From software entrepreneur to hemp farmer: Jerry Whiting continues to thrive during a pandemic

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August 25, 2020
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Jerry Whiting, a hemp farmer in Seattle

Jerry Whiting is the co-founder & president of LeBlanc CNE, Inc., which  specializes in hemp genetics, product development, research & education.  He makes plant-based medicines including a hemp tincture and hemp topical oil among other things. He also writes a monthly hemp column  for Leaf Nation magazine, with plans to restart a podcast.

While black people make up 12 percent of the population, black farmers are a mere 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers, according to the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture


Why did you become a hemp farmer?

My primary focus is making medicine for patients. It always has been beginning with my son Coleman, co-founder of LeBlanc CNE.

Many years ago I practiced acupuncture and massage with a smattering of herbology thrown in for good measure. After 30 some years in software, I’m back where I began: holistic medicine.

The only way to make good hemp products is to grow good hemp. As someone with what I call “COCD,” constructive obsessive compulsive disorder I’m a collector. It explains why I founded a barcode software company and collect art. This is why LeBlanc CNE has such a diverse and dare I say interesting seed bank. In short, I grow what I want to make medicine with, made easier by having gardened my whole life.

What is the biggest challenge of running your business during Covid-19?

The lack of contact and interaction with the cannafamily, both locally and nationally. There are no more trade shows or conferences. I can’t interact with the breeders’n’seeders. I’m not hosting patients in my home. Life moves too slow during the lockdown. That said, I dig Zoom and have done more talks and panels than before. Four so far all without airports, rental cars, hotels and the associated cost & hassles. Still, like everyone else I’m trying to figure out how to do business that’s not face-to-face. You don’t pass out business cards anymore, and you can’t have hallway conversations that can turn into business. It’s a real drag.

Why are you so passionate about being a hemp farmer, (cultivation and processing)?

Healthcare is a right not a privilege. The medical borg is broken and/or was never intended to provide comprehensive care for all. Hemp is about medicine, food, fuel, fiber, and so much more.

Last year I began exploring hemp fiber beginning with paper. I have two Cleveland-related test kitchens: an elementary school friend who’s a papermaker in New Mexico and Cleveland’s own Morgan Conservatory. I hope to engage with Praxis Fiber Workshop this year as well.

Besides, hemp is kewl! All the hip kids are doing it (and I don’t want to be left out).

You said your next column focuses on your desire to see more African Americans in the hemp market. It takes a ton of money to get into the legal cannabis market – the main reason black people are so underrepresented,- so why is hemp any different?

Licensing for hemp farming and processing is less expensive than legal cannabis. Hemp is administered by the individual states’ Departments of Agriculture which tend to be farmer-friendly. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s doable. The key is doing your research….Too much hemp was grown for the  CBD extraction market in 2019. And anything grown in 2020 will only worsen the glut. My advice to new black farmers is to grow for the fiber market especially hempcrete.

Your 24-year-old son Cole passed from a seizure in 2016 after years of taking pharmaceutical seizure medications for epilepsy. I understand that cannabis was emerging as a legitimate treatment of seizure disorders around the time that you both started the company after he inspired you and so many others in the early medical marijuana days in Seattle. What motivates you to persevere without him?  

I lost my son, best friend and business partner. It’s what gets me out of bed every morning. We began doing this eight years ago. It’s normal to see a husband and wife in farming together. A parent and child is less prevalent. And a black father and son is all but nonexistent… He was a shitty grower, but he was good at extracting and working as a budtender. Coleman made and shared CO2 oil and other preparations with patients without cost. He also helped distribute clones far and wide all across Washington State on a regular basis.

Clearly you enjoy educating others, including serving as an expert columnist for Leaf Nation magazine, Any unexpected surprises that have come from giving back?

I love what I do. I get to hang with really nice people (and only a few *ssholes along the way). People gift me things without asking. I sleep well at night knowing I did my best. Yes, there have been a few times people recognize me and  introduce themselves.

How do you relax?

Beer and pot. Movies. And most of all, my family and friends, especially my granddaughter.


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