Croptober 2018 – Harvest Season for Washington Cannabis Farms
Two stops- First stop Puffin Farms, second stop Lazy Bee Gardens
There’s still a tightly held belief by many in the cannabis community that indoor cannabis is and will always be superior to outdoor grown cannabis. We don’t buy into this dogma. In fact, we love outdoor cannabis! Done right, outdoor grown cannabis is every bit as “top-shelf” as indoor cannabis. What outdoor grown cannabis may lack for in visual appeal, it makes up for in flavor and effects. Eastern Washington is a major agricultural region which produces some of the world’s best apples, grapes, and hops. Ever since legalizing marijuana, Washington now gets to claim cannabis as one of these top crops. We wanted to get a closer look at Sungrown cannabis ourselves, so we decided to visit our friends at Puffin Farm and Lazy Bee Gardens in mid-September to see how their 2018 Outdoor Cannabis season was progressing.
A 5am rendezvous at The Novel Tree ensured us to catch first light over Snoqualmie Pass in a day that was forecasted to be clear sunny skies. We drove I-90 East to Ellensburg, witnessing an incredible sunrise along the way. Exiting the freeway and on to the backroads… after only two wrong turns, we could see an eight-foot-tall fence blocking the view of whatever it held in the distance. Bingo! The first sign of a ganja farm. We knew our first destination was close. Puffin is an outdoor farm set in a pleasant valley surrounded by soft rolling hills on three sides and a river on the 4thside. This is the timeless prairie, calm and quiet with windmills slowly churning in the distance. (Yay clean-harvested-renewable-energy-resource wind power!)
We were greeted at the farm by Eric, who has been with Puffin since the early days of 2015. He is full time caretaker of the entire “Clean Green Certified” facility. Stepping inside the fence produced a stunning visual- 20,000+ square feet of cannabis plants, standing tall and looking glorious in the morning sun! The plants were grouped in long rows of the same strains, creating an amazing visual from above. (Look out for the drone footage in the tour video to see what we mean.) The cannabis plants appeared very healthy. You can tell a happy and healthy cannabis plant by its strong appearance and vibrant colors- think posture and complexion. Casey and Terri showed us around the grow. Puffin Farms had row after row of healthy cannabis plants, and we walked down them all, stopping to smell the flowers every few feet. We take our sweet time exploring the gardens, listening and learning from the awesome folks who grow these gorgeous plants, and carefully visually inspecting the ganja along the way. The cannabis plant heights ranged from only a few feet tall to well overheard- 12 feet or more. We checked out some of Puffin’s exclusive strains like Silver Bubble, Hindu Kush, Yeti, Tangerine, Emerald Jack, Lavender, and Lavender Haze. The citrus scents from the Tangerine were sensational- some of the strongest pure orange-citrus smelling cannabis we have encountered. There were a few OG Kush / Cookies varietals in the garden which were very chunky and nice, comparable to indoor climate-controlled grow facilities.
Puffin Farms is well known for their cannabidiol, or CBD, varieties. CBD plants grow like weeds. Standing tall next to a big chunky hybrid cannabis plant, you might be inclined to write off the gangly CBD plant as junk- but lanky and delicate is just the way CBD plants grow. CBD strains like AC/DC, CBD Nordle, CBD Yummy, Dancehall, and Remedy have benefited many patients using cannabis medicinally. Just because they look lanky as plants, doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoyable to consume. Strains like Dancehall and the others can have terpene levels comparable to THC varieties, making them flavorful to smoke and sweet flowers to smell on the plants. CBD plants don’t yield nearly the amount of useable cannabis as the THC varietals, so the decision to grow CBD means that operation is putting patients over profits. Washington state cannabis farms have limits on the maximum cannabis plant canopy square footage they can utilize, so every low yielding plant is a decision to follow their vision over maximizing revenue.
We continued the tour of Puffin Farms in their propagation greenhouse and processing facility. Proper propagation facilities are crucial to outdoor growing operations to sustain the mother plants through the non-growing season, November until the last frost. This allows the mother plants to essentially hibernate or stay in vegetative growth all winter in preparation for an early start on clone production. Puffin Farms puts a ton of emphasis into their drying and curing processes. They utilize a long, slow, cold cure. This means they hang dry, dry trim, then cure in temperature-controlled rooms for up to three months! They have found that this process maximizes flavor, quality, and consumer experience. One big plus for us was the cleanliness of their facilities. Outdoor growing and harvest season can get messy with plant material prone to find its way everywhere, however Puffin Farm had a polished processing facility. We were very impressed!
After wrapping things up with an aerial tour of the surrounding river and hills via drone, we headed further East and North towards Winthrop to visit our friends at Lazy Bee Gardens. Winding alongside the Columbia River up towards Methow Valley is a beautiful drive with massive sheer rock cliffs on both sides of the river valley. The old Western themed town of Winthrop sits at ~1700 feet of elevation, 600 feet higher than Leavenworth. Why does that matter? Because seasons can change quickly, and when Summer flashes to Fall before slowly moving through Winter, as a cannabis farmer you need to be ready to act fast as to not get caught in unfavorable conditions. We have also found over the years that the Northeastern Washington outdoor cannabis harvests have a certain hardiness not found anywhere else. Common theory is that as the temperature drops, the cannabis plants lock in more of their oils to protect from the harsh conditions. We need more scientific research to truly learn what is happening, but from an observational standpoint- it appears unique and effects can be more intense!
Lazy Bee Gardens sits alongside the Methow River, a glorious gem of a bubbling river. Maybe it was just our luck, but between the sun, blue skies, glistening river, and deliciously smelly ganja farm nearby- we were ready to throw on cowboy boots and move to Winthrop. Matthew, the founder and owner-operator of Lazy Bee Gardens, was there to give us a tour of the grow operation he built on family land. Matthew’s background is in construction and growing cannabis, so building a cannabis grow operation was right in his sweet spot. The entire facility was built with much attention to detail, including the temperate controlled processing room and total climate-controlled curing and storage rooms. Humidity and temperate can both fluctuate widely in the Methow, so having a facility to insulate against these changes during cannabis curing has been critical to Lazy Bee’s production of top tier cannabis.
Lazy Bee Gardens is “Clean Green Certified” and uses permaculture. All indoor growing in monoculture, meaning that only one plant is permitted to live in the grow operation. Any other plant life other than what’s been commercially grown will be killed. Permaculture is a belief and growing system that utilizes beneficial “support” plants. In Lazy Bee’s case, this is mostly clover. The main benefit of a permaculture garden can be that the soil increases quality as the years go on. By treating the soil as its own ecosystem as opposed to a means to an end each harvest, users of the system believe that they will achieve soil rich in nutrients and resistant to pests and disease. Now in their 4thyear with this soil, Lazy Bee attests that it is in fact improving.
One of the most exciting aspects of Lazy Bee Gardens is their diverse and exclusive array of genetics. Matthew is what we lovingly refer to as a “weed nerd”-it’s what we call someone that can talk about weed all day and that includes us! Getting to hear about not only the current strains, but also the backlog of rare genetics for the future, was exciting stuff. Lazy Bee has a great vision for craft cannabis, one that we believe passionate cannabis users will relate to. Matthew operates on the principal that he wants to grow what he wants to smoke. Don’t expect to see any subpar product getting pushed out of Lazy Bee because Matthew is so picky about what he grows that he kills off any weakling plants even if it will cost him. For Lazy Bee, quality is of utmost importance from clone to finished product. Smoke easy knowing that when you’re toking Lazy Bee, you are toking on the best they have to offer!
By using hoop houses, Lazy Bee can control the elements a bit better to operate more of a perpetual harvest during the outdoor grow season. Half of the garden had already been harvested, and the team was in full harvest mode, bucking a row of very massive cannabis stalks while we were there. The garden was in full flush, with the most beautiful colors showing brightly. Dark purples, yellows, and oranges in the cannabis plants gave us the distinct feeling of harvest time. Big chunky nugs everywhere- Lazy Bee specializes in growing massive colas! Since they use hoop houses, every night the team at Lazy Bee must roll out the tarps to cover all the cannabis plants. This technique, known as light deprivation (“light-dep” for short), simulates a controlled environment by not allowing light in when the plants are sleeping. Although it might not seem like a huge deal at night to block out light, cannabis plants do benefit from total darkness.
We checked out some of Lazy Bee’s most famous strains, including the 2018 Dope Cup winners Tesla’s Tower and Grandma Anderson’s Cookies. The Tesla Tower was tall, bright green and smelled citrusy sweet with sharp pine notes. The Grandma Anderson’s Cookies grew much shorter and bulkier- plus its colors were dark purple nearly black, and dark greens. Some of the other cannabis strains we were able to check out included the Double Tangie Banana, which smelled exactly like a Kiwi Strawberry Snapple. Strawberry Diesel and Tangie were a couple of the other sativa dominant plants growing tall in the garden, some were maxing out the height of the hoop houses. The contrast in colors between the rows of darker Indicas and brighter Sativas was a stunning sight to behold! It was similar to staring down a Skagit field of multi-colored of Tulips, but only with cannabis.
Lazy Bee has their eye on the future and is currently preparing to introduce greenhouses to the facility in the coming years. It’s inspiring to see a company focused on improving when they’re already winning stand-out awards. Can’t wait to see what comes next from Lazy Bee!
Meanwhile, you can find us tokin’ a doobie, down by the river, discussing the future of legal cannabis. Have some input on where you’d like to see us visit out next, or burning questions for the growers? Let us know in the comments below…