When 30-year-old Andrew Blake developed the next line of business for the Blake family-owned and -operated Blake Farms enterprise in Armada, MI, he had one goal in mind: “be kinder to yourself.”
It’s the slogan for Blake Farm’s newest arm, a line of CBD-infused wellness products called Kinder Self-Care. With anti-aging moisturizers, bath bombs, dog treats, extracts, oils and more - all created with CBD, a cannabinoid found in cannabis - the line is not intended to treat conditions, but to be used as a component of an overall wellness plan.
“Be kinder to yourself” means taking care of yourself and taking time for you, Blake says. “We look at this as something that’s really about supporting the individual. CBD [can be] a great vehicle for improvement.”
The recent passage of laws in Michigan now allows individuals ages 21 and up to purchase cannabis and CBD products. The new regulations have sparked a rise in the state’s CBD industry. Launched in August 2019, Blake says Kinder Self-Care has experienced a 150% growth rate month after month, and 2020 will be an even bigger year with plans for a new CBD processing facility to be developed onsite at the Blake Farms complex.
Kinder Oils, Courtesy Blake Farms
Building upon a family tradition
Growing up on one of Blake Farms’ three orchards, Andrew Blake has a longstanding passion for the art of agriculture and natural products that come from the earth. “I grew up a farmer’s son,” he says, having lived on the property for the first 15 years of his life. “I’m myself a farmer. I’ve always been attracted to nature and working outside with my hands.”
Best known for its cider mill, which attracts thousands each year, Blake Farms was established in 1946 and includes U-pick seasonal produce, farm-style food, a garden center, Halloween attractions and a lavender product shop. The Blake family has run operations generation after generation since. “It’s a community affair,” Blake explains. He recalls working with family, friends, even teachers on weekends at the farm.
“It’s a tradition I wanted to build upon.”
After graduating from Michigan State University in 2011 with a degree in economics, Blake wanted to bring his own idea to the table to add value to the family business. He knew it had to be something that would continue the legacy of the Blake Farms story - authentic, trustworthy products that come from their very own backyard.
Trial and error led to the development of Blake’s Hard Cider Co in 2013, a hard cider made with apples grown on the farms. Featuring a variety of flavor combinations, such as mango and habanero, strawberries and rose hips, pineapple and sage, and of course, classic apple, the hard cider branch of Blake Farms has now become the largest craft cidery in the Midwest.
Cultivating the CBD industry
But Blake wasn’t done there. He had a second idea in the works for the family business, and that was the Kinder Self-Care line. “As a self-proclaimed hippie in college, I found it fascinating [some] agricultural products got wiped out as a kind of case of Americana,” he explains. “It happened with hemp in the ‘40s and ‘50s.”
Papers, plastics, proteins and CBD products can all be created via hemp. “Even one of Henry Ford’s Model T cars was made out of hemp plastic,” Blake says of a 1941 model.
With a variety of farm equipment on the 820-acre farm complex, the Blake family could grow hemp without too much capital investment. “It made a lot of sense that as it became federally legal, we would jump in and start to explore how we could grow it, what kind of products we could drive from it,” Blake describes.
2019 was a year of exploration for the Kinder Self-Care team, which is comprised of four individuals including Blake. They planned, plotted and evaluated market needs. For now, the hemp is grown onsite and then processed offsite into CBD products sold online, such as oils and chewable gummies.
But the big goal for 2020 is to bring processing home.
“I think more and more people want to know where their products come from,” Blake says. “They want to know where their ingredients come from, who’s making it and then have a sense of connection to it. We want to be a very transparent organization that brings products from nature to people’s doorstep.”
Currently, a business-to-consumer model, Blake, and the team plan to introduce a business-to-business model in late 2020. Most of the online sales have happened organically, he says, without an overly aggressive marketing campaign. By utilizing customer feedback, the company is gaining a better understanding of what a new processing facility could look like and what new products to develop for future sales.
Alongside its other wellness lines, including Lovey’s Specialty Teas, named after Blake’s grandmother, Kinder Self-Care is a natural fit for the expanding Blake family business.
“You see these things where people talk about CBD as a miracle cure,” Blake describes. “But I look at CBD as a supplemental thing that can add value to your everyday life, like a good cup of coffee or tea.”