Nurture Your Body and Mind from the Ground Up
A ninety-minute drive from Chattanooga, Tennessee is the rural community of Dunlap, population 2,400. Never heard of it? Well, you’re about to, and so is the rest of the world.
Dunlap is the home of Kat’s Naturals, therapeutic products founded on CBD oil from hemp. In the beginning, free samples were offered at the family’s farm produce stand. Today, Kat’s Naturals is a thriving and socially responsible business.
Company Founder, Owner, and Chief Executive Officer Kat Merryfield began her journey as a healer by studying nutrition, herbology, and homeopathy at Clayton College of Natural Health in Birmingham, Alabama before returning to her native Georgia to practice as a consultant in the Atlanta area. Seven years ago, feeling the city was getting too busy, she, husband Brian Merryfield, and their four children moved to Tennessee and bought a small farm.
“This is where I got in touch with CBD,” she told us, “because I had hurt my back, and one of the farm hands who was working for me gave me some. It worked immediately. This was something I had never seen in the natural health world because usually, things help over time, and I was blown away by it. This was in 2014, and then no one knew much about the science behind it, what it was all about.”
Kat contacted the Canadian company from its phone number on the label and was told the product was made from cannabis. “I asked, ‘what does it do?’ And they said they didn’t know.” Kat continued searching for answers online. “No one answered except for one European company who were willing to do background checks. We made a contract that I would be educated by them and learn to formulate and then import the raw materials into the U.S. and I would do my formulations here,” she explains.
“So we started making the products and giving it to people to try who came to our stand at the farmers’ market, and I tried it on my husband, who had PTSD from serving in the military for thirteen years, and it stopped him from having nightmares, grinding his teeth, and helped him be more calm. Now he’s nothing like he was then,” Kat shares.
“Having it at the farm stand allowed people to try it and come back to us with their stories, and what we learned was just amazing. It blew our minds. We figured out what potencies were good based on peoples’ experience, and we worked with them through different formulations, and that is how Kat’s Naturals was born,” she says.
“We started with a THC-free formula because we are in the south, and a lot of people here are very against the psychoactive component of cannabis, so I wanted to give people an alternative. I’d heard it said that without the THC, CBD doesn’t work, but all of our customer testimonials proved that isn’t true.”
Since 2017, Kat has been working with Tennessee farmers who started growing hemp as a pilot project in 2014. As of this year, it will be considered by the state to be a normal crop. Some of the farms are relatively small, with only a few acres under cultivation, but Corbin Farms (corbinsciences.com) has forty acres under cultivation, with a further eight soon to be added.
“The farmers have perfected the process, so we have some very nice strains, which are grown pesticide-free, and they are always consistent because consistency is one of the things we need with our product,” says Kat. To ensure this, products are tested at a third-party laboratory and come with a certificate of analysis.
A favorite strain, for which Corbin Farms holds a license, is Canna-Tsu because it can be planted in August and harvested in December. The later growing season avoids the bugs, diseases, and molds that affect plants in June and July when conditions are humid and moist.
Once harvested, the product goes to the extractor where it is put through a series of extraction methods without using chemicals and is triple distilled. “By the time it gets to us, it has been diluted into the product we need, and we add the remaining ingredients to make it what we want, and we do the bottling at our facility, and then it goes out to the end consumer.”
Kat’s Naturals products are available in a variety of delivery methods including the THC-free CBD sublingual range, full-spectrum CBD sublingual products, topical creams, a skin care serum, and edibles. There is even a pet care line.
The pet care THC-free CBD sublingual is “designed to be placed under the ear of the dog and massaged for better results. I don’t want people to waste money, and they need to understand the best method of absorption so they can utilize the products to their best advantage.”
How to use CBD hemp extract is one of the topics Kat explores on her blog. “There are so many confusing issues in our industry, and I want people to understand what they need to know and get rid of the confusion. For example, people wonder if there’s a difference between hemp seed oil versus hemp oil versus CBD hemp extract oil, and there is. I want my blog to keep people informed. It’s not to promote our product and bash everyone else. We just try to inform people.”
The product categories have different formulations that are designed for specific purposes. For example, within the THC-free CBD sublingual category are five categories: Relax, Metabolize, Heal, Naked, and Pet Care. The 300 milligram (mg) CBD Relax and 500 mg Metabolize formulas “are created for generally healthy people who don’t need high concentrations of CBD oil,” she explained. “In our Relax and Metabolize formula, we put in terpenes to bring out the relaxation or the metabolizing aspect of the CBD, and that allows less to become more because it opens the receptor sites in our brains to let it come in more efficiently.”
Meanwhile, the Heal and Naked formulas contain higher concentrations of CBD oil – 1,500 mg each – and are designed for people who suffer from chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, and the “higher concentration allows them to use only three to five drops to get the concentration they need. If they are working with a doctor to get higher concentrations in their blood, they can utilize it more efficiently, so they do not have to take as much oil,” Kat explains.
“We also have two new products, Balance (750 mg of CBD) and Restore (1500 mg of CBD) that are full-spectrum sublinguals, which means they have the full plant, all the cannabinoids and the terpene that’s found in our strains, and we put peppermint in them for… the taste, as it’s very strong, and the peppermint helps with the palatability,” she says.
“Then there’s our THC-free skin serum (250 mg CBD), formulated for skin problems. It has a very high vitamin formula, with all natural and essential oils to help as an anti-bacterial and to help with itching and healing dry skin.”
Kat’s Naturals also produces 350 mg CBD creams and a 600 mg CBD cream. People who have arthritis or circulation or nerve ending problems can use it in the affected location, and it gives them an alternative to taking an internal drop.
“We also make chocolates with an activated hemp flour, and this is from the whole plant and not an extract, so when people eat it, it goes into the digestive system and is extracted as a food source,” says Kat.
“We have lots of different ways people and pets can get what they need, and we make sure the science backs it up. We want to be a good model in a virtually unregulated industry, because everything going into each bottle is going into a sick person, and we want to make it the best quality so they can truly heal. No matter how big we get, the quality and the standard must never drop. Everyone is held to a high standard, and we won’t purchase from anyone who is not using best practices. Everything from seed to shelf has to be superior quality.”
Because the industry is not regulated by the FDA, transparency is crucial in establishing trust. “We have to be as transparent as possible so people will feel comfortable and can see all of the testing. We put a QR code on each of our boxes, so when someone purchases a bottle, they can scan the code and see everything about it. Even if the FDA won’t regulate us, we are working to be regulated,” Kat explains.
“The business grew three hundred percent last year, and we’re already up this year (at time of interview in June) by sixty-five percent from last year,” she told us.
As she writes on her blog, “Our most significant business accomplishment would have to be establishing a company that doesn’t have any debt. This accomplishment brings stability and the understanding that we aren’t working under the gun of ‘we’ve got to pay the bank this month.’ Corporate debt is higher in the U.S. than it’s ever been, so I think that’s a unique perspective you don’t see a lot.”
The company has twenty employees, including Kat’s husband Brian, who draws on his engineering background to work as director of operations in the new 16,000-square-foot facility, replacing the former 9,000-square-foot one. Sixty percent of sales are online but growth in the retail space is occurring nationally as more states and local governments open up to CBD and hemp, and Kat has just signed a contract to export to Japan.
Kat’s Naturals is stimulating the community in this economically depressed region by hiring locally rather than outsourcing. It has also partnered with area farmers, extractors, a box manufacturer, and a printer who supplies the labels.
Financial stability is making it possible to give back to the larger community. Kat’s Naturals is a supporter of the Atlanta organization Operation Rally Point, started by an Iraq War veteran who served with her husband. Operation Rally Point assists veterans with the transition back to civilian life. “People don’t want to hire former combat soldiers, so this program helps people to work around their PTSD, and he helps them get jobs and helps with housing, medical bills, families, all those kinds of things,” Kat says.
“Sadly, some organizations don’t want to accept donations from cannabis companies, and six organizations connected with breast cancer turned us down. That was heartbreaking, but we were glad to find a local group that would accept our help. We raised $10,000 last year by donating ten percent of sales from the Naked line during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to a local organization which pays the bills for people in our community who are going through cancer treatment and don’t have insurance or their insurance doesn’t cover because of a pre-existing condition. Medical bills are so huge that some have lost their homes,” says Kat.
“Kat’s Naturals started by word of mouth, and we just grew,” she says. “Now we help people on multiple levels… At the beginning, I didn’t know that was even possible.”