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The Real Science Behind Compost Tea

The Real Science Behind Compost Tea

how to make compost tea for cannabis cultivation

We all know the benefits of compost when it comes to cannabis cultivation.

But we’ve also come a long way from just dumping a pile of compost into your soil and mixing it in. With compost tea, we can now incorporate compost into our cultivation practices by simply feeding the plants through irrigation, just like hydroponic nutrients.

If there’s one man who has gone to extra mile to understand the science behind compost tea in order to create powerful, organic tea mixes, it’s John Picirrilli, Founder of Cutting Edge Solutions.

“So my grandma turned me on to compost tea, I think I’ve already told you this story. She made anaerobic tea. It was just like a jug, a five gallon bucket of manure that we’d fill with water and sit there forever. And then occasionally, she’d get a scoop of water out of it and dilute it and pour it onto her radishes and tomatoes, or whatever we were growing in the backyard, right?” – Chip Baker

Even since he was boy Chip Baker was learning about compost tea and its benefits from his Grandma. And John learned a similar way himself.

 “You know, going back on some of my many mistakes, one of the early ones was doing something like that. And then you do it on a larger scale than a five gallon bucket. Because pretty soon, you see a little works pretty good, so you want more of it to use all at once.” – John Picirrilli

From a five gallon bucket to 50 gallon drums, John quickly expanded his research and development of his compost tea product. And that was 40 years ago. The science behind compost tea and growing with biologicals had limited research at the time, and John was at the forefront of looking at the microscopic details of the teas he was making.

Eventually he would start his own microbiology lab where could study compost tea and all of its components scientifically.

What John Learned

Through his decades of research, John’s findings are plain and simple.

“That’s when I realized better biology means better flower.” – John Picirrilli

While compost teas are nothing new, using them for cannabis cultivation is a relatively new practice, and that’s why John is focused on educating growers on its benefits. But explaining the complex science behind how good compost tea develops isn’t so simple, especially when cannabis cultivators come from a wide range of backgrounds, age and education.

The Real Science Behind Compost Tea

In the Season 5 premiere of The Real Dirt with Chip Baker, John and Chip dive into their history and experience with compost tea, from their first discoveries to developing their current regiment. John goes in depth about how he began and continues his studies into compost tea using his sophisticated methods to find which specific microbes and bacteria are the most beneficial for cannabis.

The two talk about the history of using compost tea, how it has evolved, and why every cannabis cultivator should be incorporating it into their regiment. And of course the two long time friends share some old school stories from the Northern California days.

‘A regulator told me a long time ago. “Don’t try to list too many things on the label. Just say it makes plants happy.”‘ – John Picirrili

Is it that simple? Find out in this episode of The Real Dirt with Chip Baker!

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Chip: Hello, my friends. It’s so good to be back here in another episode of The Real Dirt. Got an exciting season this year for you, The Real Dirt. Wow, last year was incredible. And this year, wow. It’s gonna show so much for the cannabis market and cannabis industry. You know, we’re gonna hold on by the, fly by the seat of our pants. It’s coming so fast and so strong. If you’re involved in the cannabis industry right now, you know what I’m talking about. Everybody sitting at home, unemployed, smoking more weed than they ever have, or you know, they maybe have a little stress or – hey, also, there’s medical cannabis in so many more states now. 2001 is gonna go up in smoke. And I mean that in the very, very best way. That is my prediction, is the cannabis industry is going to be one of the saviors of the country and of the planet. If we’d all just sit back and smoke a little bit of weed, then you know, it’ll be a better place. And those of you who consume cannabis, or who work in the cannabis industry know how good this plant is. And man, dude, it has been so good. Despite of what’s going on in the rest of the country, the cannabis industry just had a banner year last year. And we’re gonna repeat it again. So these next episodes of The Real Dirt man, we’ve got a new studio, it sounds great. You can hear it right now, you can hear the bass in my voice. And I’m stoked man, we’ve been running out of this bedroom in the back of my house. And it hasn’t been the best, and the best internet reception. But man, we’re here, we’re set up for a very socially distanced event. I have many, many guests both on Zoom and as well here in the studio. I have a huge eight foot table, we can all be across from each other. We’ve got great ventilation in here. We’ll socially distance and be as careful as we can. But man, we’ve got some great people from all over the world. They’re gonna chime in this year. And we’re gonna run things a little bit different this year, I hope you guys enjoy it. But I’m really, you know, in this quest for knowledge, and previously, I wanted to know people’s story and understand stuff about them. You know, and I still want that. But one of the goals that we’re gonna have this year at The Real Dirt is we’re gonna answer questions. So if you have any question, and we’re looking on the internet, we’re looking at our Instagram, we’re looking at Facebook every single day. If you have any questions about cannabis, the cannabis industry, you know, ask us at The Real Dirt and maybe we’ll make an episode about it. So currently, we have about 35 episodes planned for this year, we’ll see how it unfolds, we’ll probably get a little bit more, a little bit less. But man, it’s gonna be really informative. If you’ve ever, I apologize for all the bad quality recordings this past year. We’re gonna do far, far better this next year. But uh yeah, man. We’re just gonna grow right along. So yeah, if you haven’t already subscribed, please go to The Real Dirt on iTunes, and on Spotify, and on Amazon and all the other major places where you can listen to podcasts. And listen, all the other episodes you know, if you’re interested in anything, you can ask us at The Real Dirt. “Hey, I’m interested in this, do you have an episode suggestion?” And we’ll give you a suggestion but you know, some of the early episodes are great, great, great information, even though they might have been four or five years ago, three or four years ago. Man, some of that stuff is just great. You guys should all go back and listen to that if you haven’t. We got about 70, 80 episodes published right now and man, they all have some great tidbits of information. But this year it’s going to be super high quality, super informative. And yeah, man. Here we go, man. My first guest is John Piccirilli. Me and John have been friends for years. He introduced himself one day to me in Humboldt County right after I’d started a potting soil plant. He literally rolled by and heard that I’d started a plant, had kind of heard about, you know, what I was trying to do, royal gold coco fiber, this was in like, 2008. John stopped by, said hi. He had a company called Cutting Edge. And so has a company called cutting edge where he makes top quality fertilizers for cannabis. And John helped me over the years tremendously. Anytime I had a question, he was there for me. And you know, when I started selling retail product with Cultivate Colorado and then Cultivate OKC, you know, really supported John and all of his products and whether it’s his 3 Part or his Uncle John’s, or, you know, the Sonoma Gold, man, he’s just got some great, great, great products. He makes nutrition for plants simple. And we’re going to talk to john about of a couple of things. We’re definitely going to get into some compost tea, and we’ll have a few episodes here, where Uncle John kind of explains it all. If you’ve ever met John, you know how he can go on, and on, and on, and on, and on for hours. So, I’m going to try to consolidate all his knowledge into you know, some good, good, good information we can all digest. But what I want you to do now is sit back, roll the largest joint you can and enjoy this episode of The Real Dirt.

 

John: Hey guys. We got John Piccirilli here. He’s the founder of Cutting Edge Nutrient Solution and pretty much go-to source of all things cannabis cultivation and nutrition. There should be like, a Google section that’s just like,  “John says, Uncle John says.” Welcome, John, thanks for coming. 

 

Chip: Thanks Chip, and happy birthday. 

 

John: Oh, yep. This is my birthday episode. For those of you who didn’t get me a gift, it’s okay. You still have all of next year to plan. 

 

Chip: Right, I mean, I was caught off guard myself. And I’ve known Chip, you know, 15 or 20 years. So…

 

John: Yeah. Well, the reason you were caught off guard is because you’re eagerly waiting to tell me happy solstice in a few days from now. And you just forget that it’s my birthday a few days beforehand. 

 

Chip: Yes. And then it gets brighter every day. 

 

John: It does. It gets brighter every day. 

 

Chip: So wow John, me and you have known each other for a long time. We met a decade or more ago, when I opened up my first humble soil plant, you walked in the door one day, and politely answered all my questions and told me how I was doing everything wrong. And now I’m successful today because of you.

 

John: Oh, I don’t know, Chip, that’s not true. You’ve been at it a long time, too. And, you know, for me, I’ve been at it for 40 years, you know. I was one of those punk kids that ran away from Berkeley at 14 and started growing in Mendocino County in 1978. So I’ve had a little bit more time to make more mistakes than you. So I’m just telling you the advice that you think I’m giving you, I’m just telling you the mistakes I made, and not to do this. 

 

Chip: Now you are a world-renowned, known as the problem solver. I’ve made that mistake for before, you know, answer for many, many, many, many, many things. Right? 

 

John: And if people don’t believe it, I tell them how much it costs to make that mistake and it scares them. 

 

Chip: Yeah, absolutely.

 

John: So they back up and they look at what kind of solutions that I’ve come up with. And those are pretty much our products.

 

Chip: I sell Cutting Edge Solutions. It’s one of our biggest sellers here at Cultivate OKC, Cultivate Colorado throughout California. It has been called the Calif-or. It starts off as a basic three part nutrition formula, but then there’s several other additives, magnesium additive, calcium additive, cal mag. I mean, you’ve got numerous, numerous products. The thing that’s great about John’s products is one, the customer service. You guys got great customer service, t feedback that you get. But man, you and Kevin go to see more gardens than pretty much anybody I know. I mean, I see a lot of gardens. But you guys like. really are in the dirt, man. You know, the thing that fascinates me is that everybody has a like, this little magic or something they do. It’s not magic, what you’re doing.

 

John: No. Well, it’s kind of magic. I mean, it’s science. But science is just a small explanation for magic. And there’s more magic than science. So you don’t always use your head, sometimes you use your heart. 

 

Chip: Yeah, I’ve seen you guys turn around more gardens, for sure, after visits and more happy customers. Is there like, one thing that, is there a common thing that people have problems with? 

 

John: Yeah, I would say using pH up and that locks out calcium, and calcium is key. And so ais phosphorus. A lot of ways that we back people out of problems is by using home tea which is a compost tea. 

 

Chip: And you know, it happens to be the topic of our episode today –

 

John: Wow. 

 

Chip: Is composting. 

 

John: That’s great.

 

Chip: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So my grandma turned me on to compost tea, I think I’ve already told you this story. She anaerobic tea. It was just like a jug, a five gallon bucket of manure that we’d fill with water and sit there forever. And then occasionally, she’d get a scoop of water out of it and dilute it and pour it onto her radishes and tomatoes, or whatever we were growing in the backyard, right? As a little kid, but I didn’t know any different until kind of I met you, John. And you started talking about compost tea, and actively aerated compost tea. Wow, if you’re not compost tea-ing now, it’s definitely something you should think about. Mostly, I recommend it for soil growers, the indoor outdoor greenhouse, it doesn’t matter applying it to the soil foliar feeding. Should I make this statement that it is the most effective thing that you can do for your garden, compost tea?

 

John: It is. It’s true. You know, probably what your grandmother did, you know, she used manure, broke down, and she poured it on and the plants got boosted, right? They look better. You know, going back on some of my many mistakes, one of the early ones was doing something like that. And then you do it on a larger scale than a five gallon bucket. Because pretty soon, you see a little works pretty good, so you want more of it to use all at once. And then you use, make a 50 50 gallon drums. And then it really goes anaerobic. And then you get acids in it that just melt the roots, when you overapply it. So then, there’s an application amount that you should use too. But I mean, that’s how I started out was, like I said, like over 40 years ago, you know, one of the benefits of being back then was you got to see cultivation going from fields and planes flying over, to actual helicopter traffic coming in. And then we had to move back in the barrage, and then ultimately back near the tree line. And then there’s a lot more microbiology that interacts with the plant then. But about the same time – 

 

Chip: So this is application. You saw this through application, you saw the biology change through application.

 

John: Right, through just trying to use the same amendments and in holes, or trenches, and grow plants and then you know, we had to march the plants back into the barrage, and then ultimately back into the tree line. And then at that time, I thought just fertilizers grew plants. But then I realized by that point that it was the microbiology that was making the chemistry available.

 

Chip: Yes, the roots, they grow the plants, don’t they? And they need that proper biology around the roots in the soil in order to digest the nutrients in order to feed the plants, right? People can argue that science all day long, but it’s pretty much how it works, right? Synthetic or organic like, you have to have that biological dynamic.

 

John: You do to have healthy plants. And otherwise you get diseases or bugs are attracted to them, which transfer diseases to other plants that are still somewhat healthy. 

 

Chip: So let’s take this back, John. Let’s do a couple things. Let’s talk about like, what is compost tea, and then we’ll talk about some like, things we can do with it, and problems it creates, and problems it solves. So, how do you define compost tea? Because I know this, people say and do this all different types of ways. 

 

John: Right. So you know, some people define compost tea as any compost, like we were saying before, put into drums of water and they make sun tea. And you know about the time we were being pushed back by the helicopters, I was making sun teas and taking horsetail which is high in silica, cutting those up, putting them in –

 

Chip: Wild, crafting horsetail. 

 

John: Right. And stinging nettle, which is not easy to collect, as you think. 

 

Chip: Got to pick it from the jungle.

 

John: Otherwise, your arms are thrashed. But you know, using different herbs and making sun teas, and that seemed to be okay. But I got more results out of it when there was bubbling going on. And then I used it before the bumbling stopped, before it got completely anaerobic. And you know, I got a microscope and I started looking at things closer. And then I got bacterial stain kits for Gram positive and Gram negative, started kind of identifying different bacteria, and started looking at fungi, and staining that with prussian blue, and that led to just building a microbiology lab. I was kind of a kid back then. That was the early realization that you can make liquids that help the amendments of the soil. But compost tea, you know, you asked me that question. And I started to aerate it, so that I could break it down further. And then about that time, you know, it was just sort of wide open. There was not a lot of research being done using biologicals. But I started to learn how to isolate them out of healthy agricultural systems, and scraping them off lichen in the forest, because I realized that some of the best plants were at the drip line were lichen were. They weren’t necessarily getting more sun, but they were growing healthier, and they yielded better, and the flavor of the –

 

Chip: Better biology. 

 

John: Yeah, better biology. And that’s when I realized better biology means better flower. 

 

Chip: I mean, compost tea is new to many people, but it’s a very old technology. I mean, I’m not sure how far back actively aerated compost tea goes. I mean, people have been bubbling compost in the liquid solution for a moment, right? But it’s new to many people. So what we mean by this is we’re actually injecting air of some sort, and people use all types of things. Are there things you should or shouldn’t use, pumps you should or shouldn’t use? 

 

John: Yeah, some people build these elaborate brewers that’s spin the whole liquid inside of a cone tank. And that might be good to generate bacteria, aerobic bacteria, but not necessarily good for protozoa. And so you know, you’re looking for three things in a compost tea that’s aerated as you say, by at least putting in an air stone if not putting in lines that are perforated, and [inaudible 16:13]. it just depends on the size of the brewer that you’re working with. 

 

Chip: Sure. I’ve made probably millions of gallons of compost tea through all my potting soil stuff and you know, royal gold, we used to apply it directly on the line and use compost tea within our products. You know, I’ve always liked the simple air bubblers, right? I always felt those made the best, you know, product, the best compost tea, even though we’ve kind of used everything. I’ve used, you know, these jet pumps that move water around, we’ve used [inaudible 16:52] pumps. Man we’ve used, you know, just like large air pumps with a bunch of lines going into it. But for some reason, the air stones, they they really do work the best.

 

John: They do, I mean, you put them in the bottom of a cone tank, a lot, you know, a line that runs from the pump into the tank, and then it’s at the bottom of a cone tank, and it has just the right amount of air. 

 

Chip: Those with bubble size, I think what it has to do with it? Because you got all those little small bubbles, and as they’re turning over in the water, they’re mixing everything, right? And you know, if you think about it, a bubble is this real like, natural like, thing. You know, I just like the idea of that anyway. I don’t know if it’s reality or not, but millions of bubbles mix better than hundreds of bubbles.

 

John: Well, you know, it’s like champagne. 

 

Chip: Yes, the champagne effect, right.

 

John: It’s the champagne of compost tea. You know? And the other ones are like the jacuzzi jet of compost tea.

 

Chip: Yeah, because you don’t really, you don’t want it really swirling. You don’t want it really bubbling, right? You just want it like, moving around. You wanna inject the right amount of air. Do you know if there’s any math involved with this? 

 

John: Oh, yeah. You know, there’s a, you know, you look at, see I’ve used of different organisms that are in a spore state or in a cis state of it, which is like your egg state for a protozoa. Take a drop of compost tea, and put it on a hemocytometer, that’s what you use to look at blood. But it’s the same thing you use in microscopy to look at the population number in one drop, which is pretty much a measured amount. And on this hemocytometer, it’s got a graph and you can estimate, do a bacteria, fungi, protozoa count. Sometimes people are off on the on the fungi because of actinomycete, which is, you know, when you’re turning your compost, you get that white fuzz on it. –

 

Chip: Yeah, I know it. On the outside, and the inside –

 

John: Right. And then you dig through that and you see all the strands, that actinomycete is helping break down the compost, but it operates at a warmer temperature, which is just on the outside shell. But when you’re making compost tea, a lot of times you have that in there. People mistake that for actual beneficial fungi. It’s beneficial in the sense that it’s breaking things down and making enzymes, but it’s also, can throw you off if you’re actually reading it. So, you need a Gram stain and there’s a certain way to identify that.

 

Chip: And all this stuff is inexpensive now, right? Like, you know, digital microscopes and you know, all this equipment is readily available to people. When I started doing it 20 years ago, it was like, $5,000 for a microscope. But now you can get it for 100 bucks, right? 

 

John: Yeah, yeah. There’s decent microscopes for 100 bucks. I mean, we pretty much use Olympus and Leica microscopes which are German lenses and those are – 

 

Chip: Well, you guys are professionals. Of course you use Leica.

 

John: Well, because we look at, because we look at a lot of samples, right? And so you can get eyestrain. It’s like, the difference between getting reading glasses and real glasses, I guess. 

 

Chip: Now me and you and other people were fascinated with it all. And we might break the microscope out and notice the balance of bacteria and fungi or protozoa over temperatures or, but most people aren’t going to nerd out quite like that. You don’t necessarily need a microscope, right? 

 

John: No.

 

Chip: No, I saw that look in your eyes. You’re like, “No, you gotta have a microscope.”

 

John: Well, you know, you were just saying it.

 

Chip: It’s not that expensive. 

 

John: They’re not that expensive. And, you know –

 

Chip: It’s easy to use.

 

John: I mean, we used to have Maverick cameras that cost like$1400 that attached with a special adapter that went on the compound microscope. In the end, you’re like spending thousands of dollars –

 

Chip: Now you can almost do it on your phone. 

 

John: Yeah, right. Exactly. And they have smaller digital microscopes and digital cameras that are maybe $100 or $200 that are great for taking photos, and sending to someone to identify something that you think is wrong with your plant. Or, you know, the cross section of a root, or you know, many different things. So it’s definitely worthwhile to get these. It adds to your digital library of things that are either going right or wrong. 

 

Chip: It’s just another tool in the tool bucket. So basically, compost tea is any type of compost that’s dissolved in water. And then we’re aerating it.

 

John: That’s a good basic definition.

 

Chip: When doesn’t it have to be compost, then?

 

John: Yeah, I mean, to be compost tea, it should be compost. Usually, it’s vermicompost. Because that’s, you know, high in bacteria. 

 

Chip: The earthworms are incredible creatures and get rid of all the E. coli. And you know, that’s the best thing about earthworms. You use a pure earth, pure black castings and you’re not gonna have any E. coli. 

 

John: Right. That’s very true. Sometimes you could have coliform bacteria, but –

 

Chip: Still rare for earthworm castings, unless it’s like, unless it’s not been screened. If it’s just compost, and earthworm castings, that’s where you see the coliform bacteria.

 

John: Well, it depends what state you’re in. And it’s not you personally, but it’s you physically. 

 

Chip: Yeah. Okay, okay. 

 

John: And you know, because different states do different tests. And you know, for a while they were mixing up E. coli, which is a coliform bacteria with all other coliform bacteria. We have coliform bacteria in our hands.

 

Chip: It’s everywhere.

 

John: It’s everywhere. It’s ubiquitous, right? So but you know, it’s not something that is going to harm you. 

 

Chip: Mostly compost tea is made from earthworm castings, water and maybe, you know, a couple of other things. I mean, there’s all types of recipes people use for all types of reasons. I know you guys sell a great, great product HumTea that is a completely formulated compost tea recipe or, what do you, how do you phrase it at? 

 

John: Yeah, so that would be a compost tea. 

 

Chip: HumTea, is it, do you call it an inoculant kit, or a starter kit, or..?

 

John: Yeah, you know, you could call it either thing. You know, I’m not very good at marketing as you know. 

 

Chip: Right, yeah, yeah. You’re great at sales though. 

 

John: Yeah. [inaudible 23:34] I could go in and say, you know, yeah, we have a spawn bag, which is a resealable plastic bag that’s impermeable by pretty much anything, except that it has a GoreTex window on it. So it allows gas exchange. And in there we have some woody material that we grow protozoa on. The actual let’s say, compost itself is a mixture of this woody material, and a mixture of earthworm castings. So the earthworm castings have really good background bacteria, fungi and some protozoa. But we enrich that and enhance that in our composting process and our finishing process. So we usually have a screen of 10 important bacteria, a few fungi, and about 22 different protozoa. So you would take this out of the bag, put it into, you know, we have brewers that have screens. And you can put it into the screen or a HumTea Brew Ball, and that’s actually floats in any container. It will even float in a reservoir. And then we have three different containers, three different say pint or quart bottles depending on the size that you buy of the HumTea inoculant. And those have certain bacteria and there are food sources in there. You know, ours is a little bit more sophisticated than just taking compost from your earthworm castings, and throwing it into some gauze or some sort of screen system, and then bubbling it in water, where a lot of people would add molasses. 

 

Chip: Because you’ve done all the work for you with the HumTea. You don’t have to have a microscope. You can just drop your pre-made formulated compost tea inoculant in a barrel of water in the compost brewer. Any compost brewer, but specifically a Cultivate OKC or Cultivate Colorado compost brewer that you can get in Colorado, you can order it online. Go to cultivate colorad.com, cultivateokc.com, we’ve got great, great deals. Better deals, and you could ever get on 15, 30, 35, 45, 65 gallon brewers. All of that will make it easier for you than just using some random container or you know, maybe not like the easiest thing to clean. But you start with a good compost tea brewer. But any type will work, right? And use the – oh I see, they’re like ” Oh well maybe not any type,” because we already kind of went over that. The ones that move too much water don’t really work so well. 

 

John: Well they work well for bacteria, to generate bacteria but –

 

Chip: So if you got a specific bacteria you’re trying to grow or wanted high in bacteria, then  you would use that.

 

John: Yeah, you wanna use of those high volume mixing, spin it around, [inaudible 26:35].

 

Chip: I mean, anybody can go out and make their own. Anybody can go out and get a bag of earthworm castings. They can get some bat guano, some trace minerals, maybe a little, the smallest amount of some sort of sugar product. They can make their own but man, the HumTea product is really so much better. You know, when you first came out with this, this is how John sold this product. He first came out with it and he gave it away. And he taught us a lot about giving stuff away, all of us in the cannabis industry. And so he would give it away – where would that have been? I mean, you gave it away all –

 

John: North coast horticulture.

 

Chip: North coast horticulture, it would have been –

 

John: In Humboldt County. 

 

Chip: Yeah, it would have been in Humboldt County. And people were like, “Oh, what do I do with this?” He was like, “Well just take a gallon home and when your cuttings are rooted, feed it to them.” Right? “Oh, I’m having problems with you know, my plant. Should I feed all my -” “Well, just start on your cuttings. Take this gallon and feed your cuttings.” And you sold so many people on compost tea and educated so many people on compost tea and Humboldt Tea that way. Off one single gallon. Change their, changed everything for them, right?

 

John: Yeah, yeah. It’s actually Humboldt Countea.

 

Chip: Humboldt Countea.

 

John: Right.

 

Chip: I see. 

 

John: And then there’s just the t-e-a at the end. 

 

Chip: And now, is there some special biology that you’ve put into the Humboldt Countea? 

 

John: Well, yeah. You know, by just raising it and generating it, and then using it in a good agricultural system and then re-harvesting it. You know, some of the bacteria alone, you know, there’s Pseudomonas putida, and that can break down herbicides. So I mean, I was working with that a long time ago, back when they used the silvicultural practice in Mendocino County and Humboldt County, was to spray hardwoods with Agent Orange that was left over from the Vietnam War. So long ago, this was –

 

Chip: [inaudible 28:44] for you and me, right?

 

John: Yeah, that’s right. 

 

Chip: Spraying all the weeds in the woods, they say it’s gonna make the world go good. Oh yeah, man.

 

John: Right. 

 

Chip: Some protest songs there, protest songs from the 90’s. 

 

John: Right. Born right out of NorCal, you know. There was fighting for their lives out there, literally. 

 

Chip: We got pesticide danger. Oh, can decide, danger.

 

John: Nice. Oh, yes. Reggae on the river, I hope it comes back. 

 

Chip: Oh, it will. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And it’ll be in memories forever. But…

 

John: Yeah, we still bring it to life. Yeah, you know, I was giving it out at first because not just to educate people, but just to give back to the community. I can see that here in Oklahoma again, where a lot of people just left because they saw corporations rising in their state, whether it was Colorado, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, California. And they wanted to be back in a community of people that share plant material. And you really see it here now. And it’s good. 

 

Chip: Oklahoma reminds me a lot of Humboldt in the late 90’s. 

 

John: Yeah.

 

Chip: Right? The organic movement, the freshness, the newness, the idea. Because even though like Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity, they’re thought about and they are the world capital of ganja production and have been for, like 50 years, right? It’s like Mexico, Humboldt County, right? 

 

John: Right. You go anywhere in the world and they go, “Where are you from?” And you say, if you say Arcata or Trinidad, immediately they’re like, “That’s in Humboldt County. You’re from Humboldt County.” Yeah.

 

Chip: Yeah, right. So I know there’s a lot of haters out there, but that’s just how it is, the volume of cultivators up there, it’s just now incredible. But back then, in the late 90s, we had just gone through Operation Green Merchant. There was, one of the Bushes came in with an aircraft carrier off the coast of Humboldt, they had National Guard, they were like, stopping and searching people coming in and out of highway roads that just went through National Forest systems. But, you know, all kinds of illegal Gestapo type of stuff. And in the late 90s, cannabis, it was really, really underground. You know, outdoor cultivation. It had it for like, 10 years at that point was really hard, right? You had to hide it, you had to put it under trees. And people were growing indoor. It started growing indoor in like, huge farms. Absolutely some of the biggest farms in the early years. Everybody seemed to have a 40 or an 80 light indoor on a generator back then. 

 

John: Right.

 

Chip: Right? That’s kind of what’s going on here is that it’s easy to get a 200 amp license, it’s easy to get a license to grow and grow under 200 amps. Maybe that’s what I should say, 2500 bucks, $3,000 you can easily get a license. And it’s kind of the same way back then, it’s like you could go get your prescription and grow some weed and sell it to the dispensary, right? They just kind of formalized it a little bit. But the same enthusiasm, right? The same old coops coming out of the hills going, “I love weed. We used to grow it back in the whenever it is,” right? Man, and we saw it happen then. Because we had that big first explosion happened in ’97. And it was like ’97 to like ’94 or something. And then there was smaller changes in the laws like in Mendocino, they made it legal for 25 plants for anybody, and then 99 plants. If you registered, they were one of the first registrations in the country, that was back in 2004, right? And outdoor cultivation really started to take off again. We got rid of Terry Farmer and a couple of other holdouts from the old war on drugs and it reminds me all of that here. It’s like the, except it just went differently, right? Instead of there being this big political issue, you know, the police are just like, “Oh, weed’s legal? Okay,” right? And it’s not like it was in Humboldt back then where everybody fought it for years, and years. Now it’s like, “Oh, weeds legal? Okay.” People were really accepting of it here, right? They’ve embraced organic cultivation like those old days in Humboldt. Remember how it used to be if you [inaudible 33:22] wasn’t organic? Like I mean, your friends would just like, rail you for it.

 

John: It’s true. 

 

Chip: Remember?

 

John: Yeah.

 

Chip: I mean like, what, I mean, it means me and John are both hydro guys. And I love organic too, John does too. John’s got a whole like organic thing too. You know, organic supplements, organic nutrition, that we use – I’ve got some weed over there in front of us –

 

John: Oh, nice.

 

Chip: That’s all just happened in here. It’s a special time and special place in Oklahoma. And man, it’s starting to happen that way in Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois,  Michigan, right?  It’s this new great industry that still anybody can get into. In Colorado and in California now, anybody just can’t get into.

 

John: No.

 

Chip: Right? 

 

John: No. 

 

Chip: And if you guys are into it over there, and things are going great for you, me and John are both giving you a thumbs up. 

 

John: We are still there, Chip. 

 

Chip: I mean yeah, we’re – 

 

John: We’re still in Humboldt County, but –

 

Chip: We know how hard it is, man. It’s hard. 

 

John: The building codes, everything that goes along with it, the invasion of your private property. You know, touring farms here, I don’t see that I see people doing their best, instead of having to pay regulators and go through all these different code enforcement issues, and wait, and wait, and wait, and spend money on their mortgages, or leases, or whatever. In the outlying areas of major cities here, there’s no building codes. So I mean, I was just yesterday at a place that you know, they spent 300,000 on a state of the art greenhouse. And they’re putting up two more, they’re putting up one first and they’re gonna join these greenhouses together. But my point is that when people are allowed to do their best, they do great. And when people are held back by a regulatory industry that doesn’t understand what they’re doing, but wants to take opinions from everyone else –

 

Chip: And a percent.

 

John: Yes, let’s not forget that. 

 

Chip: And let’s not forget the percent of profit that they want to take as well. 

 

John: Right. And it really should just be grown and sold at the end that it’s being sold that it should be taxed. 

 

Chip: Easy enough, man, Oklahoma’s got a really good handle on it, that’s for sure. And it’s got some problems, don’t get me wrong. Back to compost tea. A couple ways, I guess, people use compost, either they like, do a soil drench, or they do a foliar spray. 

 

John: Right. So a foliar spray would be to offset other potential plant pathogenic fungi that could be on the plant like, powdery mildew. Aspergillus brasiliensis will take care of –

 

Chip: Like I know if he’s pronouncing that right. 

 

John: Yeah, I was kind of hesitant when I started because  –

 

Chip: He almost, your eyes go up in your head, like they’re having this rain man moment. 

 

John: Well you know, you throw out these kind of terms, and then people are, they can’t, you can’t catch it. It’s something that’s really got to be written down. But, I mean, that’s something that offsets and outcompetes powdery mildew, which is a big issue. Going back to this farm that I was just at yesterday, you know, state of the art greenhouse really good quality Quonset houses, and one is lit up and holding all the best mothers. But at the same time, they were put in not Chip’s soil, but another soil let’s say. And that soil was made from composted pine needles back east. And then what happens is, it’s super acidic.

 

Chip: Oh. So there was a pH problem. 

 

John: To the extreme, where the plants were basically dying. When I looked at them a month and a half ago, the person didn’t want to take them out of their 30 gallon plastic pots. So the only choice is to use a compost tea or to use HumTea, because the microbiology will start breaking things down and leeching out certain elements that are toxifying the plant. And these are prized plants. I mean, they’re, you know, they’re – 

 

Chip: Compost tea. One of its benefit really is if you have sick plants, if you have plants that aren’t doing so good, regardless of what diagnosis you think they have, compost tea will help them. 

 

John: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, it’s like magic, you see? You know it’s working because the leaves –

 

Chip: It’s kind of like chicken soup. It’s like the chicken soup.

 

John: It is, for this time of year. It’s flu season. You know, people are afraid to even cough in public. You know, will be hauled off. But you know, when you want to keep those mother plants going until the spring, and you have light in order to be able to do that in a greenhouse and you’re heating the greenhouse, if they’re in bad soil, or if they get some sort of disease because it’s too humid, and you don’t want to open it up because it’s too cold outside, compost tea or Hum Tea is is what you need. Not only foliar spray with, but run through the soil and then that has another action when it goes into the soil. It will stimulate the plant’s immune system. 

 

Chip: So there’s lots of talk about dilution when you do soil drench. Do you have a typical dilution rate? Or how about this, what’s a, because I know it’s varied. What’s the best dilution rate?

 

John: You know, when you have a brewer, say it’s even a five gallon bucket. When you make tea in that, you should be able to take 1 gallon to 25 gallons. And if you want to go thinner, you can go up to 50 gallons. One gallon of compost tea or HumTea to 50 gallons. And you’re going to get the benefit. You can pour HumTea straight on, and it’s good to do. Pour it straight on. Do it 1:25, do it 1:50. And you pour it straight on, you see a result the next day. You do 1:25, it’s two days. You do 1:50, it’s three, maybe three days. And for me, 1:25 is good because you know brewing it is roughly like, $6 a gallon. So I don’t want to spend too much money, but I want the plants to be healthy. 

 

Chip: Yeah my experience is exactly the same thing. If you, I think that the HumTea, it works best diluting it 1:1, because I think you can use it. I mean, I know you can use it just straight on, but most people can’t afford to, or the volume of it. And you know, I also try to just use it on like, just rooted plants or vegging plants, so I can get the most concentrated colony forming units in one area, right? I like the 1:1. That being said, man, like, you can pretty much pour it in any volume of liquid that you have to feed your plants, right? If you’re using a 300 gallon tank even, you will absolutely see benefit by making a five gallon compost tea and pour it in there. Now, it might work better for [inaudible 40:34] if you only have 5 gallons, and you have a, you know, a garden that would require 300 gallons of water, you’d be better off boiler feeding it, I would think. Even if it’s just on the top of the soil, because we see people doing that too. And I’ve done that too, is just take the like, direct HumTea, Humboldt Countea with a pump sprayer, right, right? Have you ever seen this? 

 

John: Yes, oh yeah.

 

Chip: They just spray it right on the top of the soil as opposed to the plant and then you get the water in and you get the like, you know, the colony to develop there. And I mean, that’s like, three bucks for something like that. 

 

John: It’s super cheap, and it’s super effective. And that’s a good point, Chip. Putting it in, regarding the sprayer, you can do full strength or 1:1 and foliar spray it. 

 

Chip: The only problem with the full stream is sometimes it’ll clog your sprayer and you have to like, screen it out anyway. 

 

John: Oh, yeah. 

 

Chip: Right? But if you just dilute it, 1:1 goes to the sprayer. 

 

John: Yeah, that’s true. 

 

Chip: Pretty, pretty good. 

 

John: And not use the bottom little part, just pour it on the top. 

 

Chip: Yeah, we screen it out exactly and try to leave the bottoms. When we’re actively doing it, and I don’t know how you feel about this, but I just try to do back to back to back to back compost teas. And I never clean out my compost tea brewer except with water. So I’ll just wash down the sides, wash down the sides, and then just start another one up. And it works. If it’s back to back to back to back to back, that seems to work great. As soon as I let it sit a few days and don’t fight with it. I gotta start over.

 

John: And there’s a good point in there is, so you’re on a farm and you’re using well water. 

 

Chip: Yeah.

 

John: So it has no chlorine in it. 

 

Chip: Correct.

 

John: Right. And chlorine isn’t really a bad problem, you can aerate it for 24 hours and it’ll, you know, take the chlorine out. But, you know, if you’re using chloramide or chlorinate, some cities use that, then you’ve got nitrogen injected with the chlorine. IT forms a more stable compound to keep the chlorine in the pipes, right? And then you have to use something like a Hydrologic Big Boy. Or, you know, if you don’t want that, you could go to your local hardware store and get a carbon filter that removes chlorine, and that’ll also remove that. 

 

Chip: Right. 

 

John: So because that will kill,  mean, why is it there? To kill biology. And you don’t want to do that. 

 

Chip: So don’t use chlorinated water.

 

John: Yeah.

 

Chip: So back to the foliar spray though. So we can use it as a soil drench, or we can use it as a foliar spray. How do you recommend people doing that?

 

John: That’s a good point. You can screen it through a piece of nylon and get all the particles out of it. And then either do it full strength or 1:1, and foliar year spray the top, foliar spray the bottom of the leaves and the stem, you’ve pretty much completely covered the plant. You can also, and this could be called foliar spraying, you could spray where the drip emitters are. And that will, the water coming out of the drip emitter will drive the biology down to where the roots are. And if you just, if you hand water, same thing. You can either throw it into your hand watering reservoir, your hand watering in or you could put, you know, just put it on the top and spoil the tops of the pots or the trench or whatever. 

 

Chip: Yeah, my first commercial application of compost tea was down in Salinas at our first Royal Gold potting soil plant down there. And I saw people spraying it on lettuce and cauliflower. They would say it was a foliar application, they just called it spray. But they’re spraying the plants and the ground at the same time. Right? To get these big rows and this stuff wasn’t plastic culture. To me, it’s like part of it all. It needs to go in the soil. You need to spray the plants. Now what is some of the benefits of spraying the plants over soil drench?

 

John: Well, spraying the plants, it will knock back powdery mildew and other plant pathogenic fungi that might grow on the leaf surface. So that’s the benefit there. It’s not really like it’s going to be able to break down any fertilizers. Some people say, well, it does, it seems to boost the plant. Well, that’s because they’re spraying with chemical fertilizers, and it’s helping move those into the plant. But in general, it’s better to spray with organic supplements than it is to spray with NPK directly on the plant. The plant doesn’t really take it in well that way. 

 

Chip: Let’s talk about compost tea and synthetic nutrients. Because this is one of the myths or maybe not myths, but concerns people have. Like, if I’m using synthetic nutrients, can I benefit from compost tea? 

 

John: You can. I mean, it depends on what type of synthetic chemicals are being used. I mean certainly, if you’re using urea, you know, you’re gonna kill things. If you’re using something that’s made, and it’s got sulfuric acid in it, you know, there’s some harsh chemicals out there. But in general, when you go into a hydroponic store, or if you want to call it a grow store, the lines of nutrients that are on the shelf are better quality. A lot of them aren’t –

 

Chip: Say at the farm store.

 

John: Right.

 

Chip: Right.

 

John: You’re not getting ag grade, you’re getting possibly food grade. I mean, we use food grade in our line of fertilizers. You know, there are other companies that use ag chemicals because it’s cheaper. And then people call them salts. I mean, all it means is that it dissolved, those minerals can dissolve in water, and that it’s not necessarily sodium chloride. But you know, going back to how microbiology works, and how well will it do with these different fertilizers? Well, I would say it just depends. But when I was working on HumTea, I developed it so that all the functional groups that do the magic,  let’s say, are offset by our fertilizer lines. So because I built it so that it could be used in recirculating systems.

 

Chip: And we have used it in recirculating systems with your you know, 3 Part Cutting Edge for sure. It works great. I gave up the organic components and [inaudible 47:25] during a while ago just because I don’t want to deal biofilm, or clogged comps, or some of the other problems  that happened with it. But it worked great. I just prefer to keep the synthetic stuff and recirculating systems separate. You know, if you’ve got a tank that’s not recirculating, then no reason not to mix synthetic and biological stuff together. Right, I know, I know. I’m [inaudible 47:53] now that I said that. Oh dude, I’m gonna have a flurry of people like, “You can’t kill all the biology dies when they come across [inaudible 47:59],” what did you say that [inaudible 48:00] was? You didn’t listen to that?

 

John: Yeah, it doesn’t. I mean, if –

 

Chip: It doesn’t, and we can see. And here’s another big myth that happens is people talk about, “Oh, in California, the ground’s dead, because of all of the chemicals that they’ve put on it. You can’t grow anything there anymore.” Do you know any place in California that’s like that?

 

John: Well, you know. Yeah. Maybe not in the Hills but you know, you look in the Central Valley. And yeah, there are a build up, there’s a buildup of boron from the groundwater. And the boron, you know, it gets to certain parts per million, and there’s fewer crops you can grow until you’re finally left with pistachios. So –

 

Chip: Oh so they just moved pistachios to those areas?

 

John: Right.

 

Chip: Oh, that’s why. Okay, okay.

 

John: It’s like a succession of planting. And then ultimately, the pistachios come out and then they grow cotton. And then when you –

 

Chip: Uhuh, that’s Oklahoma. 

 

John: Certain people say, “Well, what caused the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma? Wasn’t that the killing of all the microbiology?”

 

Chip: No, it was all the people leaving at once.

 

John: They were trying to get on the freeway first. It’s really dirt roads back then. 

 

Chip: Oh man. I miss the railroad on the freeway. There’s a song there, right, right? Hotel California or something. 

 

John: Right. But you know, the dead lands of California, it’s more like, they’re not dead. They just don’t have, they don’t have the water quality to grow crops. And what is growing burns down. 

 

Chip: Yeah, I mean water quality is a big issue here in Oklahoma and throughout the country. That’s for sure. I mean, the water quality here is pretty poor. We almost all use RO filters. If you’re an indoor you should be using an RO filter here. 

 

John: Yeah and you know, I go to a lot of places here and there, you have boron problems. That’s why those farms were abandoned. So that and the fact that everybody tried to grow one type of wheat, not weed. Fortunately, that’s not happening, because we’re growing many varieties of weed. But wheat, I mean, that’s what pretty much caused the Dust Bowl. It was, there was one popular wheat that everyone wanted to make bread out of in the northeast. And so everybody ran out here, tore up the land, grew one kind of wheat, because it was profitable, and then it became not profitable. And then all those farms were abandoned. And that’s part of the reason of the Dust Bowl. All these people left. They weren’t farmers to begin with anyway.

 

Chip: Yeah, series of droughts. Everybody was planting at once over and over again.

 

John: Same thing.

 

Chip: You know, World War One, it had a huge demand of food for, you know, for that effort. Everybody kind of like, had several great, great years and just everybody pumped it up.

 

John: Right. And my –

 

Chip: Kind of like the hemp industry. In the current hemp industry, there’s a Dust Bowl reference in there someplace.

 

Chip: Yeah, I mean hemp growing, you know, that’s farming once again. I sell a HumTea to hemp growers. You know, they use very little of it, but they use it at transplant because it helps with adjusting to the field from the greenhouse. I mean the hemp industry, there’s another over regulated industry. Keeping people at point three has punished a lot of plant breeders who –

 

Chip: How will that manage? You know what I hate about it? This is the biggest problem, is it still differentiates cannabis growers. There’s either the no THC or the THC growers. And the non-THC growers – mostly, don’t get your feelings hurt if you’re one of these people – mostly you’re like, “Oh no, I don’t grow THC.” It’s like come on, man. This is just the cannabis plant. Let’s stop being so scared of some letters, right? THC, CBD, DEA, FDA. Let’s stop being scared of those. Let’s think about like the cannabis. Let’s think about the plant. Let’s think about the world. And think about it that way, instead of this just fucked up liability type, human health and safety issue that they try to raise with it. We know cannabis is harmless. We’ve been using it for a long, long time. 

 

John: Very true. 

 

Chip: Yeah. Alright. So John, we’ve gone over a handful of things here with compost tea. Who can most benefit from this? Is this just for small people? Is this just for big people? Can anyone benefit from this? What are the best scenarios for compost to use?

 

John: The plants benefit from it.

 

Chip: Anybody, any plant can benefit from it.

 

John: People are problematic.

 

Chip: People benefit from it only because their plants are better and it makes the people happier?

 

John: Yes. 

 

Chip: Oh, I get it. I get it. I get it. I get it.

 

John: A regulator told me a long time ago. “Don’t try to list too many things on the label. Just say it makes plants happy.”

 

Chip: Yeah, yeah. Happy plants. 

 

John: And this was California. And I took that to heart because if you read our Constitution, we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. 

 

Chip: Absolutely. 

 

John: So why shouldn’t plants? 

 

Chip: Absolutely. Well, I love compost tea man. I’m glad we kind of got to talk about all of this. I got a couple compost tea recipes I love. I love 5 gallon compost tea, right? And the way that I like to make it, I don’t know if this is right or not, but when I make it this way, my plants absolutely respond. I usually dilute like, 5 gallons into about 20 gallons when I do it this way, right? And that’s out of sheer necessity. But I like 1 gallon of earthworm castings, 3 gallons of water. I’m gonna then put in a half a cup of some type of trace minerals. And then this is where it gets a little sticky, but I really like some sort of fish product. The fish [inaudible 54:33] or the fish emulsion, there’s controversy over all of that. And then just a smidgen of some sort of sugar. That recipe has been great for me and many other people for years. It’s so easy to follow. It’s not hard at all. You bubble it at you know, it needs to be over 60 degrees. I usually almost always bubble it outside. It usually takes three or four days for the fish smell to exchange from putrid to sweet. And, that’s what I like about this thing. When’s it ready? As soon as it turns sweet. I generally like the soil drench as opposed to the foliar spray. And part of that is because I’m scared of the yeast and fungus tests. 

 

John: Oh, interesting. 

 

Chip: Yeah, I don’t know if that’s real or not. But I’m scared of it. And I know you can outgrow it, you know, but many people spray throughout their flower period and I just choose to only like, spray it once or twice when they’re clones. I feed the clones stray compost tea and then dilute it, you know, like 5:1 or 4:1 or something like that. That’s my favorite compost tea. 

 

John: Yeah, I mean that sounds like a successful formula right there. Simple, easy to use –

 

Chip: Oh kelp. I forgot the kelp. There was my trace minerals, I say trace minerals, but I do prefer kelp for my trace mineral. 

 

John: Ah see, I was gonna add that.

 

Chip: Oh right, right. Yeah, and you know ’cause trace minerals, mined trace minerals are now harder to find, John. Have you looked for this lately, or it might not be hard for you because you’re in California, but they’re hard to get.

 

John: Yeah, you have to buy them in volume. You know, they come from mines in New Mexico and volcanic areas. But, you know, no one wants to go out there and truck them in anymore, that’s one of the problems. Cost, fuel, cost of operation –

 

Chip: There’s something they sell for 19 cents.

 

John: Right, right. So you know, I keep stocked up on all those. When I get halfway down in a container, I’ll reorder, because I like to use trace minerals for a couple different locations in my, in HumTea. And of course, there’s also kelp in there. Simple things that make a great tea. And sort of feed the microbes that you want to step up and be able to further break down what they need for the plant. 

 

Chip: So if you’re interested in compost tea, definitely check out more information we’ll have on The Real Dirt. Check us out at Cultivate Colorado, Cultivate OKC. You can buy all of your compost tea equipment. If you’re not familiar with Cutting Edge products, how do people look you up, John? 

 

John: Cuttingedgesolutions.com.

 

Chip: Cuttingedgesolutions.com. Ask your local vendor. If you’re a commercial grower, you absolutely need to check out the quality of the product. We didn’t even go into the whole lines of this whole compost tea conversation I wanted you here for today. Because I believe in compost tea and it’s something we’ve been talking about forever. And you know, really something that I want to turn people on to. So thanks for coming today, John. I really appreciate this little chat and I look forward to having you on in the future. 

 

John: Sounds good. You know all I have to do is drive down from Tulsa now. 

 

Chip: Oh, yeah, that’s right. We’ll get on that whole relocation on the next episode. Hey guys, thanks for joining me today on The Real Dirt with Chip Baker and John Piccirilli. If you liked this episode, and you have not subscribed yet, please subscribe on iTunes. Join us on Instagram, join us on Facebook. Hey and always comment, always leave a message. And if you’re interested in soil, or any type of growing equipment go to cultivatecolorado.com. Stop in one of our stores in Denver or Oklahoma. Yeah, man, we’re always willing to chat and we’ve got great, great, great people who are willing to answer any question you have. So there it is, The Real Dirt on compost tea. Thanks again.

The Science of Breeding Triploid Cannabis

The Science of Breeding Triploid Cannabis

the science of cannabis cultivation

Justin Jones has been in the cannabis industry since the very beginning.

He opened the first ever recreational cannabis dispensary in Colorado, Dank Dispensary in Denver. Justin has been a leader in the legal cannabis industry for close to a decade, and now he’s taking over the hemp industry too.

It’s not so simple for most to transition from traditional cannabis cultivation to hemp cultivation. When you know the science of the plant and how to cultivate it to get the results you want, you can create some incredible strains and genetics.

The evolving science of cannabis and hemp cultivation

Justin made his transition from cannabis to hemp when the Farm Bill passed in 2018, making hemp legal at the federal level. This legalization has given farmers and researchers the resources they need to study hemp more thoroughly without government intervention.

Through his research Justin has been able to develop triploid hemp plants, or sterile male plants put simply. Traditionally hemp and cannabis are diploid plants which means that a male can pollinate a female and produce seeds.

But diploid and triploids are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to science of cannabis cultivation.

Plant science, patents and more

In this episode of The Real Dirt with Chip Baker, Justin and Chip get into the real dirt of cannabis science and how changing techniques are producing stronger, better cannabis and hemp strains and what that means for the future of the industry.

Roll it up, spark it up and check out this episode of The Real Dirt Podcast!

Follow Dank Dispensary and High Grade Hemp

Dank Dispensary

High Grade Hemp

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Transcript

Chip: Hey, this is The Real Dirt podcast. I’m here with Justin Jones today, Real Dirt, Sunday morning dirt. How you doing, Justin?

 

Justin: I’m good. I’m good, Chip. Just got the sun peeking out here coming up, gonna have a nice rainy day here in Oregon. It helped tamp out some of these fires that we’ve had, to help wrap up the end of the harvest here, end of the year.

 

Chip: Yeah, man, we’ve hit the dry season down here in Oklahoma. The fall and winter are drier, that’s when we have our fire seasons. It’s almost perfect for harvesting cannabis, because it just starts to get dry around first of October. So if you’re lucky enough to be harvesting in October, November, December, those are really good months for you down here.

 

Justin: We call those fine finishing days.

 

Chip: Fine, there’s fine finishing days. And if you’re finishing in the next 10 days here in Oklahoma, which many people are, wow man, you’re gonna do really well.

 

Justin: That’s good. I just was talking to some friends up in western Colorado and they were finishing everything over there and pulling it down out in the Paonia areas. Good value for grown cannabis there in Colorado, maybe the only real value for growing out there in Colorado.

 

Chip: We’ve had a couple opportunities to move down to Paonia. I wish I could have more time to explore that during our time in Colorado. You know, Paonia was the first like, namebrand weed I would ever, I ever heard of.

 

Justin: They had a purple or something back in the day.

 

Chip: Oh, yeah, yeah. Paonia Purple. Peabuds, peabuds.

 

Justin: That was the pea bud, yeah. And they lost it, nobody’s got it. Some people claim they still, but no one’s seen it for a long time.

 

Chip: Yeah, you know, that’s what happens with a lot of the famous strains. That’s why like, I call bullshit on anybody wanting to harvest I mean, hold on to their strains. Few people have the overall impact to make a strain happen. And the only way that it happens is through volume of buds produced. And few people can drive that demand, you know what I mean?

 

Justin: I totally do. And you know, as far as that goes, Matt Deckel, good friend of ours told me about this a while back. Years ago, we started doing that. And so you know, our favorite strains, we don’t just keep them and try to hoard them. We kind of to pair them, let other people enjoy them, and then also backup your cuts. So if you get a bad bug infestation, and you got to [inaudible 2:33] some stuff, or somebody kills your plants, or you know, there’s lots of things can happen. And this way you can start over, and go get your, go get your favorite strains back in your library. So got to back that up.

 

Chip: Of course, you got to hold on to them. I guess my real, my question is or point is, do you have a strain that’s been a popular, long standing strain in your shop?

 

Justin: For sure. We definitely do.

 

Chip: What is it? What is it?

 

Justin: I would say we’ve got a Chemdog, we had a Chem before that we’ve had for 10 years. It always sells, everybody loves it. We’ve got one of the old school, old school Sour Diesel strains –

 

Chip: Is that the original, because –

 

Justin: Yeah, the original for sure.

 

Chip: Here’s my point, is you’ve got Chemdog and Sour D. And people come there and buy it at Dayton, Colorado. Do you think they would be as possible if there weren’t millions of other pounds of Chemdog and Sour D being grown in the past 20 years?

 

Justin: I think that that’s, plays a major role. And I think that strains because where we’ve come from and where we still are in most places, but where we’re coming from and moving towards with legalization, people at least now know that they’re getting something that’s repeatable. And so you know, back in the day it gets, and that’s where Chemdog came from, right? Somebody bought an ounce of weed at a Grateful Dead concert. There was 10 seeds in the bag. It was the best pot they ever smoked, they had the seeds, they started planting them, right? And so, they don’t really know what that cannabis was. You have no idea you know, you’d sell whatever they said on the street when you bought it and –

 

Chip: It was kind [inaudible 4:16] back then. Back then it was –

 

Justin: KD, yeah. It was just KD, it was just nine Mexican bud. And you know, at the end of the day, now we have, can enjoy the fact that you can say this is Chemdog Four. And then, you can grow it. You can grow it the same way every time and put it out there. And so people that like it that can go and buy it, and get the same thing. And if they’re, you know I, it was really dawned on me about 10 years ago when I started my medical marijuana company in Denver. I had a patient with Crohn’s, really bad Crohn’s. And he told me one time, “The worst thing about Crohn’s  is that I’ll find some cannabis that works and it literally will cure my Crohn’s, but I have no idea what it is. I bought it on the street. I don’t know what strain it is.” They could, it could be the name they said or not. And he said, “It’s almost worse for me to find the bag that like, cures my Crohn’s, because I know I’m going to run out and I can’t go get the same stuff again.” For us back then, the Durbin poison that we grew, and we still grow, it was a cure for him. And all of a sudden this guy’s like, “Well, I can get the same thing every month, cures my Crohn’s, and  now I’m not so stressed out about finding the right medical cannabis.”

 

Chip: Man, and Chemdog’s not the easiest one to grow either. To make it consistent and look great, it’s not easy.

 

Justin: Not necessarily. I think it’s easier than some of the other gassy strains that we’ve seen come out of the skunk lines. But where did the Skunk No. 1 go? That’s what I want to know.

 

Chip: Oh man, you know, you can still get it. I mean, I bought some seeds several years ago from Sensi Seeds, it’s still, you can get it. It’s still there. I mean, the European Skunk one is.

 

Justin: Well, the real answer to that question is that it’s everywhere, because it was used in pretty much all the background breeding going on for the last 30 years. So, if you look at the data on strains, pretty much everything that’s got any gas to it’s coming out of Skunk somewhere.

 

Chip:  Yeah, you know, I’ve grown these perfect Diesel buds in the past and I’ve also grown a fair amount of Skunk 1 and Super Skunk. And the Diesel really does have a Super Skunk look, that’s for sure.

 

Justin:  We’re in the world of hybrids now, you know? So, it’s, you never know.

 

Chip:  Well, they’re all hybrids, man. You know, it’s a big conversation we’ve been having about indica, and sativa, and hybrids and we just call it all hybrids now. We’re never going to convince people that cannabis sativa is just hemp and that cannabis with THC in it is indica. Oh, I shouldn’t say never. It’s going to take a few years before people like, start talking, stop talking about cannabis in terms of indica and sativa.

 

Justin:  Well, and as we get some more science involved, I think that’ll help, where the hemp industry is seeing some help from real science, or university science. I just tested a bunch of new hybrids that we’re working on in the hemp side of things. You know, I’m able to take those cannabis samples right over to Oregon State University, drop the leaf samples off, get the test that I need to get done. And you know, that was not available before, you know, a year and a half ago, and really a year ago. And so, it’s still mostly unavailable to marijuana growers, but it’s coming, you know? And as we move along with legalization, I think that we’ll be able to get the science and the real agricultural science guys, those that’ll become something we can use in the cannabis and the marijuana side of cannabis as we are now starting to in the hemp. But that also says, “Hey, what’s going to happen to these marijuana genetics over the next few years if that kind of science becomes more available? And what are we going to see, are the strains going to get better?” Right now there’s a bunch of hemp breeding going on where you’re taking and making triploid hemp plants, and the vigor and the production on these plants is 20 to 40% more than their same diploid siblings. And so what’s that mean, when you kind of start changing the science on the breeding? And using modern techniques, and really not even the modern techniques, just using the traditional plant breeding techniques?

 

Chip: Yeah, I mean –

 

Justin:  To get better plants?

 

Chip:  Diploid, it’s been around for a minute. I mean, people have talked about this for a bit, diploid, triploid. Why don’t you explain that? You’ve been doing a little bit of this with hemp?

 

Justin:  Right, right. 

 

Chip:  I’ve heard, it’s read about the amount of time. David Clark’s book, Marijuana Botany, I think. It was written in the 70s. So it’s not new science.

 

Justin:  No, no, this is not new. And you know, this is not also not necessarily considered GMO either. And that’s another conversation that now we’ve had to have in the hemp industry. Is your hybrid GMO? And is the techniques that we use to feminize seeds in the hemp industry a GMO process or not? And so that’s, and there’s another whole, a whole section of talking.

 

Chip:  Do you have, is there a thirty second disclaimer you have for GMO?

 

Justin: Well, I mean, GMO doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. And you know, there’s obviously people or companies that have used GMO in what I’d like to say a Dr. Evil and I’ll put my pinky in the corner by mouth. You know, if you use GMO to spray poison on plants that won’t kill them and it’ll kill the weeds, then you know, that’s maybe kind of Dr. Evil-ish. But GMO, the GMO process has also done some amazing things for us like anybody that you know that’s a type two diabetic that’s got an insulin dependent thing going on, GMO’s the reason those guys can live a fairly normal life. That’s where they’ve found those, that medicine. So anyways, back to the cannabis side of things on the hemp, you know, what we’re seeing is, you know, lots of different breeding techniques. And so all of a sudden, we can get a triploid and what are the triploids? So your standard cannabis plant is diploid, diploid, diploid, I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, I’m a stoner. So you have a diploid patch. What you do to make a triploid, which the reason we’re trying to make triploids is because they are a sterile plant that will not get the seed, so they are not able to be impregnated by pollen and create a seed. And on the same side of things, you’re also hoping that the pollen that would be produced from those plants might not work to inspect another plant to create – 

 

Chip:  Sterile, sterile male?

 

Justin:  Yes. And so, and even if you get a, even if you get a hermaphrodite –

 

Chip:  They do this with other crops, right? Like,

 

Justin:  Well, this is revolutionary for hops. One of the big reasons that the beer industry has gotten just insane in the last 30 years, just because they came up with the seed was hops. I think it was in the Willamette hops from here in Oregon, where the, it was the first variety of seedless. And what that allowed the farmer to do is push the crop out and harvest it when it’s truly ready, and at its full potential. But in hops to do that, you’re risking it going to seed and if your hops go to seed, you get like, a dime on the dollar, okay? So the seedless hops allowed the hops farmer to get bigger production, bigger, you know, more hops per acre and better hops, without accidentally screwing it up and blending. So –

 

Chip: And this started in the 50’s, 60’s, do you know?

 

Justin:  No, I think the first seedless hops that came out of Oregon State and it was, I think it was more like closer to the 80, early 80’s. So the seedless hops was something that came out of Oregon State and Oregon State developed that original Willamette, I believe, the Willamette hops. And they made that available through the public as you know, the fact that Oregon State’s a land grant university. And so that allowed other hops breeders to go and start breeding projects to seedless. Anyways, what you do here with hemp is, we’re going for this triploid so that we don’t have seeds in the crop. And that way, you can grow whatever you want on your plot of land. And I can be right across the street and I can still grow some [inaudible 12:55] essential oil cannabis for CBD or CBG production, these sort of things. And so, you know, as the industry matures, that’s going to become something that we want to see. And even if you’re in the Midwest, where there’s a lot of rogue hemp, and rogue male cannabis plants, you could still grow seedless oil crop, right? Right. But it takes a long time and you know, you can’t skirt the fact that it just takes a certain amount of days to grow plants out, and then cross breed them, and then grow them back out, and test them, and check them, and regrow, test them and test them and you know, all these things. So, I’ve been working on that now. 

 

Chip: And the flowers there is, they do have, or reported to, reportedly to be larger and more vigorous triploid cannabis, right? Correct? 

 

Justin:  Yes, the plants we’re seeing, even if we just look at them from early stage, bigger, it’s just unbelievable. Then I’m hearing 30 to 40% more production, save your buds, less flowers, less leaves, more this, and your ratio of a usable commodity off of a plant versus you know, on a triploid looks like you’re gonna have a lot more sellable weed. 

 

Chip:  Yeah, absolutely.

 

Justin:  And you have no seeds in there, so you know, nobody wants to process seeds, because it does something weird to the oil. And then they have to go through it and remediate that. So basically, you know, as a farmer, you’re trying to produce the best material for the person that wants to buy it. And so, in the past, we’ve kind of been like, “Any material produced is fine, because there’s not enough.” Now, we’re getting to like, “Who’s going to produce the best material? What farmers are going to grow it, and then get it into the right form?” And if you don’t have to deal with seeds, and if you’ve got 30% more flower mass over your stems, all these things are exactly what we need the plants to do. But we’re also going to hopefully start seeing this creep into the marijuana side of things. And as I think as some of the genetics, cannabis genetics hemp guys are looking at, how can we start to look at this over at the marijuana side also? So that when we do get a lab, when we can go get on a flow spectrometer machines and test the ploidy level of a plant, and see if it’s a diploid or a tetraploid, or a triploid. You know, we’re gonna see this enter over into the marijuana thing. And maybe some of these old genetics that start to delve out over time from clonal, from over cloning and just being, you know, in that world, we can revive some of these things. And then, you know, again, you know, is it GMO, isn’t it GMO? I mean, you know, truthfully, if you’re not using marker assisted breeding, you know, I’m looking at it that way, you’re still using it, you’re still using your brain, and your eyes, and your nose to –

 

Chip:  Map. Map. 

 

Justin:  Yeah, to select strains or select –

 

Chip:  And that’s traditional breeding, right?

 

Justin: Right, right.

 

Chip:  Hey, man, this summer, we grew a bunch of autoflowers, you know. This is my first like, big autoflower year. We planted out cumulatively about 20,000 autoflower seeds this year, all different types, all bunch of different vendors. And man, I’ll tell you, we got some product from Mephisto Genetics, Three Bears, OG, and they don’t pay me to say any of this, guys [inaudible 16:28]. But we all, everyone who saw this plant were like, “Wow, that’s like genetically modified weed? Like, what the fuck is that?” Because, you know, one, like in 65 days, it’s done. But there’s literally no leaf on these flowers. It’s the perfect cannabis for extraction. It was all bred with traditional techniques. And I mean, 20 years ago, I saw a big bud that looked very similar, right? These huge buds with just a little bit of leaf on them, you know? And that was bred traditionally, as well. That was straight [inaudible 17:06] seed’s product and now they’re Skunk product. But you don’t have to have genetically modified, or use genetically modified technology to breed superior cannabis. You can use science, our current observations with plants, math, additional techniques, all of these things have worked for hundreds of years.

 

Justin:  And even the work that we’ve been doing in the last year, you can really, you don’t necessarily need the university level agricultural science lab, but it makes things faster and better. And here’s the example. When you’re looking for tetraploids, and you’re doing a pheno hunt, but you’re looking for a tetraploid, not a diploid, you look at the size of the stomata, and the shape of the stomata on the leaf. So if you use a nice microscope, like a $200 microscope these days, and these are all, all these microscopes plugged right into your computer, and you can go in and capture your screenshots and look at things. 

 

Chip: Oh sick, man, we just got one. Like, I was gonna get one for the clone nursery, so anybody can look at any of the clones or any of the weed, make sure there’s no mold or mildew or PM or any bug, or anything. It’s right there on the counter, $200. 

 

Justin:  Great, yeah, look at it. And so what we’re doing, is we’re actually taking and looking at the size, and measuring the size and the shape of the stomata to see, and that can tell us what the ploidy is on it, okay? So when you’re hunting for a tetraploid, you’re looking for a different,  a less round stomata, and also the size of stomata is bigger. And so –

 

Chip:  Like how, that’s two, three times bigger, you know, how much bigger?

 

Justin:  From what we were working on, the microscope that we had was measuring in pixels. And I don’t even know what, we don’t even give a shit what that prize is. Because what we are doing to say, “Okay, this is a, this has this stomata is 70 pixels. This is 80. This one’s 100. This one’s 110, this one’s 60.” And what we’re looking at, first of all, we’re looking at stomatas that don’t have a perfectly round shape, first of all. That’s a first indicator that it could be a tetraploid. The problem is most of it falls in the 70 to 90 zone, okay? And so you know, you start to, so what we would do is we would use the microscope to get a bunch of the work done, and to measure and know. And then we would send all those samples to the lab and find out, yeah, that is not a tetraploid. That is maybe a tetraploid. That is a tetraploid. And then you know, then you get that data back and you start to say, “Okay, I can probably guarantee anything above these 90 pixels is a tetraploid.” But when you’re breeding and you don’t, you know, and you can’t get back the time that it takes. You want to know for sure. So you don’t waste six months on something that turns out, you’re wrong. And so, you get your tetraploid stock and then you start breeding with those plants. And I guess in layman’s terms, they have six sets of DNA. That’s why is it tetraploid, and then a diploid has two. And so, when you hybrid the two, six divided by two becomes three and that’s your triploid. And then those because of the three sets, DNA cannot make babies. Collect the donkey and the horse, make a mule, right? But then a mule can never replicate, the mules are optional.

 

Chip:  Oh, the mule cannabis, Justin Jones, we’re talking about genetics, random other thing, but mostly –

 

Justin:  Yeah, well, I finally got that –

 

Chip:  It’s all about the ganja.

 

Justin:  I finally got that ganja rolled up here for the Sunday morning smokedown but –

 

Chip:  Oh, what are you smoking? What are you smoking on?

 

Justin:  Sherbadough from Archive.

 

Chip:  Sherbadough, that’s Sherbert and Do-Si-Do, right?

 

Justin:  Yeah, you know, the boys are like, “I’d love to hit that, hit everything with the Do-Si-Do.”

 

Chip:  Oh, yeah. I just planted out a huge pheno selection of Archive Do-Si-Do crosses, Fletcher over there’s got always running some R&D. And he had a new Do-Si-Do male or a new Do-Si-Do donor he was using for his feminized line. And these guys, Sherbert Do-Si crossed with Do-Si-Do. Diesel, OG Face Off, T-1000, Tangie, Lemon G, Skittles all crossed  with the, that new Do-Si-Do donor. So we’re excited about it, they look great. 

 

Justin:  That’s good. I’m sitting here, I’ve got, I’m talking about you know, breeding and hybrids. I’ve got a Gorilla Glue 4 here from Archive that I grew. And then I also have a Duct Tape, which is Gorilla Glue 4 divided by the Do-Si-Do. And so to see like just the pure Gorilla Glue 4, and then right next to it, you know, it’s sister, or, you know, half sister, whatever, whatever with the Do-Si-Do. They’re very similar, but yet very different on the terpene profile. That Do-Si-Do gives everything just a little something I don’t know, that’s more magical. It’s different, it’s better.

 

Chip: It’s bigger. It’s bigger, for sure. It is better. And yeah, I’m really excited about it, man. You know, we’ve planted out of 2,500 of those seeds, and I’m going to have an incredible Do-Si-Do out of it all. I’ll be able to pick the Do-Si-Do. And I’m looking for the hybrids too but, man, it’s exciting just to see it all. That’s for sure. Right now I like the Do-Si-Do Face Off and the Do-Si-Do SFP backcrosses the best. If you think about it, those are almost all just like BX backcrosses, because the Face Off is in the Do-Si-Do. And then cross it back to the Face Off and cross it back to the SFP.

 

Justin:  Well I’ll tell you what. The marijuana breeders right now need to get hip, start trying to work on protecting their IP if they have it. Because that’s going to be the next thing once we get some sort of federal legalization, and guys want to become the next Sierra Nevada of marijuana or the next Two Buck Chuck or whatever. People are going to start going to war over their genetics and I’ve even had conversations with some guys in California that already want to start working on a Mendocino hamlet. And you know, Humboldt hamlet –

 

Chip:  Yeah, the Appalachian, the Appalachian is definitely starting to grow in ideology. Yeah, you know, Calculator right now, famous MAC line. He is upset that clone dealers are dealing his MAC 1 strain. He claims just recently on his Instagram channel that he’s going after some major clone producers in California for selling his MAC 1. I don’t believe he really has any legs to stand on currently, because there’s not going to be a court that’s going to enforce it. And you know, also just because like he claims to own a plant, doesn’t mean he owns anything, right?

 

Justin: No and it’s going to come down to the processes too. And so, there’s a popular hemp breeder here in Oregon and they’ve already got that patents filed on a bunch of things. And one of their patent pendings is on crossing autoflower genetics into full term photo plants. And so, if that patent gets issued, anybody into choosing that process will have to pay them some money. Maybe, right? I mean, everything has to be, try to be enforced. But at the end of the day, they’re saying that they own the rights to cross a ruderalis with a, you know, cannabis sativa or whatever, and get that early hybrid.

 

Chip:  Yeah, this is Phylos. Phylos – 

 

Justin:  No, no, it’s not that one. Were filed that is Oregon CBD.

 

Chip:  Oregon CBD. But Phylos, they have a couple similar, similar thing going on, right?

 

Justin:  Phylos has been collecting data on the different strains of cannabis and trying to relate them to each other to say, “Okay, you have a -“

 

Chip:  Oh, okay. So Phylos was not involved with the autoflower?

 

Justin:  Well, where they could become involved in is to who has the real, true, earliest version of a strain? And so there’s a, you know, let’s just say Jack Herer, okay it’s famous person and also a strain.

 

Chip:  Yep.

 

Justin:  If somebody wants to say, look, in order for you to say that that’s Jack Herer, it’s gotta A, be this, 123. This terpene profile stand, it’s got to be grown in Mendo or in this Hamlet, right? So they’ve done that with wine, obviously. If you grow your grapes in Washington, you can’t call it champagne. You gotta call it spark, white, sparkling, because it didn’t come from France. You’re gonna see that play out. Part of what Phylos is trying to do is they try to find those oldest, earliest grandparent genetics, or who’s  got the oldest clone that’s not, you know, whatever. We’ll see. We’ll see how, but there’s already people trying to patent. And I don’t think anybody’s trying to patent Sour Diesel, I think.

 

Chip:  Well, cause if you can patent cannabis sativa strains, you can patent hemp.

 

Justin:  They’re trying to patent the processes to feminize. So if you spray a certain type of silver on your plants, then to get a feminized pollen, and then you’re using that in your breeding, that that would be infringement on their IP. So again –

 

Chip:  Yeah, the plant’s gotta stand up in court and somebody has to enforce them and sure.

 

Justin:  Well sure, but I’m just saying that you know, hemp has become you know, fully legal before marijuana. It’s you’re seeing it already, the –

 

Chip:  Oh, there’s already a patent with hemp. There’s a hemp, or hemp people have already received patents for hemp, right?

 

Justin:  I believe so. I would say probably yes, but –

 

Chip:  Charles Webb. Those guys, they got a patent. They were the first people to get a patent.

 

Justin:  Probably.

 

Chip:  Yeah, totally. I’m sure others have by now. It’s a little weird thing to do, but yeah, go file for a patent if you think you got special shit. Then go sue everybody who uses your special shit without your permission. I guess that would do it, right? Mostly, I don’t really have special shit, though. It’s just normal weed that’s hype.

 

Justin:  Well, it comes down to this. The best advice I could give any of these breeders and I’m not a breeder, we’re messing around with some stuff for fun. And maybe it turns out to be something, you know – 

 

Chip:  We’re messing around with stuff for fun. How many seeds you got in your seed vault right now? Can you count?

 

Justin:  I don’t know. A couple hundred, 300. You know, at the end of the day though, what I you know, the people that have been breeding in the marijuana side of things, you know, whether you’re the guys that wear the funny sunglasses and the fake mustaches at the Emerald cup, or not, because you’re trying to not necessarily be above you know, or be out in the public eye. You’ve gotta start getting into the science and you gotta team up with somebody with some sort of trust. Well, if you don’t go the bioscience routes, you’ll wake up and realize that the guys that did go that route, and jump you, and go five years ahead of you in a short amount of time. You can be scared of that, and I’ve seen them be scared of going that direction because of you know, just that Dr. Evil science side of things. But boy, a lot of knowledge out there that’s never been applied to cannabis from you know, from our modern world of agriculture. So yeah, find some science buddies if you’re out there breeding and, you know, try to figure out how to do all these things. Because even just getting your genetics into a tissue culture lab, you know, and having them clean them up and do all these things, that can take like up to a year.

 

Chip:  Yeah, no shit. Right.

 

Justin:  And so you can’t you know, if you wait too long, and then say, “Hey, we really do need to take this clone that we’ve been using forever and get it cleaned.” It takes a while. So in California, I think there’s a lot of bioscience companies and people are starting to jump in on the marijuana side of things. But until it’s federally legal, you really won’t get the doors opened all the way. But those who have already started something will be ahead.

 

Chip:  Well, it’s been another fine episode with Justin Jones. Thanks for joining us, Justin.

 

Justin:  Yeah, thank you, Chip. Great talking to you. We got off on some tangents there with the genetics and other things, but that was fun. And we’ll circle back and produce more sense of that some other day.

 

Chip:  Yeah, absolutely. If you’re like this episode, or interested in others, please download it at the iTunes. We are The Real Dirt podcast. Also look us up on Spotify, and you can check us out therealdirt.com Hey, remember, if you’re ever looking for soil or soilless growing mediums, check out growerscoco.com, ask for them in your local store. And if you’re cruising online one day interested in buying some hydroponic or indoor supplies, look at cultivatecolorado.com. This has been The Real Dirt. Love y’all.

The Devastation of the California Forest Fires on Cannabis Farms

The Devastation of the California Forest Fires on Cannabis Farms

california forest fires and cannabis farms

There’s a saying that cannabis farmers have to protect their crop from three things; pests, people and police. But California farmers can add fires to that list too.

Jeff from Little Hill Cultivators has been a featured guest on The Real Dirt Podcast more than once, and he’s a personal friend to Chip. We’ve talked with Jeff about his grow practices, growing organic, California craft cannabis…but now we’re talking about a different topic.

Little Hill Cultivators in located right in the valley of the Emerald Triangle in northwestern California, and it’s also right in the center of the raging California forest fires that have been destroying the state for the last few months. Now, the fire is making its way to Jeff’s doorstep.

With minimal support from local firefighters due to their secluded location, Jeff and his team have been on their own to deal with the biggest fires in California’s history as they burn through thousands of acres and put thousands of cannabis farms at risk.

In this exclusive, last-minute episode of The Real Dirt, Chip and Jeff talk about what’s happening in California right now, why it could be happening, what Little Hill is doing to fight and what the future could hold for Jeff and his farm.

Please follow and support Jeff and Little Hill Cultivators

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The Evolution of Cannabis Cultivation Technology

The Evolution of Cannabis Cultivation Technology

cannabis cultivation technology for monitoring a cannabis grow

Remember when your only grow schedule was in a tattered notebook?

Who are we kidding, half of us still do it that way! But the truth is that cannabis cultivation technology has advanced exponentially just in the last 5 years.

Controllers that can monitor and alert you when CO2 levels or temperature gets too high or low, irrigation feeding systems set on timers so you never have to worry about feeding on time, and more. But what about one application that can monitor all of it?

That’s where Trym comes in.

Trym is the brainchild of Matt Mayberry, a homegrower who began to notice a lack of software services designed specifically for aiding cannabis growers. He noticed that there were individual products for monitoring your team, environmental conditions, and regulatory compliance, but not one single product that could do it all.

Matt set out with the goal of simplifying the grower’s life with easy to use cannabis cultivation technology software, and Trym does just that. Trym software is helping to manage more than one million square feet of cultivation space. Designed in collaboration with valuable farming partners, integrated with numerous solutions to help cultivators run their businesses better and keep them inspired to grow smarter every day.

As the industry evolves, so do growers and the cannabis cultivation technology they use. Trym continues to evolve with them through collaborative efforts and essential customer feedback that helps shape the future of the app.

In this episode, Chip sits down with Matt to talk about the inception of Trym, the services that they offer for cannabis growers and cultivators, and the continuous evolution of cannabis cultivation technology!

Transcript

Chip: Hey! This is Chip with The Real Dirt. Thanks for joining us today. Today I’m in my newest of new podcast studios. Yes, there’s quite an echoey sound in here. And we’re going to turn this into the new Oklahoma City podcast studio. So look forward to many, many episodes here. You’re gonna have people from all over the country, and all over the world to guest here at The Real Dirt. Hey, I want to thank you for joining me today. And if you haven’t, please go to iTunes or Spotify, and subscribe to The Real Dirt podcast. Please join us on Facebook and Instagram. And, you know, if you need any hydroponic, or indoor, or outdoor growing materials, please contact us at cultivatecolorado.com, cultivateokc.com, and if you’re using soil or soilless medium, Growers Soil is what you should use. So without further ado, on today’s episode, we have Matt Mayberry. We’re going to talk about software and how it relates to the cannabis industry. So sit back, fire one up and enjoy this episode of The Real Dirt.

 

Chip: Hey, Matt. Chip here. How you doing?

 

Matt: Good. How are you?

 

Chip: Oh man, I’m doing great. It’s starting to be nice and fall weather over here in Oklahoma. Wait, where am I talking to you, are you in California someplace?

 

Matt: Yeah, we’re just north of San Francisco in Marin County. 

 

Chip: Oh, man. I was just over there up in Humboldt. Rough fires, dude. 

 

Matt: Oh, man. It’s crazy. Yeah, this summer, it’s definitely been a strange one. We left California actually, when the smoke got really bad here. The fires weren’t very close to [inaudible 1:48] for us so far. Well, I guess my definition of close has gotten a lot different over the last few years, but we didn’t have any, like imminent fires like that were in our town, that were, that were meaningful in any kind of way. But the smoke is really bad, so we took off the Oregon to get away from the smoke. And then the fire solid is up there basically, the smoke got really bad up there. Stayed there for a few weeks and we decided to come back down here.

 

Chip: Yes, right. We had a podcast scheduled and you had to postpone it, because you were fleeing from the smoke.

 

Matt: Yeah, it’s been a wild one. So I’m glad we finally did it. And we got this thing on the books.

 

Chip: Yeah, man. Thanks for joining me, man. So Matt, you know, technology is now like, and it’s starting to be so much part of everyday life. And the cannabis industry is no different. No matter if it is hemp, or ganja, or medical marijuana, we’re all using technology in and Matt, tell us a little bit about what you do.

 

Matt: Yeah. So I’m Matt Mayberry. I’m the cofounder and CEO of a company called Trym, and we build farm management software for commercial cannabis cultivators. And ultimately, what we do is we help growers better manage their operation, and manage their team, and then also help scale their business so they can be successful.

 

Chip: Yeah, you know, farm management software is something that industrial agriculture has been using. I mean, it’s probably one of the first things that happened with the computer, right? It’s to figure out how to count how many pigs or chickens that you got. But the industry really has been dominated by some major, major industrial, agricultural players. And there haven’t been too many people like yourself to want to come in, you know, to the farm management side. Man, what gave you the idea to do this?

 

Matt: Yeah, so I started out my journey in cannabis, I guess when I was about 17 years old in North Carolina. You know, I was smoking cannabis recreationally with my friends and – 

 

Chip: Mothership, you were were smoking Mothership over there?

 

Matt: I don’t know. We did not have the quality of products that we have these days [inaudible 3:54].

 

Chip: So, okay, famous weed strain from from my past, Mothership.

 

Matt: Okay, nice. 

 

Chip: Asheville, North Carolina. 

 

Matt: Okay, cool. I wonder if that has a parliament funkadelic influence.

 

Chip: Asheville’s the center of music in the south, you know.

 

Matt: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I got my first degree at Appalachian State in North Carolina, which is like about an hour away from Asheville. So, spent a lot of time in the mountains of North Carolina. But yeah, so I mean, when I was a teenager, I was riding around my friends. We were smoking cannabis, and I really enjoyed it. And I was always been, you know, I’ve got two different engineering degrees. I’ve always been kind of a tinkerer. And so that started at a very young age. So I decided to try and see if I could grow the stuff myself. Got a little bit better, go into App State, met some other growers there. When I graduated, I went into tech and I didn’t, I didn’t grow commercially. Kind of still home growing though, and I had kept my eye on the industry. I had a lot of friends that are in the industry. I still have a lot of friends that are growers, some of them from back in North Carolina. When Prop 64 passed, essentially, I started looking at the industry more seriously as a career more than just something that I did in my free time. And so, started looking at the space. And given my experience in cultivation, I say that in a very humble way, my experience in cultivation is much different than a lot of our customers. You know, I don’t grow product that looks like what our customers grow, but with my interest, and mild experience in cultivation, I decided to take a look at the space. And me and my cofounders felt really comfortable with cultivation. Benjamin, who’s one of our cofounders, actually he used to work on the commercial farm off in Mendocino. And then he was an electrical engineer at a company that he and I used to work at. And my wife, Karen is our third cofounder, and she was part of my experiments in home growing here, once we moved to California. So we all three had experience with the plant. And we started looking at when Prop 64 passed with the lens of how can we apply the experience that we have in technology, and apply it to the cultivation space. So really, we just started poking around and grows, trying to find like, what was going on at these farms, and how people were currently managing things, and seeing if there was a place to actually apply some additional technology in one way or the other, whether it was hardware or software to make their lives easier. And what we found was that as far as the record keeping went and the management of the farm went, really the most sophisticated technology was whiteboards, and Excel spreadsheets, and notebooks. And in I guess, the regulated markets that currently had that kind of compliance element as well, they had software that was provided by the state that most of the growers didn’t like. So we started thinking, you know, it looks like there’s a pretty big opportunity here, but let’s figure out what that is. And so then we just started to iterate on releasing small amounts of product and working with the farms that we had pretty good connections with, to try and see if that was something that would be valuable to them. And eventually, we ended up with a product and started selling it to people.

 

Chip: So you’re homegrown.

 

Matt: Yeah, I mean, I –

 

Chip: Yeah, you’re homegrown, you know.  You know, I kind of put, I put people into two basic categories in the weed industry.  There are the pink shirts, and there’s the homegrown, right? And the homegrown people are people who’ve been growing, you know, cannabis for themselves, you know, and the people around them were started out that way, right? They had this desire to like, “Hey, I want to help, you know, cultivate cannabis.” And the pink shirts are generally the people that want to cultivate the business of cannabis. They both intermesh and, you know, I lovingly say the term pink shirts, because several of them work with me. But like, they come from the business side, and often not from the homegrown or from the cannabis side. Now, almost every other tech person I have talked to were pink shirts. They wanted to bring some business side to it. Did you have like, a problem that you wanted to solve? You know, ’cause like, you’re looking at, you’re growing, you’re seeing what people are like, is there a number one like, oh, man, nobody’s taken advantage of nobody’s doing this.

 

Matt: Yeah. So what we found when we started talking to growers was that they have really a multitude of different problems that they face every day. And in order to solve those, they’re either using manual processes, or they were using multiple different pieces of software to do that. So scheduling out a batch of plants from seed all the way through to harvest. And people are using things like Google Calendar, or those like paper calendars that you buy at Staples, and they’re mapping everything out. And they’re either mounting them into grow, or they’re sharing that calendar with their employees. And then, the compliance element of it, that they were usually using their notebooks and Excel to track all the compliance reportable events, and then handing that over to a compliance manager that would then put all that into the state system, and report it to the regulators. And so the other thing was, you need to know what’s going on in your grow, you need to know what the conditions are, you need to know what happened last week. And if you don’t know what’s happening right now, if the lights go out, you need to know that. And there were people basically, putting together like, there were some people that we talked to that were putting together their own systems for like, thermal shut off where you know, if their air conditioner went out, they would turn off some of the lights. And they were kind of rigging a lot of this stuff themselves. There’s stem systems that were out there that were doing some more advanced control,  somewhere out of people’s price ranges, or some just didn’t have access to those types of systems, I guess at the time. But, we just saw there were a lot of different problems that a lot of people were putting together, you know, they say innovation is born out of necessity, right? There was a lot of, kind of, micro-innovation in all of these grows, where people were solving the problems that they had. And we were able to kind of look at all those problems, and then think about, alright with our, so my background was I worked in hardware, software, and firmware. Benjamin who is our business partner has worked in hardware, software to a degree, and firmware. And Karen, our third cofounder, she is basically all things customer facing, marketing, and revenue, that kind of thing. So when we started looking at how can we apply what we know to these, we were able to look at the multitude of problems that people had and kind of figure out what that solution was. And what we saw is that there was really no software that was built specifically for cannabis cultivators. So you mentioned earlier in this call, that there’s all these systems that exist for broader ag, and that’s true. But the reality is, a lot of those systems were built for like row crops in Iowa. And farming –

 

Chip: Yeah sure.

 

Matt: 20,000 acres in Iowa is a lot different than growing like, five warehouses in Oakland. It’s – 

 

Chip: And most of it is animal husbandry, or a lot of it, animal husbandry.

 

Matt: Yep, exactly. There’s a ton of that, and a lot of row crops have to, where they’re using like, satellite imagery to detect like, pathogens, or water necessities, and things like that. So, what we did is we actually took a lot of lessons from, we explored the farm management space. We looked at what a lot of those companies were doing for large scale commercial agriculture. And we looked at cannabis, and we saw kind of where the gaps were. A surprise kind of insight was we, we said, “There’s not really anything that’s specifically built for cannabis growers.” And with my experience in software, I’d seen there were restaurant softwares, and there were dental office softwares, and things like this, and everything was built, you know, with the idea that you can do everything that you need to do on a daily basis in those softwares. And so, we kind of took some lessons from those as well, and set out to build a software that would cover all of the major aspects of a cultivator’s business. And those, I kind of generically put those into three different categories. One is managing your team, the other is managing the environmental conditions, or monitoring at least the environment conditions in your facility. And then, the third is your regulatory compliance. So those are probably the three biggest challenges that people face every day. Creating groups of plants, tracking the activities that need to occur on those groups of plants, knowing what conditions they were exposed to, and then reporting all of that to the state. So that was really the problem that we set out to solve, was kind of simplifying the growers life and allowing them to really focus on what they do best, which is growing really high quality product.  And ultimately growing better product as a result of not having to worry about a lot of the other nuances that affect them on a daily basis.

 

Chip: Yes, man, so many states like Colorado, and California, and Nevada, they’re just so complex about their tracking. And man, then there’s you know, there’s some things about California that’s really nice about their harvesting, their batching. Where Colorado, it’s like, “Wow, you got to weigh it all. You have to track it all,” like Colorado is, in my opinion, has one of the best programs, because you do have to track so much of it, but it’s not ridiculous, like maybe Nevada is. You know, it’s tough out there, man. It’s really hard for new cannabis operators or experienced operators to really keep up with it all, right? You like, literally have to have some sort of technology now. It’s not just growing plants.

 

Matt: Yeah, I mean, the legal market invented a new role in a cannabis cultivation facility, which is the  compliance manager. You know, before regulation, there was no compliance, because there, you know, everything was –

 

Chip: It was like, “Oh man, is this good? This is good, bro! I like this one.”

 

Matt: In addition to the compliance element that comes with the regulated market, it’s also that there’s now this kind of quality expectation with brands where you put out a product and you say, you know, this is a pretty good cultivar, I’m branding it with my farm. And then, the consumer tries that, they like it, they go back to the store, they want more of it, or they get it delivered or whatever. If it’s not the same experience, then you might lose that customer. And so, there’s experience, expectation, and potency expectation, and kind of brand image all kind of encompasses all of that now. And that’s a really new thing that we really didn’t have in the legacy market. You know, it was you knew, so and so down the street had the fire Sour D, but you didn’t necessarily like, expect that every time you got that Sour D, it was gonna be the exact same or what have you. And so we’ve kind of created this machine to the industry that has also led to a lot of changes beyond just reporting to the state for compliance. It’s also like, developing standard operating procedures that are unique to different cultivars and things like that. And I think that’s a really exciting evolution, because it’s what you see in like, wine and spirits, and what you see when, you know, you look at other industries. You know, you kind of have a recognition of the brand, and you expect certain things from them. 

 

Chip: I mean, you kind of gotta be feeling like the, when you go and talk to some of these cultivators, like you know, you’re introducing the you know, the Ford Raptor, and they’re still on the like, donkey and car type scenario, right? Because I mean, ganja farmers, they’re like, salt of the earth, right? Like, most of them, the older school ones, you know, this isn’t what they’re interested in. Do you have like, I don’t know, it’s almost a cultural like difference to be able to talk to people in that manner. Do you see that?

 

Matt: Yeah, I’d say it’s a mix in the industry. You know, we’ve got some growers that know they want something, but don’t know exactly what it is. And they meet with us to kind of see if we’re at, and then some cases we are, and in other cases, you know, like you said, they might say, “Well, this is not necessarily what we’re looking for.” But for the ones that get it, some of our larger customers are actually telling us what they need still. You know, we started out very much customer centric, focus on what the growers needs are and figuring out like, here’s what their problem is, here’s what the ultimate need is, let’s figure out a solution to that, working really hand in hand with them. And we still have that to this day, like, a lot of our new feature development comes directly from growers saying, you know, “This is now really important in my business, can you help me figure out how to solve this?” And as the industry evolves, our customers are evolving, and our software platform needs to evolve to keep pace with them, as well, because there are a lot of –

 

Chip: And do you have an example?

 

Matt: – the customers.

 

Chip: Example of one of those customer changes or customer like, developments you mean? Customer based research?

 

Matt: Yeah, I mean like, almost every feature in the app, I’d say. But I’ll give you a couple of examples. 

 

Chip: So I mean, you talked heavily to people about what’s going on, this isn’t just your ideas?

 

Matt: We would not be anywhere without the guidance from our customers, you know.  What we try to do is spend as much, I mean, ultimately, all the way down to our head of engineering, actually, right now on this call, our head of engineering is covering a customer meeting for me. And he’s meeting with a large client that we’re trying to close, and working with them to figure out how we need to make some adjustments to be able to deploy our software across their portfolio facilities that they have. So all the way down to like, the engineering level, we have people talking to our customers, because if you don’t understand the problem that the grower has, then you’re not going to be able to build software that’s going to solve that problem. And so, from our customer support to our marketing, to our engineering team, to myself, you know, we spend an immense amount of time talking to our customers. But a great example is when we first launched, we had a mobile app only. And it worked well for some of our really early customers, we had basically the ability to monitor environmental sensors like temp, humidity, co2, in the rooms. You could create groups of plants and assign them to those rooms, and then track them on the way and harvest them. And then you could also assign tasks to those groups of plants, so that your team could execute them all from the mobile app. And we started out very much mobile focused because the farms that we were working with at the scale that they were at, basically, a lot of them didn’t even [inaudible 16:56] in the facility. It had to be on mobile. So then we started working, honestly, we probably want a deal that was, we were way over our skis on and we probably shouldn’t be one, but we want it. And yeah, one day, they immediately said, “This is great. We like what you’re doing for the team. But you know, managers, we really need a web based application. And we got to be able to map things out like we do on this current calendar that we’re using. And we need to be able to plan out months or even harvests in advance.” And so working really closely with them, we built out that functionality. And now it’s probably like the most popular feature in our app is this like, that this kind of concept of task planning for your team. And I mean, literally, we just did a survey not too long ago, it was one of the more popular features that we have. So I mentioned cultivation earlier in the call. I’ve grown but I’ve never grown at the scale that these guys are growing, and I’ve never produced product that was anywhere close to it. So these guys are great. So, humility is a really important thing, being humble at what you’re good at, and recognizing where other people have expertise that you don’t have. And these growers know their craft inside and out. And you know, I think we know tech and software inside and out. But you gotta we got to listen to those that really know what they need. And that’s the way we were able to really build solid features that actually match their expectations.

 

Chip: I’ve said this over and over again. And it’s my number one encouragement or advice that I give people is, growing cannabis on a small scale or large scale is more about logistics and movement of materials and people, right? Like, you know, there is a certain magic and magical moment that happens when you cultivate cannabis. But especially on a commercial scale, the logistics associated with it all, you know,  you have to be detail-oriented, if you want to be successful and on, and  the cannabis to look the same brandable, you know, be it the same high quality, or similar every single time. It’s more than just talking to your plants, right?

 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a hundred percent right. Another example of a feature that we built in collaboration with customers is actually very much in line with what you’re talking about here. So, after we built out that task calendar, we had some customers saying, you know, “I’ve got, you know, 22,000 plants that I’m managing in this cultivation facility, and I’ve got a team of, you know, 30 people that work here every day. And I have to coordinate all of them on these plants. And I have to grow these plants in the exact same way every time. So I really need a way to repeat that process for groups of plants, and be able to basically like when I create a group of plants, we already know exactly what needs to happen on it all the way through from when I initially cut the clones, and plug them all the way through when we’re harvesting and hanging. We came up with this idea of a workflow. So, a workflow is just a series of tasks that need to occur on any group of plants. And you can create as many workflows as you want. So you can have one for each strain, you could have one for for different cultivation styles. Maybe you’ve got one farm that’s greenhouse, you got another one that’s indoor, one that’s outdoor, you can have different workflows that apply to those. Or maybe you’re testing out like, rock wool and cocoa together. You can have different workflows for those. And then when you create a group of plants, you just assign this workflow, and it’ll automatically populate your calendar with all the tasks that need to happen for that group of plants. So 100% agree with you with the inventory and team management problem being one of the major things that the growers have to overcome. You know, the art of growing cannabis is in itself a full time job, you know, to really figure out exactly what your plants need, and what you need to do, and then to coordinate that across, I mean, some of these farms that we’re working with are like, measured in miles almost, right? They’re like 400,000 square feet cultivation facilities. When you’re talking about growing at that scale, you really need to have really strong processes in place in order to manage effectively. And to get the same output that you’re expecting every time. Labor is the number one operational expense, at least here in California this is true.

 

Chip: Everywhere, you know, and you just can’t be, some things just can’t be automated, just like the grape industry. So much of the you know, grape industry is still hand labored, still handpicked, still hand trimmed, you know, it’s a part of it.

 

Matt: So take that, and then imagine that you had to tag each individual grapevine with a barcode, and you had to know what grape came from each vine. 

 

Chip: Yeah, God. Right? Yeah, I mean, this is literally, do you have a statistic on how much compliance costs and labor?

 

Matt: I mean, I’ve heard numbers as high as like 30% increase in labor. 

 

Chip: Yeah, it’s 30%.

 

Matt: That’s coming from older markets in California, because California is still pretty new in the compliance area. But like Colorado, and Oregon, I’ve heard, it adds 30%, to just everything that we do, when it comes from, you know, planting all the way through, I mean, harvesting is probably the most laborious part of cultivating at this point, because you do have to weigh every plant. And a lot of these regulations, it’s pretty clear that whoever wrote them, either didn’t consult extensively with growers about it, or ignored grower advice, because there’s a lot of things that add a ton of additional expense to the industry. And ultimately in time, that doesn’t, in my opinion, add a lot of additional value, but.

 

Chip : I’ve been in on those rule defining conversations with legislators and, man, it just it, you know, they’ve got this certain perception of public safety that they need to meet. And it kind of, that trumps everything. So even though we know that cannabis as a plant is pretty much harmless, right? They have to have this like allure that they’re protecting, you know, the public from it. And that’s why you get, you know, these weird laws, right?

 

Matt: Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen, especially like, I’ve seen it, you know, the distance to school thing. It’s like you can, in some areas, I’ve seen schools that are down the street from a 7-11 where you can buy alcohol. Or down from, you know, a big box store where you can buy hunting rifles, but no, you can’t have them. Cannabis store or anywhere close to that where they actually have a bouncer at the door that checks your ID to make sure you can come in there. You know, it’s pretty ridiculous, some of the things that we see. But I, yeah, I get it. The public fear that started at the beginning of the 20th century in this country, and continues all the way now to this day, I think is, is one of the biggest things as an industry that we have to overcome. You know, the federal perception is one thing, and the federal legality is one thing, but the public perception is a whole another mess. 

 

Chip: Interesting how in California has the oldest history of cannabis in the country, right? I mean, I know people were growing cannabis all over, but California’s got one of the oldest histories. And there’s all this preconceived information and leftover PTSD on both sides of the fence. And, you know, I was just there, I’m dealing with a cannabis license up in Humboldt. And you know, there’s so many concerns people have that are just leftover with historic stuff that doesn’t occur anymore, and it might not have ever occurred. But like, you know, just the like, the preconceived notion that cannabis farmers you know, don’t care about the environment, or polluters are trash, or you know,  other places like say, Oklahoma where I’m at right now. I’m targetting my former city. Like, people are so open to cannabis here and they’re really interested in it in a way that like, I don’t see it in California, righ? It’s really, really strange man. You know that, you think that a state that has so much history with it and people who actively voted for it right, and you know, and smoke weed at night, or at home on the weekends. Just the conversations they have as they’re against cannabis and cannabis production because the myths you know, of system abuse.

 

Matt: Yeah, I mean even the county that I’m in here, there’s no storefronts where you can buy it. We have delivery services, but you know – 

 

Chip: In Marin County?

 

Matt: Marin County, yeah.

 

Chip: Home of the Grateful Dead, right?

 

Matt: Yeah. Home after they got busted, right. Over selling at San Francisco and then –

 

Chip: Safehouse.

 

Matt: Yeah, we had a little stint in LA where they were manufacturing LSD and then they came back, and they all landed in Marin Country. And ultimately that’s where Jerry died since the beach but yeah, that’s where Bobby still lives. And Phil Spot and Sandra Fells.

 

Chip: I mean, isn’t that ridiculous? Like, I mean, The Grateful Dead really did like, define so much like street level cannabis dealing and like help, you know, find cannabis travel throughout the country, right? It’s so many. That’s the first time so many people got exposed to high end cannabis, is going to dead shows. 

 

Matt: Yeah. True story.

 

Chip: Anyway, man, thank you. My cannabis licenses is in Humboldt. And they’re the hardest, it is so hard to get a cultivation license in the county of Humboldt. They’ve just regulated it, and restricted it, and zoned, it’s pretty much to death. It’s just nuts, but like used to be like, where all the weed came from, right?

 

Matt: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I don’t know, it’s, it’s interesting. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people that have attempted to get licensed in California that were coming from the legacy market. That for whatever reason, you know, either they had a hard time getting a license, and they had challenges with their facility, they’ve just decided not to, some have remained in the legacy market. And others have moved to other states to try and, you know, give it a go in some of the newer markets that, depending on which market you’re talking about, in some cases, like Oklahoma’s a good example, it’s much easier to, from a licensing perspective to start an operation there that it is in California. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s any easier from a building a facility, and designing it, and actually running it. But you know, when it comes to licensing there, there are some newer markets that are a lot more liberal with their their kind of allocation of licenses and things like that.

 

Chip: You know, the limited liability, or the limited license states like Missouri, and Arkansas, and Georgia and Florida, you know, they make it a little bit different, because there’s no application process. And it’s not quite the same over there. Usually, when there’s a limited liability state, there’s no legacy people evolved into into it at all. Right, or like somebody on the board, or some other like. billion dollar group of people would come in to like, try to get a license. Because that’s what it takes, man, right? Like, it takes millions of dollars to get a license in one of those exclusive states.

 

Matt: It’s like that in some parts of California to where maybe not the millions of dollars, but there’s like a whole side of the industry right now, which is like license application writing, right? Where you have to, like, say the right things and portray yourself the right way in order to kind of, especially when it comes to storefront, you know, dispensers are I think especially a really coveted areas are much more challenging thing. But yeah, there’s –

 

Chip: In Oklahoma, one of my favorite customers is Danky McNuggets. Yeah. But when you’re writing an application, like you have to, you know, have a, it can’t be fun like that. It can’t be the Cheech and Chong show so much anymore. It’s like, “Oh, we’re growing and building a sustainable cannabis operation. And we’re gonna give back to the community and healthy harvests friendly cannabis shop,” you know, ends up being the name, right? And that’s why so many of the names are so, you can’t remember anybody’s name, right? Because they’re all like, you know, something THC related, but like, you know, Co-Op, or I don’t know, that whole weird thing that’s happened with cannabis has like, definitely decreased the culture of it all when we used to go and buy it on people’s couches.

 

Matt: Oh, man, I still trip out when I drive through Oakland and I see the billboards like, on the interstate. Because I’m just like, you know. Did you grow up in Oklahoma?

 

Chip: No, no, I grew up in Georgia. I moved to California when I was like, in my early 20s.

 

Matt: Alright, so I have a similar story, but grew up in North Carolina. And so like, I remember having conversations with my parents, and they were like, I was like, “This stuff’s gonna be legal there!” And they were like, “Bullshit.”

 

Chip: It’s federally legal now.

 

Matt: So but now, I’m driving down the interstate, you can you know, you see it advertised on the interstate in Oakland. And that’s just a really awesome experience, to see the evolution and, you know, we have these kind of, I guess, high-end problems now that we’re talking about, of, you know, the way that they’re regulating it. But the fact that it is regulated in a positive way is a really amazing thing.

 

Chip: We got to complain a little bit, you know, I mean, checks and balances of it all. And, you know, the way we of course, cannabis people win is by like, “Hey, let’s get some software to track the growth in the way to the plant all the way through. So if anybody like questions where my cannabis went, I’ve got the data that shows exactly where it went.” That’s kind of the beauty of it. That’s how we get the win, right? That’s how we get to grow. It’s like, “Oh, we just track it. Oh, sure. I’ll do that. Oh, I’ll have a fence. Oh, sure I’ll be far enough away from people.” And you know we just comply, just you know, compliance. That’s exactly what that means, is we’re not trying to fight it, right? We’re just going to comply. “Okay, whatever you want. We’ll do it,” you know, and keep getting to grow more weed.

 

Matt: Yep, absolutely. We’re happy to help.

 

Chip: So man, you get to talk to just a lot of great people, I’m sure. You’re primarily in California, but do you go other, you know, other places?

 

Matt: Yeah. So we’re actually in 14 different states. We focused on California, because that’s where the bulk of the team is here. And it’s really where we have probably the majority of our connections. But, you know, we do have customers in Colorado, and Oregon, and Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, Maine, Actually just recently got our first customer out in Hawaii. So yeah, we’re all over the place, Indiana, Pennsylvania. 

 

Chip: And you work in hemp, as well as in ganja, and medical marijuana as well.

 

Matt: Yeah, we just recently started bringing on some hemp farms. The compliance piece is obviously not really a major factor there. But the farm management work that we’re doing is really helpful there. So it’s been interesting evolution of the product, I’d say, to see that we have customers outside of cannabis that are using us. 

 

Chip: When you’re talking to your hemp customers. I mean, they’re more like traditional row crop farmers. Where the ganja customers, the medical cannabis customers, it’s more like a nursery style type of operation. How do you handle that with your software?

 

Matt: Yeah, it’s interesting. A lot of the hemp farms that we work with actually are similar to the anecdote that I gave earlier, which was a lot of growers in California that, you know, for whatever reason, were having challenges getting licensed or whatever, they move to other states to give it a go there. So a lot of the hemp farmers that we know are actually people that started out in like, medical cannabis states, and then moved to either, move back home to like Tennessee or South Carolina, or somewhere like that to start doing hemp. And the interesting thing is, I think a lot of the hemp farmers are establishing themselves in markets where they believe legalization will happen soon. And then, they’ve already got the infrastructure built up so that when licensing becomes available, they can get their cannabis license, and be ready to drop the cannabis license. So we focus mostly on high-end smokable flower hemp, because it is so similar to cannabis, aand it works really well for the software that we built out. The other aspect of the industry that’s moving towards the like, massive row crop outdoor hemp, that hasn’t really been something that we’ve addressed yet. But we do have aspirations to do that over time. Now, we just need to, I think, make some slight adjustments to be the ideal solution for that type of cultivation.

 

Chip: Yeah, no, I get it. It was, you know, my first thought. And yeah, this year, we just saw the industrialization of hemp, and when incurred with that, the glut in the marketplace, the development of machinery. But yeah, you know, they don’t, it’s not as regulated here as much as ganja and medical marijuana is, but you still need all the stats. You still need to know what grows where, you still need to know your water consumption, you know? So are you guys integrating any like, drone technology or satellite technology? You’ve kind of mentioned those before.

 

Matt: Um, no, we’re currently we’re integrated with like, environmental control systems. So things like troll master, agricultural type of aeration controls, things like that, as well as Argus controls out of Canada. Their industrial environmental control systems, we’re able to pull data in from those systems, and then represent that in our system. We’re looking at some other environmental control integrations as well. And then, obviously, we’re integrated with Metrc. And also we’re looking at some complimentary software systems now to integrate with as well. 

 

Chip: So like, Link4 or Privo, something like that?

 

Matt: Yeah, those are, those are the types of companies for sure, that are on our integration list. We’re mostly indoor and greenhouse, although we do have some outdoor farms that are on the platform. There are indoor trained drones, we have not specifically started working with those yet. That plus, there’s a lot of like imagery technology that’s out there, that I think is still maturing. But, they’re using machine learning, and imagery to essentially identify like, pathogens or pests, or things like that on plants. And so, I think as the industry continues to evolve, those technologies will also evolve. And if it seems like that’s a need that our customers have, then we’ll look to integrate those types of technologies at the point where it seems like it’s sufficiently developed and would solve problems for our growers.

 

Chip: Yeah, absolutely, man. I mean, it seems like everything’s coming with a data port these days, you know, and sensors, you know, are soon to be on everything. I mean, I’m surprised that like, we don’t have sensors on our lights for temperature or par. And, I mean, it seems like they’re already, it’s just not too complicated to put it in there. Maybe should somebody get the idea. Hey, give me 1% for this idea, there’s a par reader on your lamp out there, send me one lamp anyway that reads par, I only need one. But you know, but you know what I’m saying? It’s like, the integration of all this is all just phase and a half. And I mean, it’s just happened with, like the GPS and satellites have just started to happen with tractors. And even though we’ve been talking about GPS and satellites for years, but it’s taken such a long time. And like, now I’m out here in Oklahoma, this turnpike they’re building. I saw this one guy was driving one tractor, and then there were other two graders right behind him that were totally empty, right? And they’re just, you know, following his GPS, you know, he’s controlling them.

 

Matt: Wow.

 

Chip: Yeah, yes. It’s totally crazy, man.

 

Matt: It’s a drone tractor.

 

Chip: Yeah, drone tactor.

 

Matt: That’s pretty amazing.

 

Chip: Yeah, the technology is everywhere, you know what I mean? The most expensive thing with cannabis is labor, like you said, to be able to automate any point. But then, you also have to, like read the data, right? Like, you know, just because you know, you’re shoving all your weed in your automatic harvesting machine, and it sorts the nuggets, and pushes the big leaf to one side, the small leaf to the other side, the eighth nuggets this way, the pound nuggets this way, you still need the data from it all.

 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I think when we started Trym, we thought it would be really great if we could Google set out the catalog the world’s data. I think, you know, you could say we set out to catalog the cannabis cultivation industry’s data, right? We didn’t actually set out to do it at the industry scale, though. We started out to do it at the grower scale, where we could actually catalog out their data, and then they can look back on it, and reflect on it, and figure out how to make improvements. Because ultimately, you and I can both be growing like you know Mac. We can both be growing a strain. And your version of Mac might be different than mine, right? Because like, we think it’s the same cut. But ultimately, it may not be, and I mean, there’s been obviously a lot of efforts to try and make, to try and identify those similarities. But knowing that I’ve seen one of my friend’s Gorilla Glue, I’ve seen  the other one’s Gorilla Glue, and they look fundamentally different. It’s like, something happened along the line, and maybe [inaudible 37:01], or whatever. But also like, we don’t track everything, right? So these outside influences around like, how tight is the envelope of the room, and that kind of thing. So yeah, we have the inputs, but we don’t know every, we haven’t characterized every element of every room. So we think we’re you know, the kind of similarities across different growers make a challenge with the differences of their grow environment, the differences of their strains, make it difficult I think, to really create this whole industry wide, perfect model of what’s the best way to grow cannabis. But what we can do, I think, is provide growers along the way, as we continue to get better about how we make it really easy to track data, we can make it really easy to provide recommendations to growers on how to make improvement. Like hey, you know, normally when you run your Alien Cookies in room three, you keep it 73 degrees, and you get this output. You’re running at 75 degrees on average, you know, if we could drop that back down, then you might get x percent more output.  You know, those are the types of things along the way that I think we should be able to provide, becauseyou know, you can already provide those types of assertions, and a lot of, there’s a lot of technology to provide those types of assertions in other industries. You know around like, turbine performance and around you know, broader agriculture, you know. If the field looks this color of brown from the satellite image, then you’re probably suffering from this pathogen, you know. That’s something that they can do [inaudible 38:22]. The fact that we can’t do that in cannabis is, I think, a statement to the fact that it was federally illegal. A lot of growers weren’t didn’t have the will, or the motivation to take really accurate records that were especially digital. Because you know don’t have a record what you’re doing, and with the medical, you know, there was a lot of that. So, a lot of internal nomenclature. And there’s a lot of unique cultivars that exist, and a lot of unique environments. And so, that’s been a gap to go to provide that cannabis. But that’s what we’re on the way to do, is to help growers ultimately grow a better product. And we’re doing that by tracking all those major pieces.

 

Chip: Oh man, that’s where it’s at. We need to grow better weed, dude. Everybody needs to grow better weed. I need better weed, you need better weed, we all need better weed. That’s for sure, man. Man, this has been an awesome conversation. A lot of people look you up. How do people find out about Trym?

 

Matt: Yeah, so our website is trim with a Y, so trym.io. You can go there, you can request a demo, or you could email us at info@trym.io. Love to talk to anyone that’s interested. As I mentioned, we’re in 14 states, our farm platform works in any state irrespective of the compliance system you guys use. And then, if you’re specifically looking for Metrc support in California, definitely reach out, because we, over the experience of building out that integration for compliance, have turned into industry experts as far as compliance goes in the state of California. So yeah, we’d love to have a conversation with any of your listeners that think we could be helpful.

 

Chip: Oh man, that’s great. Yeah, Metrc is coming to a town near you, Oklahoma. So get ready for yeah, we just passed it a couple of days ago.  Not passed, but it just came into action, I believe just a couple of days ago. So it’s all starting to happen here.

 

Matt: That’s the truth, man. Yeah, those guys have a pretty good grip on on the regulated states. 

 

Chip: Yeah well, here it comes. It’s all good. Hey, man. Thanks for the conversation. I really appreciate us finally getting together. It looks a little clear out there. Not so smoky. I hope the breeze keeps up, and the fire stay down.

 

Matt: Yeah, thank you. I really appreciate it. It’s been really nice talking to you. And yeah, hope you have a great rest of your day.

Chip: Yes, thank you. And hey, thanks for listening to another episode of The Real Dirt. This has been The Real Dirt with Chip Baker. If you’re interested in this episode or others, you can subscribe on iTunes and on Spotify. If you have any grow needs check us out at cultivatecolorado, cultivateokc.com. And remember, when life’s getting you down, just grow a little bit of weed. It’ll make you feel better. Thanks again, Real Dirt.

The Real Dirt on Permaculture and Cannabis Tourism

The Real Dirt on Permaculture and Cannabis Tourism

permaculture and regenerative cannabis cultivation
Notice: This episode was recorded before the forest fires in California began.

Restorative agriculture is no joke.

As cannabis cultivators, we are all stewards of the environment. Our actions can directly impact our local ecosystems, and as cannabis cultivation spreads across the nation, that impact can grow rapidly.

Restorative agriculture, or permaculture, is the act of farming while trying to prevent as many environmentally harmful practices as possible. Water usage, nutrients, soil beds, and farm design are just some of the aspects that go into restorative cannabis cultivation, and Sol Spirit Farm is doing it all.

Judi Nelson and Walter Wood are the owners of Sol Spirit Farm, a licensed 10k square foot regenerative cannabis farm in Trinity County, CA and Sol Spirit Retreats, a cannabis tourism-focused, farm stay hospitality business. Walter has been cultivating cannabis since 1996, and his passion for improving the environmental footprint of his cannabis cultivation is what drives every cultivation decision.

Judi and Walter started Sol Spirit Retreats in 2019 after meeting a lot of people, even people working in the cannabis industry, who had never seen a cannabis plant growing in the ground under the full sunshine. They wanted to share the experience of being in the Emerald Triangle on a cannabis farm, and show off how regenerative farming, permaculture principles, and appropriate technology can enhance the cannabis we bring to market, while improving the health of our land.

In this episode of The Real Dirt with Chip Baker, Judi and Walter take Chip through their grow processes and how they maintain their restorative cannabis cultivation practices. They also dive in to the new world of cannabis tourism and the many challenges, especially the legal hurdles, that the two had to overcome just to operate.

While still small and driven mostly by word-of-mouth, Sol Spirit Retreats has drawn in a lot of people trying to experience the northern California life. Judi hopes that one day it will be just like a winery and orchard, where visitors won’t just be able to tour, but also taste the cannabis on the farm!

Check out this episode on our new YouTube channel or go to your favorite podcast platform to listen on the go! TRANSCRIPT BELOW

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Transcript

 

Chip: Oh, here we are, The Real Dirt. Today at The Real Dirt, I have some peoples from one of my favorite place in the world, Trinity County, California. Man, Trinity and Humboldt, and along the border there, is one of the most beautiful and rugged places in the world. And I have Judi Nelson and Walter Wood of Sol Spirit Farms and Retreats. Say hey, Judi and Walter.

 

Walter: Hello!

 

Judi: Hey, Chip!

 

Chip: Oh, man, I just love that whole area you guys are in, outside Willow Creek all the way to Hayford. I’ve got some really great friends over there. Little Hill Farms is over there, and man, you guys are just in paradise.

 

Walter: Definitely, definitely. We love it. We have been out there for about 20 years now and I don’t know, we hardly leave. It’s home. It’s a magic place.

 

Chip: So are you guys on the mountain, or the river?

 

Walter : We’re about 300 feet up from the river floor. So we’re just out of the river fog, but at the same time, we’re not up on the hilltop. So it’s a nice kind of in-between. We’re in the valley, but we get about 12 hours of sun so it just works out perfect.

 

Chip: Oh man, it sounds beautiful. Yeah, that river fog can plague you. I lived over in, off the Vandusen for a number of years. Man, the fog just creep right in on you.

 

Walter: I had no idea how bad it was until one day, we just took a little drone up and it was like, 10 o’clock in the morning. We’d been in the sun for hours and the whole valley was fogged in just below our shelf.

 

Chip: Oh yeah, there’s places like that all over. You know I lived in, up in Kneeland right outside Arcata for a number of years. And we’re at the 3500 block, which is 3.5 miles up that hill. And if you went just a half a mile further, you’re gonna have enough fog. Almost every single day like, hours before you know, we got out of the fog.

 

Walter: Luckily, we were living in the area for a few years before we bought the property, and we had a pretty good idea what the [2:18 inaudible] were. Permaculture course really helped nail in what exactly makes a good piece of property for homesteading, and growing some fine medicines.

 

Chip: Well, man, you guys are in the homesteading capital of the world, that’s for sure. And you mentioned permaculture, and you know, we talked about regenerative farming earlier. You guys have a unique cannabis business. You know, many people just have a, they cultivate, or extract, or are packaging something, but you have this cultivation that you integrate with a farm stay. Tell me how that works.

 

Judi: Well, so we have been inviting guests up to the farm. The [2:59 inaudible] as legalization of recreational hemp in California, we started going to a bunch of different trade shows. And it was kind of amazing to meet people who are in the cannabis industry who have never seen a cannabis plant growing in the ground. And it really surprised me, because obviously, we’ve been sort of up in our little bubble here for the past 20 years, and I just didn’t realize it. And so, we just really wanted to be able to bring people like that up, and be like, “Hey, check this out. This is this way that this can be done that’s not taking a lot of resources.” We’re actually trying to make our piece of property and the land that we’re working with in a better state than when we found it. And in order to do that, we have some bell tents, which are these beautiful canvas tents. And people come up, and they generally spend two nights in the tents. And we raise pigs and chickens on the farm, as well as vegetables and fruit, and so we’re able to do farm-to-table meals. And then Walter takes them on a really nice farm tour, and shows them all the different techniques that we’re using. And we usually take them rafting on the Trinity or on the South Fork, depending on what time of year it is. And it’s just been really great, because I think to people who are suffering nature deficit, nature connection deficit, it’s a really rejuvenating experience I think for people.  Especially if they’re coming from a city, to come up and just chill out, smoke some good medicine, and connect with nature. And it’s been really rewarding for us too, and hopefully for them.

 

Chip: That sounds so fun. But you guys don’t have a normal cultivation or I shouldn’t say a normal, but it should be normal. But you guys use permaculture and regenerative farming techniques.  Many people have heard organic or maybe living soil, and those are kind of part of regenerative farming and permaculture a bit. And I know it’s a huge question to ask, but man, can you like, tell me how it applies to cannabis?

 

Walter: Well, we’re working on a whole bunch of different angles and we did this, we have transitioned substantially in the last few years. We were doing the full season plants up until almost legalization, and then we switched over to the light dep, and so we’re getting all that worked out. And so we’ve now got about six and a half thousand square feet of, we got living soil beds which for us that means we don’t till them, we don’t broadfork them or anything. We did originally broadfork them to just loosen them up a little bit, but not to actually turn the soil. There is a living clover cover crop growing year-round, it’s a little bit died back right now, because they were associated out by the ladies on the first round. We just replaced the spot where the plant itself was potted in, or the pot went in into the ground. And so the rest of it’s all connected, all natural, all living. Tilling really disrupts the biology of the soil and releases a lot of CO2 into the air. With this, the clover cover crop, we didn’t have to import any nitrogen this year. All’s we’ve been feeding has been compost fees, most of that’s made with onsite compost, we’ve been doing various KNF type things, which we are importing some sugar to make our nutrients. So that’s just about it. It’s all natural farming, just trying to to make as many nutrients as we can at home to import as little as possible, and just build that soil. 

 

Chip: When you say beds, describe what your beds look like.

 

Walter: Well, so I mean we are on a little bit of a slope. It’s pretty mellow, but it does slope so we went across that hillside.  And when we broadforked it and all that out, we leveled out a six foot bed going across the hillside, it’s tied right into the soil. There’s no cage around it or anything like that, it’s just directly in the earth. And then, we’re going to be putting up some wood edges on the downhill side to just help retain that edge. It’s grown right in the earth. It’s super important to me. We don’t have to feed as much, and the plants have access to what they want. They can make choices, and they’re not stuck in a little tiny soil spot, they have access to the whole area.

 

Chip: What did you have to do to your soil to prep it? What did you add to it at the beginning, and what are kind of the things that you add to it now?

 

Walter: Well, so this year, like I said, we actually, we did not add anything besides wood cover crop (7:50). And then we also did bring in forest duff from the hillside above of the patch. And so we brought in a couple inches of the leaf litter and stuff that’s just starting to break down a little bit, so that brought in our indigenous microorganisms or IMOs, as they’re known sometimes. So we covered the beds with a six inch layer of that which completely covered that clover for a little bit, then that cover crop burst right back through that, and basically just incorporated all of that leaf matter right away. And so previously, when we first did prep those beds, we did bring in some manure. I think that was about it. I’m so scared to bring in even from outside anything because our tests, our flower’s tested to the parts per billion on these pesticides, and what if I’m bringing in some straw or something, and if it were to have something? So we avoid bringing in anything. We like to keep everything from on-site, that way we know it’s clean.

 

Chip: These aren’t like, beds that normal people think of that have wooden sides, their area is that you’ve built in the soil, grown in and added your own ingredients, local ingredients.

 

Walter: Exactly, exactly.

Chip: When you talk to people about cannabis techniques and grow techniques, a bed means so much different, so many different things. You know, in the indoor world, it can mean something, it’s totally different than the outdoor world.

 

Walter: We are directly in the ground for sure.

 

Chip: You’re directly in the ground and you say you do light dep, is it under plastic? Or is it under natural sunlight during the day?

 

Walter: So yeah, we do not have the clear covers on the greenhouses, so they are open to the natural sunlight. It makes it simpler. We don’t need as many fans, things like that, because it is open. And then yeah, we roll down some tarps over it at night, give us the 12 hour cycle.

 

Chip: Oh yeah, absolutely, man. I’m just envisioning your garden here as we’re talking about it. I mean, I’ve been in quite a few Humboldt and Trinity Gardens on the hillside. I feel like I know, I feel like I’ve been to your place before.

 

Walter: One thing that’s a little unusual is each bed is on its own, a foot higher than the next, because it’s sloping down the hillside. So then the bottom of the greenhouse has just some leg extensions to level it out. And so once again, just trying to simplify, keep things as minimal, and environmentally friendly as possible.

 

Chip: That’s the name of the game. And you know, the interesting thing about everything we’re talking about, is there’s no cost in doing this. Like you virtually have, I mean, you have very low input costs. 

 

Walter: Yeah, comparing it to an indoor scene it is very drastically reduced. I would do only two runs a year. So we have very little lighting, very little inputs, and that way, the light dep is significantly more labor I find than the full season was. And you know, just pruning up all these plants and anything when you multiply it by 1800 or 2400 pound a run, all of a sudden like, just a few [11:13 inaudible] here and there adds up.

 

Judi: There is an increased labor cost, you know, you’re just trading going out into the forest and having to collect these inputs. That’s a labor cost, right? So you’re trading maybe some increased labor cost on going out and sourcing the nutrients ourselves compared to like, just going to the store and buying something that somebody else made in a bottle. So it’s a little bit of a trade-off. It’s not like there’s no cost associated. There’s no material cost, but there is a labor cost for sure.

 

Chip: Wait, wait a second. I thought that’s where the farm stay came in. Don’t you have the guests doing that for you?

 

Judi: I gotta make that work out, right? That’s the next step.

 

Chip: Sounds like you guys got a great trim camp. You really need to be hustling guests here in October, huh?

 

Judi: Right. Yes, come pay to trim our weed. That sounds like a great plan. I gotta get to work on that.

 

Chip: You would be the first person to try to implement that one.

 

Judi: I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Walter: We’ll outdo what everyone else has [12:16 inaudible].

 

Chip: You know, not too many places have cannatourism, and that’s what we’re talking about here. And this is so akin to, I mean, wine tourism or fishing tourism. Like, this is like, a brand new thing. And how has it been perceived?

 

Judi: Well, you know, it’s been a little bit of a challenge just working out all the legalities of doing it, obviously because cannabis is so highly regulated. That’s, I would say been the most challenging part, is just trying figure out and make sure I’m not breaking any rules. And one thing that I mean, the people who have found it and have come out,  we sort of kept it a little just word of mouth so far, but the people that have come out have all had a great experience. And I think that, especially in Trinity County, and in Humboldt, like, it’s a huge thing if we can make it so that it’s easy for farms to do this, and to show it. There’s a huge demand for people who want to come and have this experience. It’s like, legendary, this area. There’s lots of people that want to come have the experience. So it’s been really well-received by the people who have come so far. We’re just trying to make it better all the time. And someday too, what we hope is like, just like wine, it would be amazing if we can get to the point with the state laws and the local laws that I could actually allow people to purchase cannabis at the farm when they come, you know, be able to buy our flower on our farm. So far that’s not allowed, but I really do hope that one of these days soon, the various involved agencies do allow us to do that, just like you can at a winery. And do tastings, and do that whole thing, because that would be amazing.

 

Chip: Absolutely man. They’ll treat us like adults one day.

 

Judi: Someday.

 

Walter: Maybe, I sure hope so. We know it’s come a long way.

 

Chip: It’s amazing, you know, Humboldt and Trinity County has such long-standing history, but there’s just always been this fight against cannabis there, and it just still remains. It’s one of the most difficult places to get licensing to this day. They’re really missing out on so much great culture. And this huge brain trust is there of people like yourselves, and living environment, sacrificing to grow cannabis, and cannabis growing them in return. It’s just an untapped resource, and they just haven’t used it well enough, that’s for sure.

 

Judi: Especially in Trinity where, you know, there was logging and mining, and that’s kind of what everything was built upon. But that’s been gone for decades now. And there’s not a lot else going on in Trinity. And I do think it’s changing. You know, we were able just recently, the Trinity County Agriculture Alliance, of which we are members, which is a group of licensed cultivators in Trinity. And we actually proposed our own cannabis commercial, cannabis tax measure, like, to tax ourselves. Because up to that point, Trinity didn’t have one and, you know, we all want to see our community services happen. And, we were able in five days to collect 10% of the registered voter signatures in the county to get our measure on the ballot.  And you know, who would have thought that that would ever happen in Trinity County? But it just did, so it’s coming around, it’s happening. You know, we’re getting more organized, and as people can kind of come out of the closet a little bit, I think that’s only just gonna increase.

 

Chip: Yeah, ’cause people are still scared to talk about cannabis there, even legal cannabis owners. They’re scared to talk about cannabis. They’re scared to bring it up to their neighbors. It’s still taboo in so many communities, in so many places.

 

Judi: Yeah, it’s true. I think that for me, that’s been one of the best parts about recreational happening in California. It’s just like, “Okay, you know what? We’re here. We’ve been here the whole time, but now we’re letting you know.”

 

Chip: So tell me about this tax initiative.

 

Judi: Well, so there was a tax measure proposed on the March election by a group of people who really actually just wanted to put all of – my perception – was that their tax basically was just to put everybody out of business. And so this, the Trinity County Agricultural Alliance came up with one that is much more small farm friendly, because in Trinity County, almost everybody has 10,000 square feet or less because of the way that the ordinance was written. There’s only a few people who have more than 10,000 square feet. And so basically, the TCAA came up with this proposal where it’s all based on sales, right? So for instance, in Humboldt County, you have this square footage tax where you’re charged per square foot, kind of regardless on whether you grow anything or make any money or not, which personally, I don’t think is the best way to do it.

 

Chip: Oh, it sucks.

 

Judi: I think that like these other industries, you should be taxed once you make money, right? And so luckily, we kind of had time to look at all these other counties and be like, “Okay, what’s good, what’s not good?” And so this tax, it’s like, for your first hundred pounds, you’re taxed at this rate. And I can’t quote you the exact numbers, but you’re taxed at a lower rate. So if you’re a very small producer, those first hundred pounds you grow is taxed at a low rate. And then it goes up, like okay, and then the next 200, I think, and it goes up from there until like, over I think a thousand pounds, you’re paying, I believe it’s $15 a pound in cultivation tax to the county, basically. And, you know, there’s some other things in there about different businesses, there is no retail in Trinity County yet at this point. And so they’re not, you know, they’re missing that, again, they’re not collecting any tax revenue because they’re not allowing anybody to sell retail, which hopefully, again, they’re gonna get that together. But this initiative mostly is for taxation on cultivators, because I think that’s appropriate as long as you wait to tax them. Wait until I’ve made some money, I’m very happy to contribute to the county coffers to do roadwork and, public safety, and things like that, and schools. And so, we just wanted to show as an industry like , “Look, here we are, we want to contribute, but don’t try to put us out of business.” Because that’s not going to be good for the county long-term.

 

Chip: Yeah, there’s so much green greed, it comes from every place. The counties get it for sure, and the state governments get it for sure. Well man, I salute you guys, for working so hard to put it together. Trinity was considered one of the harder places when it all started, I think Humboldt’s shown that it’s the hardest place right now. I mean, Mendocino might not be so easy either, but it hasn’t been any easier anywhere in the Triangle.

 

Walter: I think the triangle has some like, 60 or 80% of the permit since, it’s a large number.

 

Chip: More like 15, 16,000 people in Humboldt with commercial grows, you know, before all this has happened. And to say that you have like, and to say that you have 500 people or 600 people with licensing? Man, I just don’t think that’s a good enough attempt to get people out of the private market industry, and get them into tax. Because literally for Humboldt, it’s billions of dollars. They would convert all of that private grow – sorry guys, you should probably pay some taxes, all of my private grow friends that are out there just growing in the hills. I love you guys, you should pay more taxes. If they would incorporate all those guys into it, it would like really, really change. I mean, my local school, Trinidad Union School District, man they’re failing, they don’t have any money, right? Like, COVID’s hit them so hard like, there’s like, just so much stuff, and through Humboldt and Trinity County an educational loan that needs to be worked on. And you know if they played their cards right, like, cannabis could totally bring the whole Emerald Triangle out of all of their problems, right? It could help with the fire suppression issues. It could help with all the drug problems, it can help with all the homelessness, it can help with all of the educational stuff. I mean, it’s just such a wasted resource. It’s just kind of frustrating when we see as there.

 

Judi: Yeah, I think some of that is not necessarily seeing the legal market in California. And it is a challenge right now to, when you compare just all the hoops you have to jump through, all the money you have to pay. And yet, I personally think, because the state especially is taxing the end product so hard, they just have this huge black market that’s still going, and it’s hard to not look at that and be like, “Wow, that was so much easier back in the day.” But again, now it’s all changing and it’s the time to like, get together and move forward into the light.

 

Chip: No, it’s the responsible thing to do. And I mean, I don’t know about Trinity County, but Humboldt County per capita always had more people contributing to fundraising than anyplace else, you know? And that was because all the cash dollars from the fishing, the logging and the cannabis. And now the fishing and the logging, it’s like next to nothing compared to what it used to be, and it’s just cannabis. If they could just, open up their arms, just embrace it.

 

Walter: Relax a bit.

 

Chip: Yeah, relax, relax a bit. I know you have such a special place and inviting people out there. Tell me about some of the people that have come in and visited you.

 

Judi: So last year, we mostly focused on some different folks who either own, or manage, or the buyers for various retail shops in California. Again, because there’s no better way for someone to learn where this particular brand, our Sol Spirit brand of flower comes from. And, the lot of them had never been to the Emerald Triangle. So last year, it was a lot of retailers. And most of them were so stressed out when they arrived, because they’re jumping through their own set of hoops. And that job, I can’t even imagine trying to pull that off. And so, it was just super relaxing and rejuvenating for them. And most of them, you could just like, see their faces change by the third day where they were just like, “Oh, okay, we’ve let go of the stress. We’re here. ” And also getting to see the way that we farm, I think really opened their eyes to like, it’s not all the same. So like, indoor has its thing and then people with like, really large grows who are maybe putting out more mid-quality stuff, but in volume, that’s a whole different thing. And then our particular craft, regenerative way of doing it, it’s like, you’re actually talking kind of about different products, right? And so I think it was great for them to be able to see, like, “Oh, yeah, the next time somebody comes in and tries to sell me a regenerative craft cannabis, I’m not going to compare it to this $8 eighth in a mylar bag that came from a 12-acre scene in Salinas,” or something, you know. So that I think is like, an education piece that’s super important to us. And so there’s that, and like, that really, I think, changed a lot of their perspectives. And then this year, we’ve had more just regular folks. It’s been interesting with COVID to kind of work that all out, and so we had a bit of a slow start just making sure that we could keep everybody safe. And now I feel like we’ve got that down. And it’s been, I feel like even more rewarding, because we’ve had several people from the Bay Area come up, and some of them have been stuck in their apartment for months. So to be able to come out and of course, the beautiful cannabis medicine also helps with their mindset. And we had a couple of people come out where they sort of like, changed their whole life trajectory over the weekend, because they were able to just kind of step out of their normal life and gain some perspective on what they were doing which of course the cannabis is also really helpful for.

 

Walter: Yeah. The hills of Humboldt County and Trinity County have a way of doing that.

 

Judi: It’s been really great. We’ve had all kinds of different people, yes. Yeah. You know, you get used to where you live, and you kind of stop seeing it, I think sometimes. And being able to have all these different people come and see it from their perspective and out of their eyes, it really refreshes our love of the place as well.

 

Chip: Oh man, you know that’s the thing that people don’t understand or know about that area, Northern California is it has the least light pollution I’m pretty sure of any place else in the US. Right, maybe even the continental US. I mean, it is you get to see this guy.

 

Judi: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.

 

Chip: It’s been great chatting with you guys. If people want to come to Sol Spirit Retreats, how do they get in touch with you guys? Can they follow you on Instagram? Or how does it work?

 

Judi: Well, they can follow us on Instagram. We have two different Instagrams, so one for the farm and one for the farm stay. And they’re, Sol Spirit Farm, s-o – like the sun, Sol Spirit Farm and Sol Spirit Retreats. And then our websites are the same, solspiritfarm.com and solspiritretreats.com.

 

Chip: Yeah, well, hey, thanks for joining me and man, smell some of that good Trinity County here for me. God, I wish I was there right now with you.

The Secrets of the Country’s Largest Cannabis Operations with Nick Morin

The Secrets of the Country’s Largest Cannabis Operations with Nick Morin

commercial cannabis grow

Remember that show Cribs?

You know, that show where we got to take tours through the mansions of the rich and famous and feel bad about ourselves. While it’s been a long time since we watched Master P show off his gold ceiling, there’s a new, better, completely unrelated Cribs that is all about cannabis.

CannaCribs was started by Nick Morin through his company the Grower’s Network to show us all what it’s really like inside some of the largest and technologically advanced cannabis cultivation operations across the country. But it isn’t all green ganja and piles of cash in these operations.

What you don’t see on CannaCribs is the behind the scenes details that Nick gets from the head growers and owners of these operations. From the shady investment dealings that growers fall into like overfunding and inexperienced fund managers to the stressful work that goes into maintaining a large scale cannabis operation, Chip and Nick dive into it all in this episode of The Real Dirt Podcast.

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Transcript:

Chip: Once again you have reached “The Real Dirt.” And on today’s dirt, it’s a very special episode. Today, I’ve got Nick Morin from Canna Cribs. Now, if you haven’t seen Canna Cribs, you’ve got to check it out, great YouTube channel. It’s absolutely one of my favorites, it’s one of the best production in our whole industry. And if you haven’t seen Canna Cribs yet, you’re missing out. Thank you so much Nick for joining me.

Nick: Chip, thanks for having me. I really appreciate your time.

Chip: Nick called me up a couple, a month or two ago, and said he was going to start a podcast. And we’ve exchanged a bunch of information and talked back and forth and you know, I’m really excited to hear about your podcast. You’ve just launched a new podcast and you know, we just immediately got along on the phone. ‘Cause like, we do the same thing. You know in some manner, is we get to go talk to ganja people all over the country and world and find out, you know, what they’re all about. And get to go into gardens that we may, people just dream about. What’s it like having this dream job, Nick?

Nick: I just would say I’m extremely grateful to be working with my team, you know, my bestfriends and going out and filming these stories, telling these stories now on the podcast. It’s a dream job and it’s something that you know, as a little kid I never would have imagined I’d be here today, but it’s pretty special at this point in time in this industry, as we’re evolving rapidly.

Chip: I know we have a lot talk about. But like, let’s talk about Canna Cribs. How did it start, when did it start, like tell me about it.

Nick: I’ll take you to the exact point in time. CannaCon Seattle, I was talking with my friends that own uh, Glass House Farms in uh, Carpinteria, California. You know, it was dinner, it’s after the trade show. As many people do after a trade show, you go out for dinner and drinks and we’re just brainstorming. And when you get those energies, you know, across the table going and some good ideas, Canna Cribs was born. You know, I wanted to create a Youtube series. And I was really inspired by Marijuana Mania by Berner, and Strain Hunters and their team, and I wanted to come up with uh, kind of my own version of garden tours. I think Growing Exposed was coming up around the same time as well. So you know, I was chatting with, you know, Graham and their whole team over there. And we came up that – it sounds like you got the intro going, so yeah, that’s, that’s it right there, man. So we flew out there shortly after, actually flew to Tucson and picked this up which was a surreal experience in itself right there. I put together my team from University of Arizona, you know, some friends from college, some friends that I’ve worked with, and then some acquaintances kind of one degree away in Tucson. And we flew out there, filmed our pilot and as they say, the rest is history.

Chip: I’ve actually got it on right now, “Glass House Greenhouse Commercial Cannabis Growing Operation in California,” Canna Cribs. I really love this episode, I love everything about it. Like it’s so like, highly produced. I’m a TV junkie, I love format. And like, just the way that you guys have produced this whole series, it like, mimics you know, several other of my favorite type of genres. The like, you know, fix and flip style genre, where they’re either it’s an old junk car they find, the barn find, and turn it into —

Nick: Right.

Chip: You know, something. Something great. Or like, you know, a house, where like they buy it, and they like, fix it and flip it. You’ve got a lot of the like, elements in the editing with that. It really like, draws people in. Man, I also love all of the, the product placement that occurs in this episode and other episodes. It shows the products that people are using, but it’s not like an over the top infomercial advertisement. ‘Cause we all know it’s like, advertising helps pay for it all. It’s very discreetly done, it’s done well.

Nick: Yeah. You’re exactly right. The product placement and advertising, it allows for us to go out there and film. And you know, a lot of people don’t know this, but it’s not like we’re charging farms tens and thousands or you know, a hundred thousand dollars to go out to film. It’s actually no cost, vast majority of the time. So the farm doesn’t pay anything, and we of course have to pay our crew and get out there. And you know, you know this very well, Chip. Youtube gives us zero dollars in advertising. I can’t even spend money on Youtube to promote our show so, it creates an environment where you have to be very scrappy. You have to be wise and extend your dollars through organic content. And the thought leadership behind the brands, the products, the services that these growers are using, it’s a pretty straightforward model where these are the products that their success is built on. Those companies you know like, let’s say soil companies. You know, your background and growing media, and every episode there’s a different growing media. And these growers rely on that product for their success so it’s a really natural fit where we get to educate fans all around the world. We get to help promote the grower through the episode. And then the vendor has an opportunity to promote their products naturally, because we don’t place products that aren’t naturally used at the farm.

Chip: And you can tell the authenticity of it due to that. What was your background in cannabis previous to this?

Nick: So I just say, a lover of the plant. I’m relatively —

Chip: You’re an enthusiast. You’re a cannabis enthusiast. Excellent.

Nick: That’s exactly right. So I started consuming young and you know, I have two older brothers and that probably helped a little bit. Yeah, I actually started Growers Network and Canna Cribs shortly after, during my senior year in college. So, this is my first foray into the, into any professional industry, really. I started a couple communities while I was at the University of Arizona. So I guess I do have a background in kind of grassroots community building from the ground up. And then you know, I have a passion for both cannabis and also technology, and the marriage of the two of those things, as well as marketing and community building, it’s kind of where I live today. And what I’m super passionate about you know, when it comes to sharing very special stories that will impact the history and our future, everyone in this industry with the rest of the world. And just kind of showing and proving that there is a way to have you know, legal, compliant, and really good cannabis at the end of the day that saves lives and builds businesses.

Chip: You came to this as just an enthusiast. You had a surface knowledge of how cannabis operated, how it grew, the production of it all. Did you have some misconceptions that were immediately proven inaccurate when you started doing Canna Cribs?

Nick: I would say that like, everyone on our crew including myself, we didn’t really know, we didn’t really know what went into a commercial sized grow operation. You know, we might have had friends growing here and there, more you know, underground and maybe at the hobbyist or kind of that caregiver scale. But, to walk into a commercial grow operation and see that scale, it was incredible. So I’d say, maybe less misconceptions but more just, you know, kind of what’s behind the curtain. Having the opportunity to share that with the world is really special.

Chip: You talked about the stories, you’ve mentioned that a couple of times. Do you have a favorite cannabis story, or favorite episode that you made?

Nick: Oh my gosh, that’s a tough one. Choosing between your babies —

Chip: Oh I just keep pressing the memo, hey I just started man, I just started.

Nick: I love it. I love it. Yeah, no, I love the question, Chip. So I’d say you know, one of the stories that I probably enjoyed the most telling and also was the most moved by, was Scott Reach of Rare Dankness. He’s gone through a lot of personal turmoil and you can listen to his story with his health, and how cannabis really healed him and gave him an opportunity to you know, run a business and support his family. So, a lot of that comes up in you know, throughout the episode and you know, it’s not every single episode that that story is going to be exactly the same. You know, each episode kind of has a unique, I guess unique story to tell. But with Scott and Rare Dankness, before we went out there you know, we did some research. We always like to do some pre-production research to come up with some story points and kind of build out what the episode’s going to look like before we set foot on set to film. You know, his personal fight with cancer and how cannabis really helped him personally with his fight with cancer, but also his background with breeding and as a geneticist. And through his other companies, he’s building, in my words, he’s building a cannabis empire. It doesn’t stop with just House of Dankness, it doesn’t stop with just Rare Dankness, he has a seed company around the world, he has a new nutrient line. So, one thing that I really resonate with and connect with is the entrepreneurial spirit of these cannabis grow operation owners. And there’s a lot of different types of commercial grow operations, but that episode with Scott, it really shined through, all the different things he had going on, and I loved it.

Chip: He’s really built an incredible room. If anybody’s out there who wants to see great, great, great cultivation grow room, look up that episode. Which episode is it? I’m looking for it now.

Nick: Episode six, it was right after Honeydew Farms in Humboldt.

Chip: Episode six, man, totally. Episode six, Honeydew Farm. The first Canna Cribs was the Honeydew Farms one.

Nick: Oh really?

Chip: And I’ve spent most of my life in Humboldt. I moved there ’97, and still have a property, and farm, and business there today. I heard that there was some, you know, because it’s a small community, so I’d heard that there was some like, thing being filmed, Honeydew Farms. And it was out, so yeah I went and checked it out. That was my first exposure to you. And then of course, I watched all the rest of the episodes.

Nick: Yeah. Yeah, it’s bingeful content. You know, it takes you about a weekend to watch all the Canna Cribs and Deep Roots, and we have a couple you know, new projects on the horizon. But, you know, if you ask me the favorite episode to film as far as where I was, it’s hands down, Alex Moore’s Honeydew Farms in Humboldt. It was my first time travelling there. And I mean, honestly Chip, I felt like the time froze. You know, our cellphones weren’t working. You know, we just had our cameras and we were kind of like, paused in this beautiful forest and his property is pretty amazing as well, you know, on a river basin. It was, it was magical. And we stayed in Arcadia?

Chip: Arcata.

Nick: Arcata, Arcata. So we stayed in Arcata and you know – or no sorry, I apologize. We stayed in Eureka.

Chip: Eureka.

Nick: Yeah, we drove up about an hour and a half up the hill and then an hour and a half back down to our hotel each day. So, we had to wake up super early and we went to bed pretty late each night, because we were battling sunlight. You know, most the farm’s outdoors so we had to film very efficiently with the daylight there. So, part of that was probably some lack of sleep that added to the effect. But, it was amazing. We went out to the waterside as well at the end of the episode. We went to the Redwoods. Everywhere we go, Chip, we try to characterize the region. We try to give the audience a glimpse into what it’s really like. Not just in the farm, but the surrounding area. Because we have around 150 countries around the world watching our Youtube channel, right? So, if someone’s in let’s say, Russia, and they’ve never been to Humboldt, I kind of put it on our shoulders like as a responsibility, to tell them what it’s really like, and to show them that glimpse of the world. And Humboldt is such a beautiful place, and I, I’m actually going to be, right after this interview, I’m actually interviewing two brothers that cofounded Lit House Farms in Humboldt, Big Al and Chris. And then last week, I interviewed Nat at Humboldt Seed Company for the Canna Cribs podcast. So, I love Humboldt —

Chip: Yeah, I know Nat. I’m actually like, growing his seeds right now, Auto OGs.

Nick: Oh nice. Okay.

Chip: Totally, totally. Yeah we got like ten thousand Auto OGs we’ve planted in the past like, two weeks.

Nick: Wow.

Chip: They’ll come out some time in October.

Nick: Well, I’m always finding a reason you know, trying to find a reason to go back so if you still have property, if you have friends up in Humboldt, I’d love to film them some time.

Chip: Ah man. I love it out there. We’ve got so much stuff going on up there, you know. It’s an incredible, geographical environment, you know. It’s a really rough political environment, you know. There’s just a lot of people that do not support legal cannabis and try to stand in your way at every point. It’s really unfortunate because there’s so many small farmers over there that can really bring and grow the best cannabis in the world. They’ve got like, the experience and the time, and the understanding, and the desire, and the heart to do it. But you know the, so many you know, at so many levels, the county and the bureaucracy, and the county is against what they’re doing. How many people in the county, they totally accept it. Right, many of the board of supervisors totally accept it. But, it’s just a fight you know, for anybody trying to get a legal cannabis operation there. And absolutely anybody who has gone through the worst to get one because, it’s not at all, easy there. It’s not at all easy there. So yeah, let’s hope that the industry survives. But yeah, I’ve got tons of connections up there. I’d totally hook you up with anybody you want to, if you can’t figure out who to talk to. You know, I started a potting soil company up there years ago, Royal Gold Soils. I sold soil to everybody up there for years. And currently, my new soil company, Grower Soil, I’m not in California yet. I’m mostly just focusing on you know, the midwest and the east coast. Yeah, I’ve got tons of connections all over man. If you ever want to go see anybody, just ask. I might know them.

Nick: Thank you. And that’s what I love about this industry when I first started out you know, I was working with my bestfriend and roommate at the time, and current business partner, Nate Lipton of Growers House. And he had a spreadsheet of growers, right, that are commercial growers that buy from Growers House. And I was originally, and I still run Growers Network today, all the work you know, a lot of the conversations around Canna Cribs up to this point. But the first company, and it is the production company of Canna Cribs, it’s called Growers Network. And it’s an online forum. We have about 11,000 members all over the world. And just people where they can go, and connect, and learn from each other. And I was just originally handed a spreadsheet of the top contacts from Growers House, and I just interviewed for ten months. You know, I picked up the phone, and the Lean Canvas methodology in the startup world, it’s called Customer Segment Testing.

Chip: Sure.

Nick: So, I just picked up the phone and called the you know, a hundred growers and listened to their paying points and you know, how they learned how to grow cannabis, where they were at in their career you know, super seasoned or new, what hurdles they were jumping over to become a legal professional grow operation. And at no point did I say, “Oh, join Growers Network,” or, “Oh,” like, Canna Cribs didn’t start at that point. So in the very beginning, my first ten months in this industry was just network building and acceptance amongst growers that were complete strangers. And what you just shared with me right now has been my experience up to this point, just generosity and open arms and

welcoming into the industry. So thank you, and thank everyone out there that helps to you know, nurture this industry.

Chip: You know, it’s interesting you say that. ‘Cause there’s really two sides to the cannabis coin. And well, you know, it depends on which coin you’re talking about. But the knowledge coin that we’re talking about, there’s two sides of it. There are the guarded people that won’t let you in, and are closed off, they don’t really want to talk about it so much. A lot of it’s leftover from prohibitionary you know, thinking. Some of it is you know, the propriety knowledge, they think what they have is like, the best. There’s often ego associated with all of that, but that’s one portion of the community. And then the whole other portion of the community, like 75% open. Talks about it, invites you over, wants to know what you’re doing, ‘cause they want to know if they’re doing it right or wrong, right? Are absolutely like, enthusiastic about what they’re growing and want to make it better. So it’s real interesting, it’s not an even coin flip that most people in the cannabis industry that I come across, and I’m a, you know, both us are kind of a unique pawn in the pyramid, but you know, but they openly want to tell us what we’re doing. And tell other people, and talk to other people openly.

Nick: Yeah.

Chip: It’s just a great place to learn, that’s for sure.

Nick: Yeah and right now, you know, I like that you said it’s a great place to learn. Right now, trade shows up to this point were kind of like, the in-person exchange of like, information, and knowledge, and contacts and products, and services. And now that they’re all shut down, what I’ve seen is a huge influx of traffic to our Youtube channel. And to our, you know, Growers Network Grower Forum because people can’t meet in person anymore. So I mean obviously, no one planned for this. But for the content creators out there such as yourself and you know, my team, we’re really in a pivotal point right now where, and that’s why I started this podcast is, we need to kind of ramp up, you know. We need to, you know, create more content and share more stories because there’s not a whole lot of in-person outlets right now. We’re kind of leading that charge and I kind of take it upon us to provide, and kind of have that responsibility to provide that knowledge and information exchange.

Chip: You know, cannabis, the way you learn about it and the way people learn about it now is through this open source. It’s through Youtube, it’s through Google, it’s through this open network of people like, bragging, or people just completely enthusiastic about cannabis. You know, it’s so much different than say, let’s take a trade like, photography. Or marketing, right? With marketing, if you’re interested in marketing , you can go online, and you can buy like, you know, two dozen Frank Curran courses, you can buy like, you know any type of how-to Youtube advertisement, or how-to Facebook advertise or how-to content. But the cannabis industry isn’t like that. Can you shed some light on why you think that is?

Nick: Well, I think you said it a little bit earlier Chip. You know, a lot of people, I’ve heard it on your show as well, there’s a lot of growers out there that in their mindset, and in their belief, they’re growing the best way, right? There are so many processes that go into

growing cannabis. I’m not a grower myself, you know, but in filming these large scale grow operations and then telling these stories, I’ve learned a whole lot about you know, growing cannabis organically. Growing cannabis you know, kind of boutique indoor. Growing cannabis outdoors, you know. 36,000 plants at Los Sueños Farms. So, what I have found is it’s extremely fragmenting on how to grow cannabis. There are so many unique ways and the beautiful part to me, is there’s not one right way, you know? Like, you can grow soil, you can grow soilless. You can grow you know, indoor with LEDs, or indoor with HPS. And there’s all these, right path, left path that you can take throughout the entire grow cycle. And I want to educate the world on all those different options. And in each scene in Canna Cribs, if someone’s listening to this and have not seen a Canna Cribs episode, we always start with genetics. We go through propagation, and we follow lifecycle of the plant all the way through kind of seed to sale, if you will. So throughout each scene, you know, I have not filmed an episode that has completely replicated a previous episode. You know, everyone’s doing propagation a little bit differently. You know, they’re doing veg a little bit differently. So to your question, I think it’s fragmented. You know, email marketing is email marketing, right? There’s some tricks to the trade, but it’s an email at the end of the day. But you know, growing a plant, there are so many different unique ways to do that, and furthermore, there’s always new ideas, right? There’s always someone with an innovative idea and when they share, it’s the rising tide for every grower in the world. And then, kind of you know, fuel to the fire here, new products, right? You are a product inventor. You are a product genius and innovator, and when you, Chip, bring a new product to the market, it opens up a Pandora box of all these new types of cultivation methodologies. So, I think it’s fragmented because there are so many different ways to grow the plant.

Chip: Man, you really hit the nail on the head there. There’s absolutely no one way and that’s just the beauty of ganja, of cannabis, THC or hemp, right? It can grow in a million different spots.

Nick: That’s the resiliency to the plant itself, right? I mean, it’s pure for a reason. I love your saying, plants grow us. You know, we don’t grow plants. And I got to pinch myself right now, ’cause it’s so surreal to actually be on your show, talking to you about that. But, I completely agree. This plant’s here for a reason, it’s extremely resilient. And the fact that it can be grown in all these different, you know, unique ways to the region, to the grower, you know, to the product. It’s here for a reason.

Chip: You started Growers Network 2017, 2018, something like that?

Nick: Yeah, so the end of 2016 going into 2017, I’m a senior at University of Arizona, I did about ten months of research, just trying out what business model to start. You know, I had my hypothesis that I wanted to do something in the community space, get my background, and I thought there was a model there to build a new breed of online growing forums, which is Growers Network today. A little bit more of you know, I pay all my respects of course to the forums that got us here today, like the Grass City and Overgrow and all those amazing forums. But I wanted to do it a little bit differently and provide a safe place for the professional growers that were trying to transcend out of let’s say, a house grow into a you know, 300,000 square foot greenhouse. Like, how do you do that, you know? Who do you talk to, you know, where do you go to learn? Those are the kind of questions that

I was trying to ask these growers and that was what Growers Network was born out of, was that research.

Chip: Man, it has changed since 2016. I mean compared to 2020, right now as we record this episode, it’s August 2020 here in Arizona. I’m in Oklahoma, we have seen cannabis become legal all over the country in the past four years. We have seen, like you know, trends in cannabis happen. We’ve seen governments legalize it, we’ve seen Ponzi schemes associated with it. When you started this, at some point you started to get like, a vision of what was happening. Your perceptions of it in 2016, how did they change from your perceptions of it today, knowing all that change has happened?

Nick: Let’s just start with vendors, for example. Equipment suppliers, manufacturers. So in the beginning days, let’s say 2016. You know I went to my first trade show was a maximum yield show with Nate and his father, my mentor, Pauly. And they’re with you know, Growers House, and we went there to talk to vendors and walk the shows in San Francisco. And, it was all new to me. This professional side of the industry that I just didn’t know existed, you know. You know, as a connoisseur, or a consumer, or advocate in high school and college, I just didn’t know that this whole professional industry existed. You know, I was kind of naive to that. So, since then, I have seen a lot of new products hit the market. I’ve seen consolidation of different companies. Like, take Fluence for example, with you know, OSRAM coming in, and take Hawthorne, for example, and Scotts Group coming in and acquiring Davita. And you know, I listened to that episode on your show, and I loved that one, by the way. And I’ve seen that consolidation happen in a short amount of time you know, past five years on the equipment side alone. On the grower side, you know I’m always trying to pick the next market to go out and film. And I definitely will reach out with you about Oklahoma you know, once it’s a little bit safer to start flying. I definitely want to bring the Canna Cribs crew over to Oklahoma and film some farms out there. But what I’ve seen is, you know, a lot of expansion, you know. It expands into a new region, new state, and then, it kind of restricts down. You know, it’s a period of time where it grows, grows, grows, hits that apex and then, consolidation starts to happen. And kind of that market equilibrium starts to happen, right? The supply and demand starts to balance out. So I’ve seen that happen over the past five years which is pretty incredible. I’ve seen you know, Canada come online and some other parts around the world, Colombia for one, that’s really you know, kind of blowing up and they’re part of the world. So, it’s exciting, and at the same time I’m honored to be able to help document that history.

Chip: Who could have predicted cannabis at Canada would have just skyrocketed and plummeted so quickly?

Nick: Right.

Chip: You know, who could have predicted that Oklahoma, once one of the most conservative places about cannabis in the country would become the best and most premier place you know, to cultivate cannabis in the country? Nobody thought that was going to happen.

Nick: Right. So let me —

Chip: It’s incredible where it’s turning.

Nick: Yeah. Let me ask you this, Chip. So what can we learn, as a country, what can we learn from Canada’s missteps so we don’t follow in the same footsteps?

Chip: Well you know I think we’re already doing the exact same thing. We just weren’t able to have publicly traded companies that could directly trade cannabis on the NASDAQ, right? And any like, insulary type businesses that were allowed to be publicly traded, those were all you know, over the counter, OTC trading stocks. So I think that is really what kept the US investment schema from exploding. But essentially, we still have the same exact elements that were going on in Canada, that are going on here, going on here today. Which are just like, some incredibly savvy people that know how to manipulate the market. That know how to manipulate venture capital groups or family offices. And you know, for instance, the typical cannabis “investment.” There’s two types. There’s one, it’s just like, me, you, and my brother all get together and we decide we want to do a cannabis operation so we throw in our money and make it.

Nick: Kind of the friends thing —

Chip: Friends and family thing. The bootstrap. And man, sometimes like, you come up with millions of dollars that way to start your operation, people call you corporate cannabis. But it’s not, it’s just you, me, and your brother putting it together. And then there’s the venture capital model or the investor model, we’ll call it. And it stems on you know, somebody like you who wants to put in a cannabis operation. Or somebody like me, who wants to put in a cannabis operation. And we develop a business plan, we develop a proforma that’s you know, fictional that we decide, “Yeah we think it should be this way. And we’re going to make this much money over this period of time.” We develop an operational cost, and schedule you know, points of time where we make profit, and investors can get paid back. And people can paint incredibly accurate pictures like that, but then they also create these you know, inaccurate portrayal of what’s happened. And that’s what went on in Canada. Right, it was an inaccurate portrayal of how big the market was.

Nick: Right.

Chip: And so many people went into the marketplace and estimated it to be like, ten times bigger than it actually was and just drove that whole investment strategy. Right, so like that happens here in the US, but it usually happens in two different ways. It happens from the person that’s actually trying to like, get financed or get investors. And they over-exaggerate but you know, knowingly over promise, you know, they don’t either know they can do it or they’re being promised by other people who don’t fulfill their promises. Or you know, however that pans out. And so then, it collapses, right? And then the other way it collapses is when a venture capital group comes in and they you know, the way that venture capital groups work or many of them work, is their funds and they’re someone who like, who’s running the fund and they’re getting paid a percent of the fund that’s spent annually. And they’re constantly going out, like, searching for more capital. And they’ll do stuff like this, so like go` to you Nick like, “Hey Nick, are you interested in cannabis?” Just say yes, just, you know, say yes.

Nick: Yes.

Chip: “Okay, yes you’re interested in cannabis! And you’ve got ten million dollars that you want to invest in cannabis this year?” Just say yes.

Nick: Yes.

Chip: “Well, I’m not going to get you to sign any [inaudible] right now. But, we’ve got all these cannabis operations that come to us. We’ve built a hundred million dollar fund, and if you want to contribute to it then you know, then you can contribute to it. Just deal by deal, you know, basis. You interested in that, Nick?”

Nick: Sounds good to me.

Chip: “Sounds great.” Okay so now, they go to the next guy and they say the same thing and they’re like, “Oh hey man, we’ve already got ten million dollars,” right? You know, “don’t be left behind.” And they hustle all of these people for the investment. Which you shouldn’t say hustle, because everybody’s willing to participate, ‘cause you love cannabis, you’ve got a lot of money and you want to invest in it, right? Like, nothing wrong with that at all. But, the person managing the fund is where it comes into play. ‘Cause now, they’re pressured to spend your money, because that’s how they get paid, right? They only get paid from your investment, is if they find an investment for you and you’ll go through ten before you say yes on one.

Nick: They’re pressured to –

Chip: And then they invest your money, yup.

Nick: And that kind of, it hurts the companies that might be overfunded because then that ties to unrealistic expectations that they have to deliver upon. And that could lead to the demise of their company, and also, the fund. But at the end of the day, the managing partner of said funds has already you know, received their —

Chip: They’ve already been paid.

Nick: Yeah.

Chip: They’ve already been paid. And you know –

Nick: Seems like a flawed model.

Chip: It’s a totally flawed model, but the reality is that you’re so rich, Nick, that you’ve got these ten million dollars that you need to like invest annually. So like, it’s you know, the Canna Cribs is a multi-billion dollar operation now, and you have to lose these ten million dollars every year, right? It’s an oversimplification of how it’s going down. But like, you spend the money and then you move on to the next project, right? And you are, you’re DC manager moves on to the next project, ’cause they got another bunch of people like yourself that got ten million dollars that they want to invest, or have an annual amount every year that they need to invest. So they keep up their legion, and man, that just pumps a bunch of like, a bunch of crap out there, you know. Projects that should be a million dollars turn out to be twelve million dollars. Greenhouses that should be three, four million dollars turn out to be ten million dollars. Indoor rooms that are two million are ten million. And they overspent and I know several of these people that have gotten caught up in this, and they’re my friends. And like, they thought they were doing the right thing ’cause it’s, you know what sounds great? It’s when you say something like this, “We’re building the most highly technical, advanced environmental control system in the whole cannabis industry. I’m going to be able to control my environment and the microcosm. I can control every square inch and I’ve got the data that’s going to be able to back it up.” And you know, that sounds great, right? Well, you know, it’s also like, cost you like millions and millions of dollars to do it. And you may end up you know, growing slightly better or more weed over it but the ROI, I’m spending twelve million dollars on a greenhouse that should cost a million dollars. It’s just you know, it’s not there. It’s not going to be there. And that’s how these things collapse. They’re not built on business, they’re built on investment. And now they’ve got all this operational cost, because it takes two people a hundred thousand dollars a year to run the software that gets all this great data, that they have to pay another whole accounting firm to read it, right?

Nick: Right.

Chip: Right, well.

Nick: You have, having gone through all these examples with your friends and people you know, what you know, cautionary advice could you give?

Chip: Man, the big pang is don’t really believe this investment business plan. I’ve got an investor like, you know, I’m an investor. Like, don’t think that the old way of doing it, the way that you probably thought that was the best way, the way that’s mostly used is the best way. And now, things have changed. And I believe that the investors want to be involved in cannabis right now, it is an essential business. And the opportunity, the advantage is on our side. And it is, an investment where it’s a good, reasonable return, you know, based on profit margin and standard accounting practices. Like that’s a, you know, that’s a good investment.

Nick: Right.

Chip: Right? Like some of the investments I hear about, like the return rates are just so high. The expectations are just so high, you know. It’s just, they fall apart, you know? And the best advice is to say, “Look if you’re going to have an investor, they should be an investor and you should think about it like you’re borrowing money.”

Nick: Right.

Chip: And otherwise, you have a partner. And if you’re going to get a partner, you need to bring in someone who has something other than just money. If they’re just a capital partner, and then don’t have operational stake in the business, man, there’s just so many details there over who gets paid, who does away, and there’s operational agreements that can

define all that stuff. But as soon as you have a silent partner that has invested all of the capital, like, things often go south, right? The paperwork’s not done appropriately, the investor becomes like, upset that you know, the cannabis isn’t performing appropriately. And you know, they’re hearing all these other ideas and they see Canna Cribs, and got all these ideas on how they should improve their scene. And it just often falls apart, right? So like, beware of your investor, is absolutely the best, the best advice. And man, form some solid partnerships. If you’re interested in growing world class weed, well you know what you’re going to need, is you need a world class extractor team. Because all of the weed that you grow, you’re not going to be able to produce into world class weed. So, go find an extractor that you can partner with. You know, hey, if you’re an extractor and you want to make world class weed, go find a grower and go partner with those people. And instead of bringing like this outside investment, like so much of it can be done with inside the community, and probably with like people that you know. But you know, it just takes, you got to get rid of the ego and solely think about the business. And think about the business that you can build together, as opposed to this get rich quick scheme that often comes through with this investor type platform. And I hope I’m not insulting any investors out there, and I mean, I’m one myself and I have other friends that are investors and I think they’d understand what I’m saying here, is you have to be savvy. You have to be savvy on the investment, and you have to be savvy on —

Nick: On both sides.

Chip: And hey, let’s take that on the other side. Just last week, a friend of mine called me up and he’s like, “Hey man. I’m thinking about putting money into this cannabis operation.” He threw out some rate of return, it seemed like a normal rate of return, you know, like a little bit better than bank money. But I looked it all up for them, and I look at their PLs, their BLs, I look at at the proforma, I looked at the location, you know. I checked them out with their state, and these guys were totally full of shit. And they just built this proforma to fool the unsavvy investor. And hey man, my friend he’s a savvy investor in the tech industry. But he doesn’t know anything about cannabis, right? And you know, we just went and looked at the guy’s like, proposed cost for growing a certain amount you know, a large amount of weed, and realized like, “Oh, he’s only spending 40,000 dollars a year growing weed. Like there’s no way he can grow 4,000 pounds,” you know. So like, also —

Nick: It goes on both sides, right?

Chip: It goes on both sides. Like —

Nick: It’s a booming industry right now, and I think with any booming industry it attracts so many apples. And some of them will be bad apples, right? So being cautious, savvy, and as you said, building a world-class community and network of people that can, you can rely now. Like, your buddy calling you whether it’s an investor investing into a cannabis grow operation or a grower calling you and saying like, “Hey, like, should I, should I take this money?” Um, I think that’s so vital to have people that you trust, you know, not part of the deal. It does not have [inaudible] that can you know, help mentor you.

Chip: Yeah, that’s true. And you know, I actually started a consulting group this year, kind of based on that exact principle. Is that you know, I have so many resources in the cannabis

industry and can easily like know or figure out a problem, someone’s already had it in just a matter of moments.

Nick: Yeah.

Chip: And, and we developed this, this, it’s called Greener Group, Greener Consulting Group. We developed this consulting group and you know, with the thought of like, “Oh we’re going to be able to like, help growers, retractors or owners like you know, solve some of their cultivation problems.” And for we immediately started getting calls for was from investors, from state and local governments. Because they need this information. From banks, they don’t know how to bank with cannabis people but want to, you know.

Nick: Interesting.

Chip: And you know, I actually have the connections to one of the guys. He works for us in one of our lead consultants at Greener Group and that’s exactly what he does. He helps banks integrate into accepting cannabis clients as clients, cannabis growers as clients. So there’s this interaction that can happen now that hasn’t happened in the past where you can ask experts. Where you can you know, talk to people that actually know the cannabis industry. And not just your great accountant who’s going to be leery, ‘cause he doesn’t know the cannabis industry or thinks it’s just a widget, you know. ‘Cause it’s not. It’s completely not a widget. So yeah, here’s my little rant, man. You got me talking today. It was supposed to be an interview for you, man.

Nick: Haha, well here’s the cool thing. I want to invite you onto the Canna Cribs podcast.

Chip: I want to come dude, yeah absolutely. Let’s schedule it up anytime, man. And absolutely, I’m going to promote your podcast. I’m stoked that we can be working within the same field and not have to feel that there’s a competitive nature going on.

Nick: Yeah. I’ve built Growers Network and Canna Cribs on collaboration over competition, right? When it comes to content, whether it’s you know, the Grow and Expose Youtube channel, or you know, your podcast. You know, fans around the world, they can listen to our podcast back to back. They can watch our Youtube videos back to back. So, it’s all about collaboration. And I want to say thank you again for you know, opening up your show for me today to join and share a little bit about what we’re doing. And being part of that, I believe you said 75% of the industry of being welcoming and accepting of newcomers like myself.

Chip: You’re no newcomer now, man. That’s for sure. Hey, Nick, I really want to thank you for joining me today. I really appreciate talking to you about all the stuff you’ve done and it’s been a great conversation. We’ll have to have you back on again.

Nick: Definitely, yeah. Thank you and for everyone on your team, keep working hard. I know it’s a really funky time right now, and it kind of sucks that we can’t go to trade shows and see each other and break bread over dinner afterwards. But, I’m looking forward to those days again and in the meantime, let’s podcast it up and you know, YouTube it up.

Chip: Sounds good man. And if you listened to this episode, enjoyed it, and would like to hear others, please download The Real Dirt at The Real Dirt podcast on iTunes. And absolutely subscribe, subscribe, that’s the only way we get to grow. You know, if you’re paranoid, or if you just want to listen to it on website, you can do that too. You can go to therealdirt.com and just stream it right there. But, uh, love you guys, thanks for listening, I appreciate each and every one of you. I always appreciate your comments on Facebook and Instagram. I feel like my growing network of friends just manages to expand every day. Just know, I’m a real person and you can always reach me. And this has been, The Real Dirt.

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