“There’s so much more education to this plant and how truly beneficial it is to so many,” says Autumn Shelton, the CFO and co-owner of the family-run cannabis cultivator Autumn Brands, which is based in Carpinteria.
She believes most people don’t realize that, in the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon formed the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse in order to justify making cannabis a Schedule 1 drug. But the report came back advising that cannabis should not be criminalized, and that prosecuting marijuana crimes was a distraction from the fight against heroin.
“It’s not a gateway drug,” says Autumn. “Nixon dismissed the report, hid the papers, and made it Schedule 1 to fit his war on drugs. People think it’s addictive. It can be psychologically addictive like extreme sports, but it doesn’t cause withdrawals.” With cannabis now legal in California and many other states, Autumn says, “I feel I can put a face to the brand and to what we do. We were selling only in bulk until May. We didn’t know what the market demanded.”
In addition to growing cannabis, the Autumn Brands staff of 75 trims and dries the crop. Some of the flowers are packaged into jars, while others are made into pre-roll joints. All of it is distributed, and new products are coming out soon.
“On July 1, Autumn Brands was one of the few that was compliant with the state so the demand for our product quickly grew,” she states. “We serve 150 dispensaries.” Autumn is also proud to tell me that they are 50 percent women-owned, and the business is united by two families that own and operate the farm. “We’d be nothing without our team of managers and employees,” she says.
“I was born in Carpinteria with a midwife,” says Autumn, whose parents lived at the spiritual community of Sunburst Farms. Her husband, Abe Shelton, grew up there, and they met at a reunion many years later. When she was 11, her family moved to the Conejo Valley, but she came back in 1998 to attend SBCC.
She then spent five months in Europe. “In 2001, I backpacked by myself,” she recalls. “I was at a point where I needed change. I turned 21 in Verona. It was literally my coming of age. I couldn’t figure what I wanted.”
She returned to UCSB to study Italian and psychology. “It taught me about the human brain and how people are how they are,” explains Autumn, who became a real estate broker after graduation and worked for three years at Prudential.
After the market crash, she reunited with her would-be husband, who was a server at bouchon. They hadn’t seen each other in 11 years. Abe was planning to go to Australia for a year-and-a-half, intending to explore, camp, surf, and spear fish. They weren’t married yet, but she was determined to join him. “It took me four months to save money and join him at one of the most remotes areas in Northwestern Australia,” she says.
They camped for three months and lived in a two-person tent. “Eventually I learned to free dive and spear fish,” she says. “I found myself head-to-head with a 10-foot bronze whaler. I became the shark protector for my husband.” They went on to travel to Bali and came back to Australia.
In 2010, Autumn was working for Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, managing and selling properties for the bank. When that bank changed hands, she and Abe wanted to go on another adventure. He proposed at the Rose Garden and, in May 2012, they were married at the HeartStone Ranch in Toro Canyon. She quit the bank a week after and they went to Australia for 16 months, along with side trips to Bali, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, and Panama.
By the end of 2013, the Sheltons came back to Santa Barbara, and Autumn started looking for a commercial real estate job. The chance to be the financial controller for a commercial cut flower grower materialized. “I felt this was where I was meant to be,” she says. “This was new and different.”
Due to competition with South America, it was difficult to keep the cut flower business going. “When the opportunity of transitioning to the medical marijuana collective presented itself, we jumped on it,” she explains. “Abe is the brand manager, does presentations, and sells our message.” They’re trying to be sensitive to the concerns of neighbors, and were one of the first to install the Byers Scientific odor-control system, that eliminates the smell of cannabis without relying on masking agents.
Autumn and Abe have a three-year-old boy, Lennox, and love living in Santa Barbara. “We are able to go from the mountains to the ocean in 15 minutes,” she says.
Autumn Shelton answers the Proust Questionnaire.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Greater patience when my three-year-old son’s strong will meets new heights. I have four books by my bedside teaching me how, so I’m getting closer.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that I learn something new and get challenged almost everyday. I also get to work with wonderful like-minded, hard-working, and thoughtful people.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
In elementary school, I dressed up as and presented Emmeline Pankhurst to the class. To this day, she still resonates with me. Her tenacity to fight for women’s rights no matter what she had to go through to get there is incredible on so many levels. I am also a very determined person and, without women like her, the opportunity to become a CFO would never of happened. I am grateful for all strong proactive women from the past, present and the future.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A Sunday afternoon picnic at the Santa Barbara Rose Gardens with family and friends. Picking and chomping on sour grass by our tree swing with my three-year-old son. Camping somewhere every month. Traveling the world with my husband. Owning and running a successful company with products that we are proud of.
What is your greatest fear??
I will go head-to-head with 10-foot sharks while spearfishing and freediving in Australia, but I will not go downhill mountain biking! My biggest fear is riding a bike along a skinny bumpy trail and falling off.
Who do you most admire?
I admire my mom the most. She has always been my inspiration in life to find balance and the strength to accomplish anything I set my mind to. I also really admire my mother-n-law. She has an incredible sense of self and ability to bring joy and calmness to everyone that she meets. I have two amazing moms!
What is your greatest extravagance?
The chicken coop mansion my husband is going to build for me. We currently have eight chickens, but I would love to have 15 to 25 in the near future. I love indulging in and sharing fresh organic eggs with family and friends. I also love to watch happy chickens roaming around. Fingers crossed for this spring!
What is your current state of mind?
Focused on making 2019 a successful year for our business, and setting aside quality time with family and friends.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Communication, humor, and the ability to not sweat the small stuff.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Someone who doesn’t keep to their word. If they say they will do something, then they should follow through.
What do you most value in friends?
I value friends who are your village near and far. They are there at a moment’s notice even if you haven’t talked in a year for whatever may be needed and vice versa.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I do my best to stay positive, open, and solve problems. I don’t like to dwell on things. Honor the feelings, solve the problem, and then move forward.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
My husband always makes fun of me when I describe someone as “dynamic.” I guess I do that a lot. But there are a lot of dynamic people out there! My mom says I use word “nice” and the phrase “a lot”… a lot!
Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I had a singing voice that others actually enjoyed. But at least the walls of my shower don’t mind!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Creating an amazing human being with my husband. Going through pregnancy, having an amazing natural birth at the Santa Barbara Birth Center, and the last three years of guiding our incredible little boy. And also everything our company Autumn Brands has accomplished over the last couple years. Everyday has been a new hurdle. It’s truly incredible where we have come and where we are going. I’m proud of our team everyday.
Where would you most like to live?
I have traveled all over the world, but my favorite place to call home is still and always will be Santa Barbara. But perhaps one day when my husband and I retire, we will live 50 percent in Santa Barbara and 50 percent of the year Australia. We spent two years all together in Australia (2009-2010 & 2012-2013) and have so many wonderful friends and places we love there.
What is your most treasured possession?
The rose quartz and diamond necklace my stepdad gave me 14 years ago. I still wear it almost everyday. And of course my wedding ring which has diamonds that are a family heirloom. I guess the theme here is gems and diamonds. Hint hint.
What makes you laugh the most?
This is a tough one. I do a lot of laughing and smiling almost everyday. So the Whos are all my beloved family and friends that I get to laugh with all the time. The What are great comedies that make you laugh so hard you fall off the seat and make your stomach and cheeks hurt.
What is your motto?
I can do this!
On what occasion do you lie?
I value being a very honest person. So it’s really a rare occasion for me to tell a lie. But that doesn’t mean I won’t omit something.