Kate Guptill was born to work in the cannabis industry. Or at least her nose was. The Co-founder and Vice President of Operations and Finance at the Oregon-based, craft-cannabis producer Eco Firma Farms has nostrils that rival the best drug-sniffing dogs.
"Apparently, I have an exceptional sense of smell and can detect the slightest trace of weed on someone," Guptill told Civilized. "I can even tell which strain is being trimmed from across the room."
She's also adept at sniffing out bad business deals by taking the disadvantages of being a woman in the boardroom turning them into a secret weapon.
"People often discredit women if there is also a man in the company, assuming he’s the sole decision-maker," Guptill added. "It’s frustrating, but it plays to my advantage sometimes—people will say things to me they may not say to my male counterparts, thinking I’m not the one with the power to make the call."
And she's not the only woman who is shaking things up in the industry.
"I would describe myself as many other women in the cannabis space: hard working and determined to show the world how big a role women play in cannabis— even though it seems to be an industry dominated by men (it’s definitely not)," Guptill said. "To be successful in the cannabis industry, you have to be versatile and nimble."
When did you get started working with cannabis? And what is your mission?
I’ve been around this industry in one way or another since about the age of 18. From growing in a small box in the back room of our house to the expansion of cultivation facilities as we began to see that this industry was going to be a large-scale business in our lifetime. My mission is to build a cannabis company that I can be proud of—a responsible company that people like to work with. I’m also very passionate about animals. One day, I hope to open a sanctuary like Gentle Barn where animals of all types can come live out a happy and full life.
Tell us about your personal cannabis journey.
Like many I suppose, I started as a hobbyist. Under the medical system in Oregon, we could grow our own plants. I really enjoy growing cannabis and in many ways, those were simpler times. But growing a business is a different type of reward, equally as fulfilling. I may not be with the plants as often as I used to be, but the transition has been appreciable, and to sit back some days and see where we are in comparison to where this all started is a little staggering.
To date, what has been your greatest obstacle in business and how are you tackling it?
Like most cannabis companies, capital and banking are ongoing problems regardless of a company’s size. The inequalities we face compared to other federally legal industries is beyond maddening. Until we’re treated like any other business, this will always be a problem, similar to the inequalities women face throughout the business world. I hope to be one of the women who helps change that.
What is your vision for women in this industry?
My vision is for women in this industry to be recognized for their accomplishments, equally—to be seen as the business leaders they are, regardless of their media presence. Just because you are not in front of the camera or on the stage does not mean that you are not the boss. If you insist on working in the industry, be strong and determined. There will be rough days ahead, and with this administration, things will get worse for us women before they get better. Remember, the world was never changed by a passive person afraid to fight for what they believe in. Keep your head up and stay focused. With enough determination, we can accomplish anything.
About Eco Firma Farms
Eco Firma Farms provides top-shelf, artisan crafted cannabis while improving the conditions of those they employ, the environment, and their surrounding communities. Since 2012, Eco Firma Farms principals have been growing their business toward becoming Oregon’s first carbon-neutral cannabis farm. Today, Eco Firma Farms operates on 100 percent wind-powered renewable energy and uses all organic pest, mold, and mildew management. In 2017, Eco Firma received Green Mountain Energy Gold Certification for its clean wind energy efforts by Portland General Electric (PGE) and the company is on track for Platinum certification this year. Eco Firma Farms’ overall carbon footprint is greatly reduced by using recycled products and exercising responsible fertilization practices. It is the Eco Firma Farms mission to be completely carbon-neutral while spreading good-will along the way.