, but to this day, we have not seen him. We named our giveback program after Harry.

We donated $1 of all proceeds of each pre-roll pack to local firefighters. The volunteer firefighters in each local community, they are the first responders on scene. They are the people who are leaving their own house while it may burn down to come save yours and they rely on donations. We supported two of the local firehouses that responded to the fire that affected our farm. We are planning to bring this program back in the future and to expand it beyond just fire relief and focus on all different kinds of organizations and things that matter to us as a company.

Sinead: That's amazing. I love how you guys have turned a real heartbreaking situation into something positive there. That's really cool. I look forward to seeing if you guys bring that back down the line. My next question for you, Julia, what are the pros and cons of being vertically integrated with outdoor cultivation in the cannabis industry right now?

Julia: It is really important. It is a very interesting nascent industry. In other industries, typically, you have really established suppliers for all the different pieces of the supply chain. In this industry, all of these really commercial licensed operations are brand new, and everybody's still figuring it out, everybody's searching for capital to be able to keep going, everybody's navigating licensing and regulations. It's really difficult right now in this nascent industry to be able to rely on third parties. That is whether it comes to buying wholesale flour as a brand and just white labeling. There's been unbelievable fluctuation both in pricing and quality in the market for various dynamics.

In terms of packaging, there have been outages of certain packaging on and off throughout the last few years, then when it comes to co-packaging as well. Co-packaging and processing is a really tough piece of the supply chain because it's a low margin piece of the supply chain, and very intensive. The technology isn't necessarily there in cannabis today to automate certain parts of these functions. By being vertically integrated, we are able to rely on ourselves. If we've learned anything in this industry, that's one of the most important things you can do because just because somebody might be a great operator doesn't mean they're going to be around tomorrow.

Sinead: Very cool. Cannabis right now, especially with indoor cannabis production, we're seeing a huge carbon footprint, it seems to be rising year after year. Tell us a little bit about your efforts in sustainability at Aster Farms. What sparked that passion for the environment and why would you say these practices are so crucial to the cannabis industry?

Julia: For us, it really came from just the life that we live ourselves. We're conscious consumers, we care about the environment, we care about transparency and knowing who these companies are that we spend our money on. That's how we make decisions in our own life. It's also how the family's been growing cannabis for over 50 years, caring about the environment, caring about the consumer who was going to consume it at the end. In terms of our sustainability report and the way that we've gone about our practice, we believe that it's our responsibility to do right by this earth, particularly when it comes to cannabis.

A lot of people don't realize that the illicit cannabis market, when it was in prohibition, was incredibly environmentally harmful. A lot of the grow operations were literally just popping up wherever they could divert from a spring. There was a lot of water diversion, there was a lot of pesticide use, a lot of chemicals that were entering into the watershed, even animal abuse going on. When we have the opportunity to start a commercial industry from scratch, I think it's all of our responsibility and all of our duty to do it in the most environmentally sound way and to right the wrongs of the historic cannabis industry.

Sinead: Absolutely. Julie, you guys have some numbers to your name that are very impressive. I wanted to dive into your sustainability report from last year a little bit. Can you share a little bit about that and what numbers you guys recorded from last year?

Julia: Yes, absolutely. We put out our sustainability report really to take a look at how we were doing and assess ourselves so that we can benchmark and try to improve as we continue to grow as an organization. We also wanted to spark a conversation with people and see if other companies will put transparency. Open up and be transparent about this. I think one of the most interesting things is the actual waste use. There are regulatory reasons and there are also supply chain reasons that make cannabis a wasteful agricultural product in ways that others are not.

A lot of that goes back to the Track-and-Trace program. Aster Farms, for example, this last year, we used between 30,000 and 50,000, what's called a metric track-and-trace tag. Those metric track-and-trace tags are required to be affixed to the actual plants, which means using a zip tie. Our company used cuts and disposed of in solid waste in the trash, not recyclable, about 50,000 zip ties in a single year. If you start thinking about all of the licensed operations across California, you're talking about millions and millions of these plastic RFID tags and these zip ties that are used once and disposed of, and can't be recycled.

Those were some of the areas that we were the most horrified because it doesn't need to be that way. [laughs] Beyond that, we really have to be watching this industry and how regulations are being formed in regards to pushing operations indoors and into greenhouses. If you look at a study that was done in Colorado, greenhouse and indoor cannabis has produced more greenhouse gas emissions than the coal mining industry in Colorado. I don't have the data to know if that includes illicit market or if that's just commercial licensed cannabis operations, but regardless, that's not acceptable.

We need to be really having a conversation about this and trying to dig into, if cannabis is going to be forced indoors because of the taboo, because of the climate, because of local regulatory reasons, then how do we do that in a way that is not putting more stress on our climate?

Sinead: That's a great point. Cool. Going off that, we are starting to see an upswing in craft brands like Aster Farms across the US, which is great to see, not only in terms of just the quality of the product but also from an environment standpoint. Why do you think we're seeing that shift, and where do you see that going over the next few years?

Julia: I think we're seeing that shift for a few reasons. One, price sensitivity. On the consumer level, now the consumers are having to pay for taxes all throughout the supply chain that add up, it's a lot more expensive to buy cannabis on the commercial market than it was from the black market. I think that because outdoor and greenhouse cannabis can be produced literally because of the electricity costs and because of the water costs, we're pulling from a natural aquifer through a well, as opposed to pulling from city-developed water.

All of those things make a difference in costs, and that gets actually translated up to what the consumer pays. I think cost is truly a factor. I also think education is a factor. People thought that indoor cannabis was "better" or more potent than outdoor cannabis because of the shelf appeal, because it's not knocked around by the wind and the rain and the creatures and all of the elements outdoors, the trichomes look ridiculous. [chuckles] The bud structure is able to be much more controlled. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's a better high or even that it's more potent than outdoor cannabis.

I think there's price sensitivity going on. I think there's a lot more education about all of the benefits, including full-spectrum wellness and medicinal benefits of outdoor cannabis. I think people are starting to understand more, even if they don't know what a terpene is, that there's more than just THC going on in terms of giving you the effect of your high. I think there are a lot of dynamics. I also think that we're coming out of prohibition and for as many outdoor farmers is there have always been growing in cannabis.

The only reason that cannabis is grown indoors is because of prohibition. Now that we are legally allowed to grow, people can choose the way that they want to do. Hopefully, people will continue to choose to grow outdoors. It's harder, but we believe that it produces a better flower that's better for you.

Sinead: Absolutely. Like you said, it seems like there are lots of advantages to smaller batch harvests and craft cannabis as a whole, but you mentioned it is a little bit more difficult than indoor cultivation. What would you say have been some challenges with outdoor cultivation at Aster Farms and scaling a craft cannabis company? What would you say has been tricky there and give us a little bit about how you've gone about navigating that.

Julia: A really good example of this is the difference between the first run that we ever did in our light deprivation greenhouse and every run thereafter. When we first put our light deprivation greenhouse set up, we were racing against time and didn't have time to properly get the beds fully built out and the soil amended and turned into live soil and whatnot. We grew our first round in pots. The way that most people grow cannabis. Every single plant turned out, not identical, but pretty close to it. They were all very uniform. They were the same height, they were the same color, they were distinct bud structure.

There was uniformity. That was because it was the same exact potting soil in a very controlled environment, in a very small pot. The moment that we created really robust, deep, beautiful beds and planted straight into those beds, we began to see variability. At Aster Farms, we embrace that. We grow a significant amount of our flower from seed, which means it has bigger, but it also has variability. We see it the same way as going to the farmer's market and choosing heirloom tomatoes. All of them are going to look crazy different.

They are going to have some weird spots and colors and bumps on them, but they're going to taste significantly better than a tomato grown in a hothouse greenhouse. The variability, if you think about an entire field of soil, it's really difficult to get all of that soil to act exactly the same. Frankly, we wouldn't want it to because that would mean that there wasn't its own living ecosystem functioning down there. For us, it is a constant battle of assessing this patch versus this patch, versus these 10,000 square feet and really assessing how our soil is doing, how it's operating, what that living ecosystem is doing from one 10 by 10 patch to another.

Sinead: Great. Julia, I wanted to switch to the branding side of Aster Farms. You guys have, I think, one of the coolest brands in cannabis. I've watched a lot of your videos, and I think your marketing as a whole, but especially your video marketing really evokes this love for the outdoors. I get almost a sense of brands like REI and Salomon from some of your videos. I wondered, how did you decide your angle there, and who do you feel like you are targeting with most of your marketing?

Julia: That's a great question. We built Aster Farms for people like us. We are conscious consumers who care about what we put in our body. We care about the companies we spend our money on, but we're not necessarily composting every single thing in our backyard. I still have an Amazon Prime account. [laughs] Similarly, we're active people. We love to hike, we love to be outdoors, we love to explore, but we're not running marathons, we're not extreme spheres. I think Aster Farms is for people who are wanting to engage with their environment, whether that means getting deep in thought on an intellectual level or whether that means going out and exploring the world or exploring other people.

We want to produce cannabis for people who want to connect. We're not the kind of cannabis for getting stoned and playing video games on your couch. We really want to evoke that sense of adventure. I think California is inherently a place that has that from the mountains to the ocean to beautiful fields in Redwood Forest. We would just want to encourage people to get out and connect with the world. That's who we are and that's what we care about. We're trying to get that across, and everything from our packaging design to our brand films, to our messaging.

Sinead: Great. What would you say over the next three to five years, how do you see branding in cannabis evolving? What would be your advice to listeners who are either in the throes of starting their own startup or they are thinking about getting into this space? What advice do you have for their branding?

Julia: I would say that authenticity is everything. We are officially at the point in the cannabis market where it's a mature market when it comes to brands now. Consumers are starting to have brand loyalty and there are big operators. Even though federal legalization hasn't happened, the big money is here. There's a lot of money and a lot of flour being thrown around with nothing genuine attached to it. It's just a name that came up with on a whiteboard that was slapped on some packaging and some flour was sourced. There's big money behind those types of brands. They're going to be on the shelf.

In order to compete, if you don't have hundreds of millions of dollars, you need to be telling a genuine story and your brand has to be authentic. I think that's what we're going to start to see over the next couple of years. At first, it was just, get me on the shelf, make sure the warning label is proper so that I don't get-- The BCC doesn't pull my product. Then people started caring a little bit more about messaging. Now, I think we're officially at that point in a mature market where authenticity is going to be picked up on and consumers are going to start to really understand the personas behind these brands.

Sinead: Absolutely. It sounds like a lot of these big brands that you're talking about, you have been reached out to over the past few years from a lot of big brands and you typically like to partner with smaller, more local brands in Northern California. Can you tell us a little bit about some of your partnerships and why you like to keep things local usually?

Julia: Yes. For us, it's really about continuing to maintain our ethos. That means both from where the product is sourced, the way that the product is produced and manufactured, and the types of people who are running the companies behind the collaborations we do. We see Aster as a very farm-to-table brand when it comes to caring about the ingredients and caring about the types of form factors that you're consuming. For that reason, I'm not going to say we will never do a vape, but we've been approached multiple times about doing vape pens and we're just not interested in it because it's not who we are.

It doesn't embody what we believe our experience with cannabis is what we want it to be. We have collaborated with a few edibles brands. We have worked with Rose Los Angeles who are incredible makers of what they term a Turkish Delight. It's very similar to a Turkish delight and I would say more delicious. We've done collaborations with them. We love that they work with world-renowned chefs to create really beautiful recipes using farm-fresh ingredients. There's a lot of synergy between the things that we care about and the thought and effort that goes into the actual ingredients.

We've partnered with Potli which is an amazing and I always forget the tagline that they use because I always feel bad when I say this, but they are the infused condiment brand. [chuckles] I think they call themselves a kitchen pantry brand. Everything from Serratia to honey to olive oil, they make it infused and they make it delicious. We partnered with one of Sam's other uncles who has an award-winning or organic olive oil farm also in Lake county. With Potli, we made an Aster cannabidiol infused olive oil. We're making that into a forever collaboration. It won't always be with cannabidiol olive oil because it's a very small operation there.

We are going to be doing an infused olive oil with Potli as a forever collaboration. We have one more collaboration coming up this summer, which I can't talk about yet. It will be cannabis that you can sip. I will just leave it at that. We're really excited about the brands that we've been partnering with and hope to continue to do so with really only the best who are aligned with our ethos and what we care about in our brand.

Sinead: That's great. We're going to have to keep an eye out for that beverage this summer. Julia, speaking of your collaborations, you guys are celebrating Pride 2021, collaborating with an artist who has designed your packaging for these specific pre-rolls of yours. Can you tell us a little bit about that collaboration and what this means to you both personally and as a cannabis brand?

Julia: Absolutely. We really feel that it's important to not only support the LGBTQ+ community through regular donations and support and our messaging and our inclusive hiring, but to literally put it on our packaging and to turn Aster Farms into a celebration of pride, if not all year around, at least for this month. We wanted to partner with an LGBTQ+ artist who had-- Again, it's all about having a similar ethos and allowing them to express what Aster Farms means to them in a re-imagined design. We worked with Ludi.

She is a really brilliant, beautiful, amazing artist who has done work for fantastic organizations that we support. She designed a really beautiful reimagination of the Aster Farms' mountainscape. We are donating 100% of the proceeds to an organization of her choice.

Sinead: Great. Julia, how can listeners participate? Where can they maybe find those pre-rolls? Is it just in LA or could they find them elsewhere?

Julia: You can find them at the Sweet Flower shops in LA and they can be found at the Liberty shops in San Francisco.

Sinead: Great. Julia, before we turn to some personal development questions, I did want to ask what goals do you have for Aster Farms over the next few years? What can we expect to see from you guys?

Julia: We are currently getting the wheels moving in terms of some MSO expansion. That's multi-state operations. We believe that California is where cannabis is meant to be grown, but we also want to be able to take our brand and take our ethos and let people all over the country experience the Aster Farms lifestyle. We are going to be popping up in some other states over the next few years. It's a long road to do so, but we are getting the wheels in motion today.

Sinead: Very cool. We'll have to keep an eye on that and maybe have you back on the podcast to do a follow-up when that happens, but definitely wish you the best of luck there.

Julia: Thank you.

Sinead: Okay, Julia, I did want to turn to some personal development questions before we wrap up here. The first one, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Julia: I don't know if there's a single book. I was a comparative literature major in college, which meant I got really, really nerdy and way too analytical with all of my reading.

[laughter]

My specialty, I really love modernist literature. I think one of the most interesting things about modernist literature is being able to see people in their broken, disjointed, and convoluted inner minds and just realize that everything isn't as perfectly neat and tidy and tied up as sometimes people present themselves on the outside. I think there isn't necessarily an individual book but just understanding what modernist literature has taught me. I think as an entire body has been really helpful to my life and my sanity.

[laughter]

Sinead: That's awesome. Julia, next question. What is one thing going on in the industry that you think will have a big impact but might be a little bit underappreciated right now?

Julia: I think recently, another university was able to start moving forward with research. I think that people underestimate, in fact, I don't even think that most consumers know that there isn't federal funding for research to be done on cannabis. A lot of the conversations that we're having are grounded in research and scientific development that's happened outside of the normal realms of what we consider legitimate research. I think that that's one of the most important things that's happening today is we're creeping closer, one small step at a time, towards the proper research of cannabinoids, of cannabis, of THC, of how it interacts with other medications, how it helps with various ailments, diseases, how it interacts with our sleep.

There's so much to learn. I think it'll really help solidify cannabis's place in the medicinal world once we start having some of that research done in a way that is legitimized by the larger population.

Sinead: That's a great point. Cool. Julia, one last question before we close and it might be the toughest question in the interview. You're stranded on a desert island and can only bring three movies, which do you choose?

[laughter]

Julia: That's easy for me. L.A. Story is probably my favorite movie in the whole world. I'm a big Steve Martin fan, a child of '80s. Labyrinth was another childhood favorite of mine, which never gets old. It's just unbelievably fascinating to me. Last, I would go with the Big Lebowski.

Sinead: Oh man. [laughs]

Julia: I would say all three of those are really great stoner movies too.

Sinead: That's all great. Big Lebowski is a classic. [laughs] That's awesome. Okay, Julia. As we close, can you share with listeners how they can find you online and connect with you?

Julia: Absolutely. You can find us at asterfarms.com and you can also find us at @asterfarms on Instagram. If you go to our contact or DM us, we are always responding. Feel free to reach out and be in touch.

Sinead: Julia, thank you so much for coming on the show. We really appreciate it and we wish you the best of luck for the rest of 2021.

Julia: Thank you so much. I really appreciate being on here today. It was great speaking with you.

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