The glow of the city lights from Athens kiss the edge of the darkness in the distance. That light is the only light that can be seen by the eager harvesters of the grape vineyard as they await midnight. One by one, headlamps attached to their foreheads turn on as they begin to delicately pluck the grapes from their vines as they begin the process of turning them from bulbous fruit to a fragrant wine. The harvest is done under the moon to ensure that the grapes remain firm and crisp. The temperature at midnight is perfect for this type of harvesting. It was on a trip to Greece where sisters Macie and Riley Queen fell in love with this method and decided that this would be the approach they would use in harvesting their own crop of hemp in Buckhannon, West Virginia. They launched Moon Flower Hemp in 2019 right before the pandemic and it has quickly grown into one of the most influential companies in the West Virginia hemp market. They recently opened a physical location in their hometown of Buckhannon that creates an amazing atmosphere for people to be educated on the topic of hemp and enjoy all types of entertainment, including live music. We went to Moon Flower to talk to the Queens about their passion and vision for hemp and culture in West Virginia.
Conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.
BB: You started this while you were both students in college. Macie, you were a freshman and Riley, you were a Junior. How did this whole thing become a reality for two people who hadn’t even finished schooling yet?
RQ: Yeah, I was 20 and she was 18. Our dad, who ironically is a retired police officer, which made our hemp journey a little rocky at times, first brought up the idea of starting a business. He has always been a big entrepreneur. We’ve had lots of different businesses throughout our lives, which is why Macie and I thought, oh yeah, a business just makes sense. Dad actually brought it up to us. He sat us at the table and said “I’ve been looking into this hemp thing” and he jumped in with a completely changed mindset. He started with bulk oil sales the very first year. We focused on growing as many plants as we could.
MQ: We grew 15,000 plants our first year. By hand. We had never farmed before. It was the most intense labor I’ve ever experienced.
RQ: Yeah, It was kind of terrible. Again, at this time we were in college. So we were waking up at 5:30, heading to the farm, working three to four hours, going back to class smelling like hemp.
BB: So you blended in nicely.
RQ: We had to tell our professors we were growing it because of the looks. So, then Covid happened and the bulk CBD market became extremely saturated. Bulk oil fell, but in the middle of it Macie and I were wanting to have our own brand. We talked our dad into having our own little section of the field. Not very many plants the first year.
MQ: Bulk oil is very different. It’s just tossing the seeds and letting them grow. With this we wanted to baby them. We wanted to have our own plants that we watched every day and that we took very specific care of.
RQ: We use certain specific nutrients and are dedicated to all natural farming practices. So when covid hit and the oil dropped, Moon Flower just skyrocketed. We were really surprised because at the time the pandemic brought a lot of hardship for a lot of businesses across the state. But it was at a time where people were looking for relief and fun that you could do at home, and that allowed us to grow.
BB: There were a lot of businesses that covid hurt but some that covid really helped.
RQ: It helped us that people were spending so much time on their screens and we were able to be in front of them. We were constantly putting out content and allowing people to get behind the scenes to our farming process. And because we allowed that transparency and brought people along for the journey, they grew to trust the band.
MQ: We were putting everything out there. From the second we planted the seed, to watching it grow, to becoming the product, they could watch it all. People were really interested in that process. It was cool because at Wesleyan I was a writing major and Riley was a graphic design major, so we had the ability to do so much of that promotion.
BB: Your branding is on point. The design of it all is very professional. How big is the Moon Flower farm?
Both: 133 acres.
BB: How many employees does Moon Flower have?
RQ: Fourteen, and that is crazy when you consider we started with five which were myself, Macie, mom, dad and our grandma. Dad is more on the financial and permitting side of things.
MQ: December of 2019.
BB: And the physical location that we are in, when did it open?
RQ: March 31st of this year.
BB: So in less than four years you guys have gone from five employees to fourteen employees, a 133 acre farm, and a physical location. What’s next?
MQ: Our App which is an extension of our website and intended to make things more user friendly.
RQ: The App is what I’m currently working on. But we have a few plans. We want to expand our drink and beverage line and hit on that as an alcohol alternative. I want to do canned six packs that the entire pack would consist of a full dose which is fifty milligrams. That allows people to enjoy it in a new way that is safer than alcohol. You can get a buzz that is medicinal. It targets your endocannabinoid system, decreasing inflammation and balancing your hormones all while you’re having a good time. Whereas doing shots of tequila are damaging your liver.
MQ: People will drink alcohol and get into a fight, spend money they didn’t intend to and possibly fight. The most you’re going to do with this is drink and maybe eat a pizza and go to bed.
BB: You’re located with this awesome facility here in Buckhannon. It’s more than a store. What would you say it is?
MQ: An experience.
RQ: We don’t want people to just come buy our products. We want them to come experience them. Learn about them and see how they’re crafted and who they’re crafted by. It’s about transparency. We want to maximize people’s experience with cannabis. We have live music, we do game nights. We want this to be a safe place where people can dip their toes in the water and feel like it’s an ok and professional journey at the same time.
BB: You have a BYOF policy where people can bring their own food and enjoy your products. You’ve created a very unique culture around what you do. Why was it important for you to foster that around your product?
RQ: It’s about community for us. The BYOF, not only are we supporting the multiple restaurants around us but we don’t have to be one ourselves which we have no interest in doing. So not only do we hang with the community but we can have food in our space.
MQ: And there is no question if cannabis makes you want to eat. It definitely does.
BB: On your wall you have these principles. Number 3 states “there is no finish line.” I love that because in business some feel like there has to be an end game, but maybe there isn’t a defined goal. Maybe the goal is to just keep growing and expanding and seeing where that leads.
RQ: Exactly, we started this business as people who have always valued our time more than money. I would rather be able to leave for three weeks and not have to answer to anyone. It’s why we fell in love with business and why we went so hard with Moon Flower. It means so much to us to have access to the human experience and what we are here for.
BB: So, why Buckhannon?
MQ: We were both born and raised here and we absolutely love Buckhannon and we fall more and more in love with Main Street as we get older. We’ve been able to see all of these businesses come and go in a way that is progressive. There are so many young women business owners now on Main Street and it just feels so cool to be a part of that.
RQ: It’s getting to the point where women own Buckhannon. It’s pretty cool. I just see this area popping off. We definitely fell into the right place to start a business like this.