Cannabis flower, pre-rolls, elixirs, and muscle salve
Brand's father immigrated to California from Holland when he was 18 years old. A fifth-generation tulip grower, he produced cut flowers in his Carpinteria greenhouses until 2015 when he began growing cannabis for the medicinal market with his daughter, son, and Autumn Shelton, his then CFO.
"He made us all equal partners," Brand says, "and things have been going great ever since."
A Cal Poly graduate with a degree in agriculture and environmental plant science with a concentration in nursery production, Brand grew up in her family's greenhouses. She recalls working in the bouquet lines before and after school around busy holidays like Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. "I spent hours putting stickers on sleeves while watching these ladies create 18-stem bouquets in seconds," she says.
Today, those same greenhouses are dedicated to cannabis cultivation, with one acre set aside as a nursery for vegging plants and two acres committed to the seven- to nine-week process that allows the cannabis flowers' terpene profile to blossom and develop its own unique flavor and aroma. Autumn Brands will soon add another acre for flowering, having just received a land use permit for an additional greenhouse.
Brand says the growers harvest year-round and four to five times each week. "It's anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 plants a week," she continues. "We still do all of our harvesting and processing by hand because we want to have multiple steps for quality control throughout. If there are any problems, we can get them out and they won't be in the final product."
Autumn Brands' growing and processing is done entirely without chemicals. "You can't one hundred percent guarantee that a pesticide isn't going to be harmful to someone," Brand says. "Cannabis is a dried product, and you're going to light it up and inhale it. No one actually knows what that is doing to people. We decided that we just wanted to be able to create the cleanest and most pure product possible. Like my dad says, 'you can wash your lettuce, but you can't wash your weed.'"
In lieu of pesticides, Autumn Brands relies on beneficial insects -- like ladybugs -- for pest control. Their greenhouses are also equipped with closed-loop watering systems, Molekule Aire Pro RX units, and Priva precision-growing greenhouse automation.
"The Priva system takes readings of all the different climate and environmental things going on like temperature, wind direction, and humidity," Brand says. "It will then change the direction of the roof vents, turn on and off the boiler, and close the shade cloth if it's getting too warm. We've always used this in our greenhouses. If you tried to do all that stuff manually, you'd make mistakes, and your plants would be stressed out."
Consumers can find Autumn Brands' elixirs, glass jar strains, and pre-rolls at dispensaries throughout California. "We're as high as Redding and down into San Diego," Brand adds. "We have some really strong accounts in Tahoe, Sacramento, and San Jose, but LA County and Orange County are our biggest markets."
She says that the company's glass jar strains have always been their top sellers, though their pre-rolls also do very well. In late 2020, they launched a muscle and joint salve that Brand notes is also making waves. "We put two years into product development to make something that really and truly works," she continues. "It's doing extremely well in every shop that has picked it up. We just need to get more people to try it."
Challenges: Brand says the company's biggest challenges are market education and pricing. "We've made it our model to have smaller margins, so we don't give big discounts or spend too much on advertising," she explains. "But that gives us less leeway to compete with other people who are doing big price cuts. We need to continue to educate buyers on why our price point is a great value for the clean product we're producing."
Opportunities: Business-to-business industry events such as Hall of Flowers, which was held in Santa Rosa, California in September, offer a great opportunity for Autumn Brands to "get our face in front of people," Brand says. "We want them to see that we may be a little family run business, but we've been here since the beginning."
Needs: Brand says Autumn Brands is in a good position with a strong team, successful product lines, and a few recent equipment purchases --including a new pre-roll labeler -- to help them keep up with production demands. "I think the only big need for us now is to stay true to ourselves, stay the course, and grow within our means."