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Updated: January 11, 2021

Inside Southbridge's would-be veteran-minded marijuana company

Photo | Courtesy | Green Meadows Farm Green Meadows Farm, a dispensary in Southbridge

Cannabis is coming to Southbridge, but with a decidedly veterans-focused approach.

Green Meadows Farm, run by CEO Robert H. Patton, the grandson of famed World War II hero General George S. Patton Jr., is scheduled to open on Mill St. sometime in 2021. The company has received a provisional license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission to operate a recreational dispensary, although it could be several months before the firm receives final approval.

Robert Patton himself is not a veteran, but the military and support of the military is a family endeavor.

“It is something that’s part of the consciousness as a family,” he said. 

Photo | Courtesy of Green Meadows Farm
The team at Green Meadows Farm has been working closely with the Town of Southbridge in advance of its planned opening.

Robert’s father established a farm in Hamilton, north of Boston, in 1981 after he retired as a major general from the U.S. Army.

“He made a remarkable switch from being a hardcore, dedicated military man to become a man of the soil dedicated to the green principals of horticulture,” Robert said.

Robert’s mother took over the farm after the major general passed away in 2004, and when she was nearing 90, the family got together to decide what to do next. After some discussion, they decided to pursue medical marijuana to help veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and long term pain.

“When we realized we could do what we always wanted to do for veterans in terms of hiring, training, philanthropy – all those things that are important to our family – it suddenly became a fit,” he said, noting the plan morphed into including adult use as well.

Robert is an advisor to the Patton Veterans Project in New York City, the nonprofit founded in 2012 by his brother Benjamin Patton to help veterans and their families cope with post-deployment issues of PTSD and social isolation. The Patton family is also well-known for its support of other charities like Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Troop Support and National Military Family Association.

Catering to veterans

Green Meadows is incorporating a veterans focus to its business model.

“The authentic mission we are bringing to the market in support of veterans will resonate,” said Christian Zawacki, Green Meadows chief operating officer.

Stephen Mandile, CEO of United Mass Wellness, Uxbridge selectmen, veteran and outspoken supporter of cannabis use for veterans dealing with mental health issues, said cannabis options for veterans are more important than ever.

“I share a path many other veterans share: I was injured and then over-medicated,” said Mandile, who credits cannabis with helping him quit prescription opioids. “Having alternatives is huge.”

Mandile said businesses catering to veterans access a group of people with lots of buying power.

“Veterans are a loyal customer base and will trek extra miles for businesses that go out of their way to support veterans,” he said.

When recreational marijuana sales first became legal in November 2018, the first-ever customer at Leicester dispensary Cultivate – one of two dispensaries to kick off legal cannabis sales in Massachusetts – was Mandile.

Green Meadows is committed to hiring as many veterans as possible in a variety of roles, and have done outreach to several agents of the veteran community to tap into the market. The company held an open house event on Veteran’s Day as both a way to showcase what it will be offering and as a job fair.

Green Meadows is committed to supporting other local veteran’s organizations once it is operational. 

Robert H. Patton, CEO of Green Meadows Farm and grandson of General George S. Patton

“It has been a family mission, and what has helped define our family with the things we have done over the course of decades,” Robert Patton said. “We are exemplifying that by doing everything we can do to make ourselves visible to the veteran community.”

Seed to sale

Green Meadows will launch its cultivation, extraction and processing facility under the same roof as its retail dispensary in a 35,000-square-foot space. The wholesale inventory is coming from other operators in the state.

“It has been a great experience doing outreach because the cannabis community is very collaborative and supportive,” Zawacki said.

Green Meadows hopes to begin production in late in the first quarter, and once vertically integrated from seed to sale, Green Meadows will activate its pending medical cannabis license. 

Patton and Zawacki both said they have a true passion and commitment to exceeding regulatory standards.

“It will be a difference maker in the market,” Zawacki said. “‘Beyond compliance’ is an internal mantra, and it resonates in the way we conduct ourselves in total transparency.”

Economic stability in Southbridge

Southbridge Town Councilor David Adams, who is chair of the city’s Planning and Development Subcommittee, has appreciated this thorough approach.

“It’s been a good partnership,” Adams said. “Bob Patton and his crew have bent over backwards for the needs of this town. They have set a standard for other businesses to come to this town and to hopefully flourish in this area. When I look at any other retail marijuana coming in, and I’ll be comparing them to Green Meadows.”

The facility will be housed in a restored 19th century mill building in downtown Southbridge, an area undergoing a revitalization.

“They’ve welcomed us, and we’ve become quite attached to the community,” Patton said. “Cannabis is usually not placed in the best part of town, but we are in an industrial building that is part of a wonderful renewal, and we really want to ride that crest. This is an urban community that has struggled a bit but has turned into something vibrant.”

The facility has a floor plan set up to allow people to shop comfortably with current COVID restrictions and boasts 45 dedicated parking spaces.

“We can envision this area becoming a place people come to eat and shop,” Zawacki said.

Adams, is retired from U.S. Marine Corps, president of the Southbridge Veterans’ Council, and commander of the local VFW post, and he has been impressed with Green Meadow’s mission.

“They’ve done a great job recruiting and reaching out to our community,” he said. “They’ve tainted me in a positive way in terms of what I’m expecting other companies to do.”

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