Meet North Carolina's First Female Hemp Farmer In 75 Years
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Franny Tacy, the owner of Franny’s Farmacy, is the first female hemp farmer in North Carolina in over 75 years. Tacy is one of the preeminent experts of all things hemp, participates in the Hemp Research Trials with North Carolina State University, hosted a TEDx Speech On Hemp, and founded the non-profit “Women in Hemp.” She has degrees and work experience in Forestry and Education and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade.
Recently, I spoke to her about the future of women in cannabis.
Did you ever intend on being North Carolina’s first woman hemp farmer, or did it just sort of happen?
Franny Tacy: I had been supporting and advocating for over a year to raise money, awareness, and collect signatures for the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. I was in support, but not spear-heading the movement. So, when the bill passed unexpectedly a few weeks before any reasonable farmer would be planting hemp, I was surprised when I found out that I was the first female farmer to plant it. I didn't even know until after the season’s planting and harvest when I received recognition and verification from NCDA (North Carolina Department of Agriculture).
How have things progressed for women in cannabis since you first started?
Hemp is, without a doubt, a male-dominated field. Just three years ago, I was literally one of the only women speaking at events across the country, and I am thrilled that we see women filling 10 to15 percent of these leadership/voice of authority roles. The hemp industry is still unregulated and consumers are looking for trust in a brand and company. It seems that women are perceived to be and tend to be more trustworthy, honest, helpful, and outspoken about the challenges and opportunities.
From your perspective, what do we, as an entire industry, need to build on in order to see more women power-players emerge?
Women need to be the ones to step up, be clear, be solid, and run businesses. This should not be left to industry or governments or anyone else making this choice. The challenges are beyond any I’d ever imagined. The industry itself is not business as usual because every aspect— banking, marketing, advertising, and social media—is in no way normal.
What I call “hemp fever” struck so many people (mostly males since our field is dominated by males) and made them egotistical, delusional experts. So I decided to step back from speaking to play a higher role in my vertically-integrated companies. There really are no experts in this new industry. There are certainly those of us who have a lot more experience in learning what to do and what not to do. The onslaught of new hemp businesses from dispensaries to processors and growers, competition, and big threatening voices of the state and federal government, are pretty much all led by men.
Maybe for the entire industry to see more women power-players emerge, consumers need to support female-run businesses. I do a lot of business with both males and females. For me, the most important criteria is being qualified for the job, having ethics, flexibility and understanding of the industry.
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Do you feel a sense of responsibility, as one of the first to grow hemp in North Carolina, to continue creating new opportunities, especially for women who are already a part of the industry as well as women who are looking for ways to enter the industry?
I am wholeheartedly committed to women empowerment and evolution in the hemp industry and in the roles we play as entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, teachers, caregivers, and designers of families and communities. Self-care is the key to being able to care for anything else whether in business or life. Women tend to focus on the outer world and making it better for all so everyone feels better on the inside. We must go inward to thrive outward.
What are some things you’ve done to create bigger and better opportunities that will help empower women in this space?
I am an executive member of the non-profit “Women in Hemp,” which is the brainchild of Debbie Custer, a badass woman from the corporate world involved in research. We primarily focus on education and are funding a graduate student to study hemp in the first 3-year research trial with NC State and Triangle Hemp. I offer consulting services mostly for those people getting into the industry and 50 percent are women. For some reason, I love research and would love to know why women tend to follow instructions better and have achieved better success. Franny’s Distribution buys hemp “flower,” also called “bud,” for all our franchises throughout four states and wholesale accounts across the country. Many of those I’ve consulted are now doing business with us. We have many female growers and business owners with wholesale accounts.
Where do you see things headed for women in cannabis over the next few years?
Expect greatness from women as the hemp industry begins to settle into something more normal and regulated. Women are leading the way in communities, states, and in politics for this to happen right now. Women will continue to step into CEO positions and leadership roles. This is the real fun one because women will be the ones to bring hemp into new markets like fiber, clothing, paper, and food, making it a new trend. Hemp will be in every household in one form or another within this decade and that will be due to women. Women are the ones to market, sell, buy, promote, create, and stand up for hemp!
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman who is eager to jump into the cannabis industry, and make a career out of it, what would you tell them?
Please, oh please, be clear, be focused, find a mentor, make a plan. Look before you leap, but not for too long because you will never do it.