The recent appointment of industry leader Charlie McKenzie as VP of Operations is a significant move for Geogia-based Harvest Connect. Let’s take a closer look at McKenzie’s fascinating journey which has landed him back home in Georgia, after honing his trade in New Mexico, Colorado and Florida.
Proud father of two, husband, horticulturist, biocontrol advisor and Georgia Bulldog, Charlie McKenzie has returned home to help establish the hemp and medical cannabis industry in Georgia, joining Harvest Connect as VP of Operations.
Committed to his mantra of “Start Clean Stay Clean,” McKenzie has dedicated his career to producing clean flowers, food and medicine. As founder and host of CropTalk, a podcast dedicated to helping today’s agricultural business leaders, he has created a platform to connect and share knowledge. When McKenzie is not travelling around the country to interview his next podcast guest, he is often driving from farm to farm providing agriculture advice to cannabis and high-value crop producers via his consultancy firm, Bioculture Group LLC.
The recent appointment of industry leader Charlie McKenzie as VP of Operations is a significant move for Georgia-based Harvest Connect. Let’s take a closer look at McKenzie’s fascinating journey which has landed him back home in Georgia, after honing his trade in New Mexico, Colorado and Florida.
Where it all Began…
After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture, McKenzie joined Tagawa Greenhouse Ent., LLC, one of the largest annual bedding plant supplier in North America. During a three-year period, McKenzie specialized in controlled environment production and site management of their twenty-acre bedding plant, ornamental, veggie and herb facility in New Mexico.
At this time, Colorado cannabis started taking shape in a major way and Tagawa Greenhouse started a hemp business called Greenhouse Growing System™. McKenzie became general manager and was tasked with scaling the business. He oversaw two acres of greenhouse-grown cannabis production, maintenance of the facility and all outdoor cultivation on over 15 acres.
Clean Food and Clean Medicine
As an industrial hemp grower, McKenzie learned that there are very few pesticides that are approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply on cannabis and state governments further restrict the products that can be used to control pest. A clean farming trend was also forming within food products. McKenzie said:
“I had a real affinity to clean food and clean medicine. I started to focus my time consulting with biological controls, reducing pesticides and not using them at all to produce food, cannabis, and flowers. With that, I started a business called CropWalk where we focus on the preventative use of biological control and the efficiency of its application.”
CropWalk helps growers and farms use good bugs to fight bad bugs more efficiently and effectively. All aimed at producing clean flowers, clean food and clean medicine.
Podcast Host, Industry Leader and Connector
Born out of CropWalk was the highly popular podcast CropTalk, which has amassed 8,000 downloads, where McKenzie hosts business leaders in the agriculture and horticulture industry.
“Guests talk about the innovations they’ve made, the successes they’ve had, and the challenges they face on a day to day basis and how they can help someone else listening not make that same mistake or learn from their lessons. The podcast and pest management business have afforded me the opportunity to work with so many different hemp and cannabis growers because all of them need that service.”
McKenzie’s time as a relatively isolated grower drove him to build an online community.
“When I first began my career, I was in the middle of nowhere New Mexico in this big greenhouse. I didn’t have any mentors that lived close-by, so I sought refuge in online publications. I read those like they were my Horticultural Bible. I then started to create content, connect other people, and it was powerful. I saw how much it did for me as a horticulturalist and as a grower learning from these other folks. When you get farmers together and you get them talking to each other and believing in each other and a common goal, you’ve got a powerful group of people.”
Local Son Brings Expertise Home
With the Georgia Hemp Farming Act signed into law in May 2019, Georgia policymakers are creating a commission to oversee the licensing process. McKenzie, now actively working to advance the industry in the state, has emerged as one of the most experienced and knowledgeable leaders.
“With Georgia really ramping up the hemp and medical cannabis industry, I was thrilled to join the Harvest Connect team because the state of Georgia deserves it from the consumer perspective and they deserve to have quality and clean medicine. I’d like to help Georgia establish the industry here not make similar mistakes that other states have and learn from those lessons and really benefit the public going forward.
You have to have a good quality product, you have to be efficient in producing it, and you have to have a place that you can sell it to someone that believes in what you’re doing. If you have all those pieces, I think you can have a great hemp or medical cannabis processing or cultivation business here in Georgia and you can compete on a national scale.”
Why Harvest Connect: Georgia Good Ethos
A man in demand, McKenzie was clear on the reasons he joined the Harvest Connect team.
“Harvest Connect is focused on Georgia farmers, Georgia good product, Georgia success and Georgia health, which are all important to me.
There are a lot of brands out there that can do a lot of great things in the medical cannabis or hemp community. There could be a Colorado brand helping folks here in Georgia. But there’s a special feeling you get, as a Georgian, when you see a Georgia brand.
When you can tie the brand back to a Georgia farmer growing the hemp two hours down the road from you, then it’s processed an hour from you, there’s love there. I want to be able to build businesses here in Georgia and help foster these businesses so there’s a lot of great people employed from the state of Georgia.”
McKenzie will help Harvest Connect navigate the initial hemp processing side of the business, applying for a license to process hemp, getting the processing facility up and running and making sure the equipment and facility are safe and compliant. Without a doubt, McKenzie joining the Harvest Connect leadership team is a huge coup. CEO Kevin Quirk said:
“Charlie brings with him a wealth of experience in the hemp and cannabis industry and he will be an integral part of what we are doing here at Harvest Connect as we strive to improve lives of Georgia residents through the benefits of Georgia grown cannabis and boost the local farming economy.”