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From Crisis to Resilience: Navigating Droughts, Pandemics, and Environmental Turmoil in the Hemp Industry

From Crisis to Resilience: Navigating Droughts, Pandemics, and Environmental Turmoil in the Hemp Industry

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In the heart of the cannabis industry, where challenges are as abundant as the crops, the Sisters of the Valley have weathered storms that could have brought any business to its knees. From a banking crisis to the relentless grip of the pandemic, and the environmental onslaught of floods and mudslides, their journey is a testament to resilience in the face of adversity.

The Banking Crisis (2019)

The cannabis industry faced a seismic shock in 2019 when a banking crisis swept across the West Coast, leaving 90% of businesses in ruins. The Sisters of the Valley (Merced County, California) were among the survivors, but the scars ran deep. Just as recovery seemed possible, the world was plunged into the chaos of the pandemic.

The Pandemic Plunge

As the pandemic unfolded, sales plummeted to half of what they were before the global health crisis. The Sisters found themselves navigating uncharted waters, adapting to ever-changing regulations and consumer behaviors. Yet, amid the economic turmoil, a more literal crisis loomed on the horizon – a drought that threatened to parch the very lifeblood of their crops.

Drought, Floods, and Mudslides

While grappling with the economic fallout of the pandemic, the Sisters faced a concurrent ecological challenge. The relentless and unforgiving drought set the stage for what would become a cascading disaster. As the drought subsided, floods and mudslides wreaked havoc, forcing the Sisters to make the gut-wrenching decision to burn two entire crops tainted with mercury and lead from the post-drought waters.

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Sisters Camilla, Kate, Halla and Lilly (left to right)

Governmental Hurdles and Unseen Relief

Sister Kate sheds light on the harsh reality of the Sisters’ daily battle for survival. “Sales dropped again in half when the floods and mudslides hit the West Coast last December,” she reveals, painting a vivid picture of the economic toll these natural disasters took on their small business. Despite their qualifying for a federal grant in December and a drought relief grant in October, the promised rescue funds seem elusive.

The Frustrating Wait

“We qualified last December for a federal grant but haven’t seen those rescue funds,” Sister Kate explains. The struggle extends beyond the unpredictable forces of nature to the bureaucratic delays in fund disbursement. In early October, the Sisters qualified for another grant that would help them immensely right now, a small business grant that is part of a $95 million drought relief package for the state. The IRS and Lendistry are both being unbelievably slow in distribution of the much-needed funds.

Political Dissonance:

Adding to the Sisters’ woes is the disconnect between the federal government’s funds set aside for assistance and the reality on the ground. Sister Kate sheds light on the paradox: “Our county should have gotten $45 million in low-interest SBA funds to re-build, for economic injury to businesses suffering from the floods and mudslides, but we don’t think anyone saw any of that.” The Sisters find themselves caught in the crossfire of political dissonance, where relief that should be flowing to those in need is not coming.

A Useless Representative

The Sisters voice their dissatisfaction with their new congressman, Duarte, whose responsiveness is criticized. “Our previous congressman, Adam Gray, cared about small businesses, but Duarte only answers the calls of those who can make great donations,” laments Sister Kate. The small businesses of the Central Valley have no representation with this congressman, leaving the Sisters and other small agricultural businesses in a precarious position.

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The sisters with their crops

Turning Their Backs

In a final plea, Sister Kate expresses the dire situation: “We are in trouble, and the agencies that should be helping us are turning their backs on us.” The disconnect between the needs of small businesses and the responsiveness of governmental agencies becomes a glaring issue, leaving the Sisters in a limbo of uncertainty, grappling not only with the aftermath of natural disasters but also with a system seemingly indifferent to their plight.

A Ray of Hope – Clean Green Crops Again

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Immediately after the first mercury and lead were detected, the Sisters invested in a reverse osmosis system at the well and grew multiple ‘throw-away’ crops of hemp to clean the soil. Hemp roots act as a bio-accumulator, and the floods and mudslides, though hurting the state economically, further clean the soil from contaminants. The result? This fall, after three autumns of unusable crops, the Sisters finally have a clean, green crop again and can stop supplementing with purchased plant from outside farmers.

Tea of Resilience

The Sisters can finally put their tea back on the store shelves. This season, the Sisters are marking a triumph over the environmental challenges that plagued them since 2020. The sisters make their tea, hand-crafted, from shredded hemp buds. The journey, though arduous, has cultivated not just cannabis but a sense of resilience and strength that permeates every leaf and bud.

As the Sisters of the Valley at The Abbey navigate the aftermath of floods, mudslides, and economic downturns, their story takes on a new layer of complexity. It is a narrative not only of environmental resilience but also a stark portrayal of systemic challenges and the human cost of bureaucratic delays. The Sisters stand as both cultivators of hope and inadvertent advocates for change, reminding us that election season is coming up, and everyone should take the opportunity to move out those holding up changes that would benefit the working class and poor and bring in those lawmakers that can make positive changes for society.

To read more about the Sisters or to show support, visit www.sistersofthevalley.org

Follow on social media: facebook.com/sistersofthevalley
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All photos credit: Sisters of the Valley

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