“There is a space that needs to be held for [BIPOC cannabis farmers] so that they know that they are being taken care of and met at their level,” says James Arrington III of the hemp/CBD, cannabis, and consulting company Tohiyusdv Cavalry.
The Black-owned company, located in Virginia, is not only concerned with cultivating quality hemp and cannabis products but providing education, training, and support to minority farms and small brands who are new to the cannabis industry or are transitioning their farms into it via their Precision Craft Farmer program.
“Connected to a Journey”
“I got into this industry to connect with people with similar backgrounds and similar experiences with cannabis,” says Arrington. He explains that he grew up in Norfolk, Virginia in a neighborhood “considered a war zone” at a time when mental health problems were not understood or diagnosed.
He didn’t use cannabis until his time at Old Dominion University, where he was studying Electrical Engineering and working simultaneously as an electrician. “I had a hard time shutting down when it was time to go to sleep,” he says. “I used cannabis to knock me out, but I didn’t realize I was using it in a medicinal way.”
A Journey Through Cultivation
James’ love of horticulture is something that has weaved through all aspects of his life. It started with being placed in the garden to plant vegetables, trees and flowers as a form of “punishment” by his mother. It became an option that he decided to decline as a career path after high school, and placed on a shelf for when James recognized that there was a connection between improving his mental health and being among plants like cannabis.
Becoming a fervent learner of all things cultivation over decades, James dedicated the horticulture knowledge he gained to understanding more about hemp and cannabis once understanding the impact it had on his own life.
He obtained significant experience in defining cultivation standards and working with the hemp and cannabis plants to ensure crop durability, high yields, and quality techniques in his role as Cultivation Team Lead within micro-research facilities. He also engaged in medical research of various hemp and cannabis cultivars in this role, gaining an understanding of the outcomes of different cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
For the Precision Craft Farmer program, James blends his horticultural background and research experience to choosing the most favorable cultivars for clients, teaching them about how to create the most habitable environment for their growth using automation technology for craft farming principles.
Mentors Building Mentors
It was at college that he recognized the importance of mentorship. “An alumni took me under his wing and taught me business,” Arrington reminisces, “He’d tell me ‘I never want to hear you say that again’ when I said I couldn’t do something. These discussions tended to be around opportunities, business tables or rooms that I felt that I couldn’t be in.”
“There is not a lot of transparency and authenticity when people are teaching others,” he says, “People don’t want to give their ‘secret recipes’.”
As he undertakes projects with the Precision Craft Farmer program, Arrington is dedicated to honesty, transparency, and authenticity, holding nothing back from those he mentors. “What helped me find this was cannabis. It’s connected to a journey,” he says.
Like a Small, Thin Battery
James explains that Tohiyusdv Cavalry’s Precision Craft Farmer program shows minority farmers how to create a profit by paying attention to quality, and how quality produces a standard.
James says that the program model involves teaching minority farmers the art and science of craft hemp farming under the brand of Tohiyusdv Cavalry, but the farm itself puts out the product. “We aren’t taking them over, they’re just powered by us,” he clarifies, “We’re a small thin battery within them. The power is small but important.”
The Precision Craft Farmer program has become a community and network of farmers that produce premium CBD products based on craft farming for their local communities. They accompany products with thoughtful education to promote the potential benefits of hemp and CBD.
One of the important aspects of James’s mentorship approach is helping people understand the predatory practices that can occur within hemp and cannabis, as well as some of the issues that can come up with potential investors who may seemingly be only interested in big business and big bucks.
He says he “provides the tools to protect and educate themselves” so that people, specifically those who have been historically harmed or underrepresented in the industry, have a chance at success.
“It’s getting harder to hold that door open when the larger companies are pushing to close it,” James admits. “[The industry needs] more people to stand there and say: ‘this is needed’” he says, referring to the required systemic changes to the industry.
People Over Profit
As James goes forth with building Tohiyusdv Cavalry, he isn’t concerned with his own financial bottom line, gaining fame for his position, or becoming a capitalist within the industry.
Rather, he wants to empower those who may be down on themselves, may think they don’t have what it takes, or may be too intimidated by a large and growing industry, much like his own mentor empowered him all those years ago.
“My path is to connect with people similar to me, to help them, so that they can consider my story, and that people can feel that connection about what help they can be to the industry.”
What’s in a Name?
Anyone who comes across James will recognize him to be a deeply intuitive person who looks for the important meanings in his life and his journey.
In addition to being Black, James is also on a path of discovery toward his American Indian heritage, having learned that he descends from the Croatoan Indians, most famously tied to the story of the lost Roanoke Colony.
“Tohiyusdv” (pronounced “toe-hee-yoos-da”) is a word within the Cherokee syllabary that translates to “calm”. The company uses this term as they consider hemp, CBD, and cannabis effective catalysts for calm and peace in an ever-changing and increasingly difficult world.
Through his path of discovery of his Croatoan heritage, James revealed that the county where he recently purchased land in North Carolina for Tohiyusdv Cavalry has connections to his Lumbee tribal ancestors, and the Arrington slave history.
“Every day I’m convinced even more… all things led me here,” he says.