HIA Board Candidate Profile

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Mike Lewis

Owner - Healing Ground Farms
Sustainable Agriculture Specialist - National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)

Candidate Bio

Farming is in Mike Lewis’ DNA. Born in the aptly named town of Farmington, Maine, Mike Lewis follows in his great grandfather’s footsteps as the first family member in two generations to continue the farming legacy. Raised throughout Maine, green farms and rolling acres accented Lewis’s childhood and cemented in him a love for the natural process of agriculture.

An Army veteran, having served in the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery from 1992-1995, Mike Lewis understands the importance of tradition and the value of hard work. After the Military, Lewis worked on Lobster boats and offshore draggers fishing for haddock and monkfish as well as summered as a licensed arborist. From there, he explored sales positions in various companies selling products and worked his way up from sales trainer, to media buyer to script writer. The main investor of the company ultimately hired Lewis to establish a sales call center for a hedge fund in 2000. There, in addition to sales, he managed portfolios and built relationships with customers as well as trained all incoming sales team members. Five years later, Lewis opened his own branch where he had 22 employees in 12 state that produced sales of financial products in excess of $25 million annually.

In 2008, Lewis had an awakening that got him thinking about his legacy and purpose. This led him on a journey across the country looking to re-connect with nature. During this period, he spent time camping, canoeing, whitewater rafting and cooking in restaurants while reading a lot of books on philosophy, religion and ecology. He eventually landed in Kentucky and realized that it was farming that was calling to him. In 2009, he took an internship on an organic farm in Gravel Switch, Kentucky and founded Growing Warriors - the first Veteran oriented food security project with a mission to equip, asset and train military veterans in production agriculture to feed themselves, their families and their communities. To date, the organization has provided education and training resources to hundreds of veterans and their families.

In 2014, Lewis began farming Hemp as part of the Kentucky Pilot Program. With the support of Fibershed and Patagonia Lewis became the first federally permitted hemp farmer in the US since prohibition. To date, Lewis has won numerous awards for his work in agriculture and farming, including the 2013 and 2014 Local Food Hero award, the 2015 Wendell Berry New Agrarian Kentucky Colonel award, the 2014 Yahoo People That Made the World a Better Place award, and the GRIST 50 award.

In 2016, Lewis co-founded Third Wave Farms - an industrial hemp company based Livingston, Kentucky. As a leader within the industrial hemp industry, Third Wave Farms is working to bridge the gap between farmer and consumer while creating a modern farm movement to revitalize a cottage industry. The company brings technology based solutions with better business practices to rural American communities. Third Wave Farms actively implements practices to help revitalize rural economies and introduce new business opportunities to American farms.

Today, Lewis is a regularly sought after speaker and educates audiences on Agrarianism, Regenerative Agriculture, Farm Safety, Veterans in Agriculture and local economics. He also serves as an Advisory Board Member of Growing Warriors.

In addition, Lewis is on the Board of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) a non-profit trade association representing more than one thousand supporters, farmers and business members serving the hemp industries where he is involved in helping to shape policy, standards and educational resources for farmers. He was the first president of the board of the Kentucky chapter of HIA and is a former member of the KY Hemp commission- the group that crafted Kentucky and federal legislation surrounding the Farm Bill that was passed in January 2019.

He has been recognized as a Farm Aid hero for his work with Veterans and sustainable agriculture and holds the position of director of the KY AgrAbility project at University of Kentucky Cooperative. The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities, so that they, their families, and their communities continue to succeed in rural America.

Lewis currently resides in Kentucky with his wife, daughter and son. When he is not on the farm or working the fields, Lewis enjoys reading and debating the relationships between religion and ecology.

Candidate Skills Self-assessment

Corporate Governance / Board Service - Significant to expert
Nonprofits / Fundraising - Significant to expert
Business / Management - Significant to expert
Compliance / Regulatory - Fair to moderate
Policy / Advocacy - Significant to expert
Safety / Testing - Fair to moderate
Marketing / Public Relations - Significant to expert
Accounting / Finance - Significant to expert
Team Building / HR - Fair to moderate
Public Speaking / Media -Significant to expert
Strategic Planning - Significant to expert

What vision for the hemp industry motivates you to get involved and try to help make it a reality?

In this rapidly changing environment, now more than ever, Farmers need stability. Hemp represents an opportunity for us, as an association of Industry leaders, to help create that stability and that is my primary goal. If we do not eat, we do not live. The hemp plant offers plenty of opportunities for us as an association to support parity for farmers and the planet. The intersection between commerce and agriculture is the key to the change we need as a species, and it is my hope to help guide our industries early passion and excitement for a cleaner planet and resilient agriculture systems into a better future for all.

Because HIA serves all facets of the hemp industry, we have a truly big tent membership with diverse needs, opinions, and perspectives. As a Director, how will you help the organization to effectively balance those factors?

Being a farmer and holistic farm management trainer, I have a deep understanding of how an ecosystem functions and how different aspects of that system, no matter how small, has an overreaching impact on the whole. This perspective has helped me understand the importance of organizational balance and has increased my ability to adapt in professional settings as well. Everything, no matter how small, has place and value.

What priorities do you think HIA should be focusing on in the coming years in order to best support the hemp industry?

Market development and expansion. Farmer education. Proactive legislation that supports the growth of our Industries.

What aspects of your background and/or character do you think will be most helpful in terms of your ability to be an effective board member?

As a farmer, I have learned to constantly question my own expertise and experience and that has proven critical to my success as a farmer and educator. I do not have all the answers and often find myself pleasantly surprised when I am wrong. Listening and understanding the perspectives of others is the key to our personal and organizational growth.

What would you tell a prospective member about the HIA in order to help them understand the value of joining?

There is strength in numbers and if we do not want to become another story of wasted potential, we should all be working together to honor the potential for this plant to create lasting and meaningful change.
Also, some of the coolest, hardest working people you will meet are here in our tent.