Kiona Tropical & Heirloom Cannabis – Red Mountain AVA with Rare cannabis genetics including tropical heirlooms and Afghanicas
When Washington legalized cannabis, it’s an understatement to say I was excited. Although I had recently gotten a “medical card”, mostly I was familiar with purchasing underground through friends of friends or other connects. This method was hit or miss, and the weed never really came with any info about it other than a name that could just as likely be made up as real. For example, one year in Golden Gate Park a discrete salesman offered me Cherry Pie from his right hand or Sour Diesel from his left. Wow how similar they looked smelled and toked! What a surprise… *cough cough*
Legalization for me as an avid cannabis buyer and consumer meant that all the info I wanted to know but knew not to ask was finally going to be available! Many questions hit me all at once!
· Who are these guys that have been growing cannabis undercover for so long?
· What kind of variety of cannabis genetics will stand out from the rest?
· Will any one particular region of Washington become the premier cannabis growing region?
· How will the final products of the same strains vary by region, or will they?
· How big can cannabis plants get with no fear of government helicopter spotters and raids?
· What are (if any) the parallels with grape growing areas and future cannabis grow operations?
That’s really what got me the most fired up about entering the industry. I wanted to create something for people like me- a shop that sourced rare, unique, & authentic genetics that could provide a buyer will all the backstory on that bud! That and my dream of opening an Amsterdam café was enough motivation to tenaciously get The Novel Tree up and running in 2014.
2015 was really the year of the first Washington sungrown harvest. Sure, there was some outdoor pot in 2014, but due to the timing of the WSLCB rollout- the season was rushed because no one got licensed in time to grow a full season. True to our original vision, we partnered up with a number of under the radar grow operations that in our opinion grew much better cannabis than the “top marketing companies that happen to grow weed” that I won’t name but you won’t find on our shelves. To us, Authenticity and Diversity are King and Queen. Kiona Tropical and Heirloom Cannabis was one of the first outdoor farms we identified as this royalty! 2015 harvest season was the first experiment of an outdoor harvest with max potential.
Interestingly enough, we found that the more rare and unknown genetics weren’t quite catching on as much as we anticipated- most cannabis customers were also being hit with a flood of new knowledge and weren’t quite ready to step away from the widely known strains like Blue Dream, Girl Scout Cookies, Green Crack, etc. Kiona THC had a very strong following with The Novel Tree team and scored consistently high marks on our in-house product review forms. Although there existed a very passionate group of Kiona THC customers, many of our customers were just not quite ready for it.
Kiona THC’s operation is like the wisdom of Albert Einstein, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Admittedly, it is a TON to learn however in this setting it is awesome!
I get it- the true Sativas don’t have much jar appeal, but for those that can look past the appearance will get a much richer and truly unique experience. It is a lot of information to deliver and to be absorbed because the question, “What makes Kiona special?”, could be discussed for hours in very fine detail. The short version answer is still lengthy: “Kiona Tropical & Heirloom Cannabis is located in one of the best growing regions of the state. They use permaculture and organic growing practices for their legitimately unique heirloom cannabis strains that have been directly sourced from around the world prior to licensing. They practice a long & slow cold cure for all their cannabis flower that is then packaged in glass jars with Bovedas to keep the humidity in the sweet spot and the lid is then sealed with wax to ensure the jars are air-tight. Oh, did I mention they’re what we consider a top-shelf product for a mid-grade price? Also, those Sativas get as many weeks to mature as they need where most indoor grows do not have the ceiling heights to grow 10+ foot tall beauties.” Woof- it can be a lot to take in especially for someone new to cannabis. Plus, if you’re really new to the experience of “being high” or simply looking for the “typical heavy stone” you may not notice how different of an effect these strains can have.
It’s now been three years since the first real Washington sungrown harvest. We have had the pleasure of working with Kiona THC and feel now that the market has matured a bit that more people may be looking to break out of the “typical stoned effect” of most of the cannabis in the legal market. The “typical stoned effect” is due to an incredible lackof cannabis genetic diversity. Crossing two hybridized strains to create something “new” is often just a combination of the two previous plants and doesn’t create that much of a different experience other than getting a fancy new name. It’s common industry practice for many growers to clone their stock and trade clones amongst each other, which further lowers the genetic strength over time. Another barrier to diversity is that the WSLCB has rules disallowing the introduction of new genetics after a grow is licensed. Other than in-house bred or farm-to-farm traded, legally introducing new genetics after a farm has been licensed is essentially impossible and illegal, which could result in a terminated license. Maintaining a breadth of cannabis diversity takes a plan, heavy risk, and foresight because it means having a stockpile of heirloom and landrace genetics to compliment a large catalogue of hybridized strains. We highly respect and value this approach for its long-term implications for cannabis user
In early October 2018, we set out to Benton City to test our principles and learn from the team at Kiona. Our first stop was in Prosser, at the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center (https://www.theclorecenter.org/) to learn a bit more about the Washington wine industry, specifically how it might relate to cannabis growing. Scott, one of the co-founders of Kiona THC, met us there to help connect the dots between the wine and cannabis cross-over.
Kiona Tropical and Heirloom Cannabis is located on Red Mountain, an American Viniculture Area (AVA) established in 2001. Red Mountain is about 4,500 acres on the Eastern edge of the Yakima Valley, while not really a mountain and more gold than red. It is distinct enough to be the smallest AVA in Washington and located within the larger Yakima Valley AVA, right next to Horse Heaven Hills AVA. 15-plus wineries are located within Red Mountain AVA and many more supply grapes to wineries that source their grapes (think of the Woodinville wineries- they mostly source their grapes from other growers around the state). Red wine grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah grow especially well here and the Red Mountain wineries consistently win critical acclaim.
Why does this matter?
“Red Mountain is typically Washington’s warmest growing region with broad, southwest-facing slopes and daytime growing season temperatures that average 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32° C). It has an arid, desert climate, receiving an average of 6 to 8 inches (15–20cm) of rainfall annually. Irrigation is therefore required to grow vinifera grapes.
The nearby Yakima River moderates temperatures and provides continual airflow, guarding against frost that can be problematic in nearby areas. Nighttime temperatures drop precipitously—often as much as 40 degrees—helping preserve the acid levels in the grapes.” -Washington State Wine Organization (https://www.washingtonwine.org/wine/facts-and-stats/regions-and-avas/red-mountain)
This micro-climate really is, for Washington, the ideal place to grow Sativas. Heirloom Sativas are generally found in geographically areas between 0- and 30-degrees latitude, however, the equatorial zone of -10- and 10-degrees latitude provides the most ideal Sativa growing conditions. Temperatures and climate play a huge part of this, but it’s important not to underestimate the effect of daylight hours. In the Northern latitudes, daylight hours can vary significantly across the year. Closer to the equator, the daylight hours are much more consistent throughout the entire year. Washington’s southern border is at 45 degrees latitude which does not make it natural Sativa growing climate, however it is the best region in Washington to grow Sativas. There are many steps you can (and that Kiona does) to more closely simulate the climate of the equatorial zone. Naturally, cannabis plants respond to the daylight hour changes by pushing from vegetative growth into flowering growth when summer turns to fall and the daylight hours dwindle. In the equatorial zone, the lack of fluctuation allows the Sativa plants to continue a very long vegetative growth, sometimes double that of Indicas. This extra veg time plays a part in the massive height of Sativas- you may have seen (or if you’re very lucky, walked through a field of) 20-foot cannabis plants- these were most likely in equatorial zones.
Here is a graph to show the variation of daylight hours per day throughout the year between Yakima, WA; Kingston, Jamaica; and Cali, Colombia. Daylight hours on the Y-axis. Yakima has an ~8-hour fluctuation across the year. Kingston, Jamaica fluctuates within 2-hours. Cali, Colombia hardly fluctuates at all, with a nearly consistent 12-daylight hours per day the entire year. Data sets were created using the Daylight hours calculator on the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatorywebsite (http://aa.usno.navy.mil)
We finished up with a quick wine tasting of Red Mountain wines at The Clore Center, then headed about 45-minutes east to Benton City and Red Mountain to the Kiona THC grow operation where we met up with John Careatti, co-founder and head of gardens. Where Scott is a nuclear engineer who spent years project managing at The Hanford Site, John is a botanist with encyclopedic knowledge of the Kingdom of Plantae. Together they make an incredible team- the facility is incredibly well designed and maintained, and the plants all looked incredibly healthy. John previously worked at a global seed bank through which he was able to make connections with other passionate cannabis growers & breeders across the world. Maybe it was through this that he was able to source incredible genetics. Kiona THC grows strains that no one else has, or will have, due to their rarity. Strains like Nigerian Haze, Uptown Piff Reserve, Lemon Cheesecake Thai, Cedar Black Haze, Pablo’s Lemon Haze, Pablo’s Panama Gold, Santa Marta Purple, Canguru de Oaxaca, and Coffee Haze. Learn more about these rare genetics at: http://kionathc.com/rare
In the gardens, John’s goal is to create ideal natural growing conditions using minimal resources while creating a positive impact on the environment. This is where the use of permaculture is fantastic. Permaculture allows a farm to improve their soil year after year by introducing beneficial supplement or companion plants. The detrimental effects of monocrop growing commonly used with corn, soybeans, and wheat can be avoided as the companion plants are chosen based on what they provide the soil. It’s an incredible process, one that really must be seen to be appreciated. It was awesome to walk down the rows of hoop houses checking not just the cannabis plants, but all the other low lying plants around them. From our perspective, it sure seems to be working! Growing these large Sativas also poses a challenge of harvesting them. When you have a group of hybridized cannabis plants cloned from the same mother plant, you can expect them to all mature at mostly the same time, or at least within a few days of each other. With these Sativas however, they must be individually inspected and harvested at their ideal maturity. In the same row of Sativas, they can vary in maturity by weeks. It takes that much more attention to detail for perfect harvests.
EPIC video on Washington wines: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKMPVil324E
More on Red Mountain AVA: http://redmountainava.com/
Kiona Tropical & Heirloom Cannabis: http://kionathc.com/
The Stranger article on Kiona THC’s “Purple Unicorn”: https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2018/09/14/32325856/we-found-the-purple-unicorn-pot
More from Kiona:
“Preservation, Patience and Permaculture
Based in Benton City, Washington, Kiona is a Tier 3, state-licensed producer/processor specializing in vintage, rare and exotic strains. Our mission is to perpetuate the genetic diversity and broadest range of desirable effects in traditional and modern Cannabis. Our sustainable, artisanal growing methods begin with a naturally cultivated native soil ecosystem and finish with a connoisseur slow cure. The results are hailed as some of the finest on the market.
The farm was founded by a group of visionary herbsmen, botanists, idealists and strain-hunters who saw an opportunity to create conditions suitable to grow the wildest tropical sativas and other pure lines in the whole sun and soil of South-Central Washington wine country. From African Hazes to spiritual Central American landraces to California Hippie Weeds, discerning herb fans will be hard pressed to find most of the strains we grow in commercial production anywhere else.”