Ardent Community Member, Roger Sterling aka the Ganja Guru, is a Black farmer, cannabis activist, and influencer. Likes and follows aside, Roger’s priorities stand at the intersection of social justice and educating those about the powerful plant.
Roger is bi-coastal and splits his time living in California and traveling home to his family’s farm in Alabama. The Ganja Guru’s experience as a farmer drives his knowledge and point of view, while his experience as a performer helps elevate the content he creates.
We spoke with Roger to learn more about his story, the history of his family’s farm, what the plant means to him, and more!
1. Ganja Guru, tell us about yourself. What’s your story?
- Thanks for asking. I was born in Alabama, raised in Tennessee. So that’s where the story starts, kind of because my background goes back to just being raised in Alabama on the farm. I think that trickles down to where we are today and is the best place to start. It’s just being on the farm. My dad was raised on the farm, and that’s where I got a lot of my upbringing. I didn’t appreciate it or like it at the time. I left Alabama and came to LA on this entertainment journey which was cool, but had my ups and downs in Hollywood. I’ve done fun stuff, but also it’s hard having a family that’s 2,000 miles away.
- When the 2018 Farm Bill passed and with social equity in mind, we realized all this farmland could be used in a resourceful way. I somewhat hung up the acting and modeling, and started traveling back and forth every month to the farm to see how we could really make the hemp farm grow.
- That is where the start of these things happen. Even just getting educated on this being a possibility for life in Alabama – most people don’t know you can be in the cannabis or hemp business in Alabama. I got that preview of information from being in California and being that guy on the Hollywood set. I was always on my break, having a little smoke, having a little edible, or being that guy that was always not ashamed to consume. So that was kind of part of the journey that switched me over to cannabis. And in that time, when I’m traveling back and forth, I’ll have my little pre-rolls or my edibles that I’ll bring back with me and want to educate my family on the benefits of cannabinoid therapy. Just because in the south, you have this negative idea of what consumption is. I moved to LA 12 years ago as an actor, model, and host, and then got the opportunity to transition into a farmer based on the progression of cannabis studies and legalization.
- I’m a person that is going to do all I can to share my knowledge about cannabis and work with communities that have been disenfranchised or miseducated on those things. Whether it be the consumption of hemp, such as CBD, CBN or CBD, and other crucial cannabinoids, or about the other 50,000 things that you can do with the hemp plant. I’m aiming to educate people and show them a different way of life.
2. We’d love to hear more about your family farm in Alabama and growing hemp.
- Yeah, absolutely. It’s actually a really cool story about my granddad and his brother, Uncle Joe. He’s the infamous farmer in the area and my granddad, who was a pastor, a Barber, a bus driver, and also worked on the railroad track in the area. He was a go to in the community. They went together and bought land during my dad’s early childhood. My dad was born into being part of the community, not knowing that it would be where we cultivate hemp today, which is what we call Culture Valley Farms.
- The first time that I remember in history how it clicked is my dad telling me the story of him being a teenager and his dad being out in the yard working with him. This couple pulled up, who were the loaners they borrowed from for their land, and said they hadn’t been making payments on the farm. My granddad told my dad to go inside and get a shoe box from underneath the bed. Having something as simple as a box full of receipts, that might just be a brown paper bag torn up and marked “$0.10 paid today” with the date, or “dollar paid on April 11”. Not a printed receipt, but a brown paper bag with a date and the paid amount.
- This is what got my dad to be able to invest in the land and see how the powers that be can sometimes not necessarily be working for you, but working against you. I think that in itself builds this sort of pride in him to not ever have to fight for that land again. He’s always been working and has been an agriculturalist since I was born. Horses, cows, chickens, pigs, goats. He raises them and he’s like an animal whisperer.
- He’s also a Butcher. We do all of our own meats, vegetables, and all of those types of things on a small scale. I’ve seen that my dad is an actual renaissance man, and he’s still the guy that has no cell phone, no email address, no laptop. I love that. He’s still very much detached from the progression that we say we have to conform to, and just really appreciates the simple things in life.
- My mom recently retired from 50 years with the federal government and is the complete opposite of my dad. She traveled everywhere and worked with these super confidential agencies, doing things on the computer every day. My dad won’t even fly! My mom’s been around the world. My dad has never been on a plane. Maybe one time, I think, but he’s like, “If God wanted me to fly, he would have given me wings”.
- The farm came from that. My dad and mom made sacrifices to ensure that their children get something to have, whether they want to live on it, work off of it, whatever we want to do. They are really supportive. I’m grateful for that and having that process of growing up on the farm. It was really awesome when the 2018 Farm Bill passed and stated that anybody who did agriculture can now also grow hemp as the plant is looked at under the agricultural umbrella. My dad’s appreciation for agriculture and my appreciation for cannabis now merge.
- We have this opportunity that gives us the ability to have a really beautiful relationship. I realized that I would inevitably need to learn how to be an agriculturalist, and he learns things just about me. Most of the time, parents and kids don’t get that opportunity to just be visual and present with each other. You go to high school, then you graduate and you go to college, then you’re in your adult life, and only sometimes they have their influence.
- Getting to actually do business together is really cool. I think it’s the thing that we as a culture lack, and it influenced the name of Culture Valley Farms. I could have easily been just a family farm name but it was really important to do something that was visible for the culture, and for the people that didn’t feel like they had a representation.
- I’ve considered the culture and anyone who is part of the progression, positivity, diversity, and inclusion, to be part of that family that can learn the seed-to-store part of hemp. That’s what I think is the biggest takeaway of what we’re doing in Alabama and what we have the potential to do in LA.
3. Who or what inspired you to get into the cannabis industry?
- I think that has to go back to, of course, the default question of your first consumption. It’s ironic that my first consumption was with someone who then went on to become a police officer. It was during my senior year of high school when I first consume with my cousin Chris. He went on to become a correctional officer, and I went on to college. When I went to college, I saw all these professionals that consumed on a daily basis, and they weren’t what society had taught you about what a cannabis consumer or weed smoker was. They were people who were kind, they were thoughtful, and they were productive. I realized that you can actually use cannabis in a way that’s positive and not just what movie stereotypes have shown us.
- It’s a community of people that have inspired me to get into the cannabis industry. After I found cannabis to be helpful in my walk of life, it was the same community that showed me that there was an industry. Just like my cousin Chris showed me in high school and how I was shown in college about being productive cannabis consumers. I had people like Green Bee Life show me that there was an industry and that there was media behind it. My first cannabis event also inspired me, which was a Sushi and Doobies gathering with the High Dining Club and Barbie Sommars.
- The community of education would be the biggest thing that influenced me to get into the cannabis industry. Also, shout out to my other cannabis influencers! They’re all super dope and seeing other people make creative videos that are educational and informative made me want to be about it and not just sitting on the couch talking about it. So keep producing your videos, going to the events, and speaking your mind!
4. Which Black owned-business should the Ardent community know about?
- That’s probably one of my biggest traits that we’re progressing, like cannabis legalization and sharing about how to patronize companies that we know about. I’m that one that is always looking for Black-owned brands. Ancillary or plant touching.
- That’s how I came across Ardent! It was from asking people about the best Black-owned brands. When it comes to even just the Ardent in itself, it’s a piece of history. The Ardent FX is amazing piece of Black history. Ardent’s Founder, Shanel Lindsay, is a Black woman who created a product that made the world a better place.
- I’m excited to be lined up with a Black-owned brand like Ardent. I always use Black Star Flower in my Ardent device, which is also a Black-owned brand. Or, I use Ball Family Farms, which is one of those flower brands that has a nostalgic piece with an appreciation for entertainment. All of their cannabis strains are based on movie titles or like something that was nostalgic from a time. Viola, of course I love the flower from them. I have some friends that work there and they are always good people.
- I used to make a joke because I live in South Los Angeles in Baldwin Hills and I used to just have like 24-hour Popeyes within a mile either way of my house. But now I have a few Black woman-owned dispensaries. We have Gorilla Rx (shout out to the Kikas!), and Josephine & Billie’s by Ebony Andersen and Whitney Beatty are also close to my home. Also, the Sixty Four & Hope is doing a great job over there. It’s amazing to see progressions of Black-owned businesses and have Black products to patronize in spaces like this and beyond.
- So I applaud the way that our cannabis is being used and those that are taking that risk. My friend Jae from Zyn Wellness released a hemp product line that is amazing. Chef Maverick in downtown LA is an amazing cannabis chef who uses the Ardent device all the time. I can go on for days and days. Nadir Pearson is the co-founder of Hybrid. Imagine a Black man on the East Coast having a box like this that I can get on the West Coast with cannabis products that are just like the latest.
- I love getting the latest cannabis products. The things that are pioneering and aren’t necessarily getting a flashlight, but are amazing. It’s people that are almost their local neighborhood heroes. I’m having a great time going into those neighborhoods and finding the heroes, giving them the spotlight and acknowledging what they’re doing. As I look over, I see more Black-owned items, including Coffee and Kush.
- The Cannabis Cutie covers cannabis in a way that’s educational such as if you want to learn more about how it can impact your body. It’s like my Red Bull, seeing people get re-educated in a way that’s impactful, based on productivity and a positive outcome. It just makes me feel great. So when I see those people, I’ll wear a t-shirt. I have a hat right here that’s another Black-owned brand. It’s just based on education and love, and it comes from here. That’s my favorite. As long as people don’t mess it up, I’m literally here for everybody. Not even just Back people in the space, but people that are here for the justification of the planet’s journey.
5. Who is your favorite Black-owned non-profit/organization?
- Cannaclusive is the first one that comes to mind! Cannaclusive has done a really incredible job with accountability and holding people to the flame. When I find out about those supporting the community, it feels like you’re finding your tribe, and it makes me feel amazing. From NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) to Minorities for Medical Marijuana and all that they’re doing for social equity, there are so many nonprofits constantly pulling up and doing the work.
- We all have an actual responsibility to ensure that people that have been harmed, oppressed, and patronized by this plant are now lifted up. It’s important that they have the proper tools, the proper resources, the proper education, and the proper attention. To anyone fighting for those things, that’s who I’m outlining.
6. What does the plant mean to you?
- Simply I could say now it means everything just based on the seed of knowledge that I know that it can not only be for myself, but also just for society in the country and culture in the world. If people are open to it, it has the power to change the way that we know, the way that we have a relationship with each other, the way that we have a relationship with even just our home. I have a friend who just lost their home to a house fire this past week. If we normalize being able to use hempcrete for housing structures, or using hemp for clothing, just like being able to grow and have it be transformed into textiles and using those as commodities that aren’t necessarily fought for, but they’re always there because everyone can grow their own garden. So if you can grow your own garden, why not learn how to grow your own hemp? Your own hemp can teach you how to grow your own 50,000 different businesses if you really, really want to.
- So to me, when I say everything, it means liberation as a Black person in this space and in America today. To me, hemp is reparation in the form of liberation. It’s a plan that can put you in a place where you need to be every day. I have people asking me how to get into the cannabis industry, including people in California as well as Wyoming, Utah, and Alabama. The best thing that I can tell them is getting where you can. Even if you’re in one of those places that legalization hasn’t happened yet. Fortunately, we had this Farm Bill that allowed hemp to be produced everywhere. You can start with a pot of hemp and grow your own CBD that first year. Then you can get to a place where you have a lot and you’re growing something that can be made into CBD products, or you can phase up into levels of where you start out with just one seed in one pot. Then you grow your production to where you might be releasing or renting a farm from somebody who doesn’t have the knowledge.
- But you now have the knowledge because you planted that first seed, and they might just have everything you need and you might have everything they need. That’s what I found, that the community is there for you. I’ve seen this throughout the process over the last three years. Things that I thought were impossible have happened without much effort at all and that’s based on the community there in the area, but also just based on taking risks.
- We were told the plant was a drug. It was programs and initiatives. It was a war against drugs. This amazing plant was considered in that war of drugs. We should be educated that in addition to our bodies having a nuclear system, a skeletal system, and a muscular system, we also have the endocannabinoid system. They should be teaching us about that. Teach us about how the endocannabinoid system sees those cannabinoids, just like the ones that they make in their own bodies. Our own bodies make cannabinoids, just like this plant does!
- It’s actually part of us. When people know that they can stop looking at their cousin that might not have just had it together at that moment or somebody who just might smoke and got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, they might start looking at them with a little bit more humanity and realize that this is part of all of us. If we look at it as such, we can move the same way and change the world.
- How amazing is it that you can put a plant in the ground and dirt and it cleans the air? As you do both things simultaneously, you can then get that plant out and take those grown nugs and extract it. You can make something to help manage your pain or you can smoke it, and it’ll bring you a sense of relief as well. But not just those buds. You can use that stock and take what’s inside that stock to make it into items that you can use.
- If everybody leverages this, just like my family is doing, we can build a society that’s not dependent on the things that we’ve been relying on. So I’ll say the plant is everything to me.
7. What is your favorite infused recipe/product to make using the Ardent FX?
- Oh my gosh, I’m long-winded already – the list of things I do with my Ardent device is crazy! I just went and talked to another cannabis friend on her podcast this past week, and I had gotten some of the Tempo infused crackers in one of these gift boxes. I wanted to have something with that and made an infused olive tapenade with my FX the other day, and it was so good. Although I messed up and I forgot to check my olives because they had seeds in there! Fortunately, the blender’s blade was really good. Luckily, when we were on the podcast, my friend didn’t get any seeds. I got a little piece of seed, but it was incredibly tasty. I infused my butter and also used some fresh herbs.
- I think the first edible that really just knocked my socks off was when Robert, who actually owns Tempo, and I made a pickled infusion. We didn’t use pickles, that was just next level! I knew that you could make your own butter but this blew my mind.
- I love traveling with my Ardent and how you can decarb, infuse and bake right inside. The way you can use your infusions and turn it into anything, like when Sarah (Ardent’s Content Manager) made the edible candle – this also blew my mind. I already have some butter handy so just being able to reshape it, put that candle wick in there, and pair with some crackers or bread then let the butter melt. It’s a game-changer and so cool. It’s a conversation piece.
- That’s all I do now! Instead of being the guy that would always take a bottle of wine or a bottle of liquor to a gathering, I can use a stick of butter and really blow these people’s minds. I keep infused garlic butter, infused olive oil, and the pickled infusion in the fridge at all times.
- I also have decarbed flower and fresh flower on the counter at all times, to use for my smoothies or for garnishes. I remember when my friend first got her Ardent device and she made infused butter. I was on FaceTime with her because she was so excited and as she was about to throw out the raffinate, I yelled out, “No, don’t throw that away!” That’s not waste, she had gold right there. She put it in a Ziploc bag and ended up using it. You’re able to use every part of the plant at every single stage. Just so amazing.
8. Why do you love Ardent?
- I admire Shanel Lindsay and I’m super excited to be part of the Ardent community. I’m grateful that Ardent has welcomed me with open arms based on being this super excited cannabinoid guy. Aside from the device, I love Ardent because of the community it represents and the community it builds. We all talk about it all the time! I love supporting Black-owned businesses to the end, but this is also a company that supports everybody. It supports anybody that’s supporting cannabis. It’s not just for device owners because even if you don’t have one yet, you can go on the Ardent website and use the range of resources and recipes.
- The feeling that I get from meeting the Ardent team in person at MJBizCon and knowing Nadir (co-founder of Hybrid), who has been one of my longest cannabis industry friends, and how he started out with Ardent in the beginning is really cool. Nothing is accidental. Being part of the Ardent community feels organic.
- You can educate with Ardent and be about action with it. You can show your love with it. There’s so many different kinds of versions of a love language to use your Ardent for. You can easily be a business person. Get someone an Ardent, or you can just give them a stick of butter, or you can make their favorite cookies, or you can have a dinner that’s super romantic with an Ardent candle. There’s so many ways that it can be part of your life. I’ve just been super grateful for that.
- Ardent isn’t necessarily looking for those who have the most followers or who’s doing the biggest thing or who has the loudest voice. They partner with real people that appreciate the plant and Ardent values us in a real way. Thank you guys for taking the time to even speak to me. I’m excited about where the future is going for Ardent, for us, and for the community we’re developing. I would just say that this is an authentic place. I’m grateful for Ardent being an authentic community that can just connect over things like this.
About Roger Sterling
Roger Sterling is a lifeforce in the ever growing world of Cannabis. With an expansive, diverse following, Roger, known to his followers as “The Ganja Guru”, is more than just an influencer – he is a cannabis farmer. His training as an actor elevates the brilliance of his content. The boldness of this social prowess is elevated by his passion for plants and his commitment to education. This work has garnered him partnerships with the largest cannabis brands in the World. Likes and follows aside, Roger’s priorities stand at the intersection of social justice and cannabis.
Roger’s passion, energy, charm and joy uplift all attendees at his live and virtual events. His experience as a farmer drives his knowledge and point of view, while his experience as a performer elevates his content. Ultimately, it’s his experience as a farmer that uniquely elevates the intensity of his collaborations and cultivates the intertwining of his ideas for farming and cannabis.
His content is celebrated for its vibrancy and swagger while intertwining authentic product reviews and cannabis education.