48North recently received an outdoor cultivation license for a 100-acre organic cannabis farm in Ontario – the largest-ever licensed pot operation in the world. Here’s how it’s changing the game.
If you’re like me and have been reading about anything cannabis related in the news or online recently, you’ve likely been hearing a lot about outdoor cannabis cultivation. Now, one of the things you need to know is that before the market shifted from legacy to the current legalized landscape, outdoor grows were the way to go and that weed was always the best.
But with a new market comes new responsibilities and regulations. Which is why we’ve been following closely along to figure out what exactly all the hype is about. You see, since the plant has become legalized, cultivation is mostly done indoors in large greenhouses. It has allowed technology to step in and to ensure that bigger and healthy plants can be grown.
This is why I wanted to sit down with Jeannette VanderMarel, CO-CEO of 48North, whose company announced in May that they just received their outdoor cultivation license from Health Canada for its 100-acre organic farm, The Good Farm, located in Brant County, Ontario. This farm is scheduled to become one of the largest-ever licensed cannabis operations in the world and will harvest an excess of 45,000 kilograms of dried cannabis in 2019 across its three Canadian facilities.
Here’s our conversation, and what you need to know about outdoor cannabis cultivation:
Weedbox: Okay, so why should we care about outdoor growing?
Jeannette VanderMarel: Outdoor is really a game changer! We know that indoor cultivations can be a drain on our energy. When we look at other resources like wine or soybeans for canola oil or canola beans, those crops are grown outdoors. So we think that is really where the industry is going next, where we see the future of the market. Outdoor grown cannabis will really be the key to lowering our environmental impact, engaging in creating jobs in our communities as well as competing on a level playing field with the black market.
Weedbox: It’s interesting you bring up the environmental impact, but I think about this a lot in the cannabis space.
Jeannette VanderMarel: We’ve done a lot of research on the topic. Oregon has a very similar climate to us here in southern Ontario. Also, Grand Bend to Toronto is the ‘banana belt’ of Canada. In this zone are some of the warmest average annual temperatures and we can boast some of the longest frost-free seasons, which means farmers can grow everything from cannabis to berries and peppers. There’s really no other place in Ontario that we have these zones and we can grow these crops. Now, in terms of the environmental impact, cannabis is one of the few crops in Southern Ontario that can be grown a hundred percent organically.
At 48North, we can grow pesticide free and to me, that’s very important. All my life, I’ve been involved in agriculture. I grew up and came from a large scale commercial apple farming family. I would say it’s very similar to winemaking.
Weedbox: I’ve been thinking a lot about the terroir of the land and how cannabis outdoor grows could actually be quite similar to wine producing here in Canada.
Jeannette VanderMarel: The terroir is very important for all of these products. Knowing that there are unique flavor profiles when you grow something organically using the local soil and local nutrients and amending with the organic inputs, it really is important. I think consumers will learn to understand as we develop this, and in the future, you’ll be able to tell me where exactly a plant has come from, not just the producer.
Weedbox: You’re coming up to your first grow, what are you most excited about and scared of?
Jeannette VanderMarel: Nobody’s ever done what we’re doing on this scale with outdoor cultivation. So we’re obviously learning as we go, but that being said, we’ve learned a lot from local medical patients that have produced amazing harvests in this area. There is such a great knowledge base out there, and we feel like we’ve chosen great genetics and strains that will grow successfully in our climate. Of course, it’s still a learning curve. I’m not by any means saying everything is perfect. This is why I’ve been very conservative on our yield estimates, and I would rather over deliver and under promise. But I’m hoping we can exceed those things, and I’m so excited.
Jeannette VanderMarel is also recognized for being one of the women leading the way in weed. Read what she shared about being a woman in the industry for our women’s day feature.